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If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  9,158 ratings  ·  871 reviews
From poet and classicist Anne Carson comes this translation of the work of Sappho, together with the original Greek. Carson presents all the extant fragments of Sappho's verse, employing brackets and white space to denote missing text - allowing the reader to imagine the poems as they were written. ...more
Paperback, 397 pages
Published 2003 by Virago (first published -550)
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Average rating 4.41  · 
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 ·  9,158 ratings  ·  871 reviews

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Aug 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I love this book so much that I copied out some of the best lines in thick sharpie onto a shirt that I wore so often it's now terribly stained and faded and rather hard to read. An interesting cyclical thing, sort of, given the flimsiness of what remains of Sappho's works.

Also, I once had a writing teacher who said we should follow the "Sappho rule": every word of your writing should be so good that if there was a great flood or conflagration and only snippets of lines survived, there would sti
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
if i weren't already a lesbian, this would turn me into one

someone will remember us
i say
even in another time

Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin | Reads Rainbow
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recs, poetry, 2017
Intimate, piercing, and incisive, Sappho's fragments are as enrapturing as they are reflective. The subjects of her lyrics range from musing about forbidden love to reveling in the passing of time. Paradoxically, the soft musicality of the poet's phrasing pairs extraordinarily well with the intensity of the emotions she describes in her lyrics: at once the fragments read as tender and visceral. Carson's edition makes for an ideal introduction to Sappho's work, as it clearly marks the many gaps i ...more
I took high-school Latin, as perhaps a couple of my recent reviews have mentioned. The first poem they ever had us translate in our AP Catullus/Horace class was Catullus' half-translation ("inspired by?") of the second-most-complete Sappho lyric I think we have: Sappho 31. It's perfectly preserved as far as it goes, because it's in someone else's book and quoted in full in Greek, except that it very likely cuts off suddenly.

As Carson translates the original, it begins "He seems to me equal to g
Liz Janet
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Someone will remember us
I say
even in another time"

Sappho was an ancient Greek poetess from the island of Lesbos, but little is known of her life, with mostly fragments of her work surviving, and which are often not taken as biography. So little of her works survives, that it is known she was exiled from Lesbos after the rise of Pittacus, but very little of her political standing has been discovered.

“yet if you had a desire for good or beautiful things
and your tongue were not concocting some ev
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Greek Lyric: Sappho and Alcaeus, tr. David A Campbell, Loeb 1990
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, tr. Anne Carson, Virago 2002
Stung With Love: Poems and Fragments, tr. Aaron Poochigian, Penguin 2015


Each ellipsis teases, inviting dreams – dreams
Formed from torn papyruses' single words. Bare,
Lonely scrawls of sigmas and psis that sing, still,
      Sticky with meaning.

Fragments all. What's left is the one percent, rich,
Rare. When Alexandria burned, the whole world
Choked to
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the erotic refrigerator magnet poetry industry
Shelves: poetry, 2016
We have almost none of Sappho, the Bob Dylan of ancient Greece, the most famous poet of like 600 BCE. What we have is aching and mysterious and sexy. As my friend JG pointed out, there's an intimacy here that feels modern. A lot of the old Greek stuff feels like dudes standing around yelling (because a lot of it is drama). Sappho's in the room with you, whispering in your ear.
For her dress when you saw it
Stirred you. And I rejoice.
In fact she herself once blamed me

because I prayed
☙ nemo ❧ (pagesandprozac)
"But now she is conspicuous among Lydian women
as sometimes at sunset
the rosyfingered moon

surpasses all the stars. And her light
stretches over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields."


"someone will remember us
I say
even in another time"

(this last one is particularly poignant because it makes up the entirety of the poem. damn.)
Jul 17, 2017 added it
Shelves: to-buy, reviewed, poetry
I don't know what to do
two states of mind in me

And so goes this translation of Sappho, compiled by Anne Carson. Carson's done something unique here: presented Sappho in exact context, missing fragments and all. A lot of Sappho's work has been lost or truncated; Carson includes a lot of blank space to emphasize just how much of Sappho we will never know. The book itself is multilingual; the left page reads in Greek while the right reads in English. I love reading ancient texts this way--my copy o
Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: strange, poems, beautiful
the difference between four stars and five is something categorically different from all other star-number differences. the move from 'i really liked it' to 'it was amazing' is a move away from the the realm of sheer personal pleasure, and toward something externaler.

this book was often a pleasure, but that's not why it gets five stars. i could have enjoyed it more. it took me a little while to get into it. at the beginning especially i sometimes found myself flipping through inattentively, min
Oct 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When Sappho’s fragments are better than everyone else’s complete poems you know she’s an actual goddess. Sappho and Carson are a match made in Elysium.
This marvelous collection of the extant fragments of verse attributed to Sappho is a glorious spur to the imagination. Sappho was a lyricist, a poet, a musician. It is unknown whether or not she was literate in reading and writing, but her work was collected in writing, and reprinted, but little has survived the centuries. Only one full poem, the ode to Aphrodite, survives whole at twenty-eight lines.

Sappho was known and lauded throughout the ancient world for the beauty of her poems accompanie
and neither any[   ]nor any
holy place nor
was there from which we were absent

no grove[     ]no dance
              ]no sound

(view spoiler)a voice(view spoiler)heard. Time,(view spoiler)o(view spoiler)rator.

someone will remember us
                          I say
                          even in another time
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
only by the power of lesbians could i get out of my reading slump
Khashayar Mohammadi


Go [
so we may see [

of gold arms [
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous. Sappho's imagery and turn of phrase is stunning:

and lovely laughing-oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings

nightingale with a voice of longing

as sometimes at sunset
the rosyfingered moon

surpasses all the stars. And her light
stretches over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields.

And the beautiful dew is poured out
and roses bloom and frail
chervil and flowering sweetclover

But she goes back and forth remembering
gentle Atthis and in longing
she bites her tender mind

Favorites from Anne
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
In this place you Kypris taking up
in gold cups delicately
nectar mingled with festivities:


Evening you gather back
all that dazzling dawn has put asunder:
you gather a lamb, gather a kid,
gather a child to its mother.

Useful front- and end-notes.
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
yes! radiant lyre speak to me
become a voice
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translated, poetry
yes! radiant lyre speak to me
become a voice
This book seems so short. How little of Sappho we have. Anne Carson's very brief, graceful introduction hints at the difficulty of best arranging that little to get the most from it - the most excitement ("brackets are exciting"), the maximum number of delicious shivers... The Greek is on the left page, translation on the right, with lacunae marked where appropriate in both. Carson uses the clearest language possible, and adorns the text with minimal pu
Dec 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 / 5
all of it. SO PRETTY. even the missing words added to its magic. they just fill me with so much yearning :<
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
5 stars

In her introduction, Anne Carson cites W. Benjamin in their analysis of translation as a process. Benjamin states that “The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect upon the language into which he is translating which produces in it the echo of the original”. I felt that Carson undertook this aim beautifully. Reading this collection, I could hear a faint echo of Sappho’s voice, or at least I could sense the emotion and heart that went into her writing.

With these fra
jamie ♡
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm fine, I'm not fucked up over this or anything. ...more
Had to reread, it's just so beautiful

Reread: December 2020
Reread: December 2019
Reread: May 2019
Read: December 2018
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Out of the three Sappho translations I've read (Anne Carson's, Willis Barnstone's & Aaron Poochigian's), Carson's take on Sappho in If Not, Winter ended up being my personal favourite. Plus, I thought her endnotes were great fun. If Not, Winter made me sad that the majority of Sappho's work is lost to us. ...more
The (allegedly) original lesbian!
Pretty sad that only fragments are left from what she wrote. Loved the poems nevertheless and enjoyed the little history lesson after.
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Anne Carson, poet and Classicist, presents all we have of Sappho in the original Greek and in English translation. Carson indicates with brackets where the papyrus has simply fallen apart or is incomprehensible, which gives a curious flow to most of the fragments. When I read this, I heard some of the lines with pauses; some of the lines overlapped as if multiple voices were speaking, breaking in and over the voice before it.

As you sift through chance lines, half-expressed thoughts, you begin to
Daniel Chaikin
65. If Not, Winter : Fragments of Sappho by Anne Carson
composition: c ~612-570 bce
translation 2002
format: 389 page hardcover, quite beautifully done by Knopf
acquired: library
read: Oct 16-19
rating: ?

What an odd, curious experience. On the left page are the poems in Greek, as preserved, with random bits of letters and lots of gaps. On the right page is the translation, as much as can be translated. It seems to be a very direct translation, although she had to take leaps here and there. And, even
Oct 27, 2010 rated it liked it
It makes me uneasy to be underwhelmed by a book the rest of the planet rates very highly, but underwhelmed I was. I am neither a Greek scholar nor have I read Sappho previously, so maybe this was the wrong place to start.
There were definitely some good fragments in the book, but a lot of the time I was having an emperor's-new-clothes experience. For example, one page has the fragment:


Another page says -

]but different

The ]s represent places in the original Sappho where the papy
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
maybe i'll put out a proper review later but right now my heart is just aching / bursting with warmth at the same time. these fragments... what would i do to recover them in their full form, tbh. also POETS: USE MORE EPITHETS. smush up words. our sapphic icon would smile at you. ...more
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How spellbinding and redolent Sappho's fragments are. In their spaces, incompleteness, and briefness lie the beauty of a thousand interpretations and perceptions. Indeed, it's quite a waste to think that most of her works are lost forever and that we must rely on our imagination in envisioning this stunning arrangement of words ("sweetworded desires", "goldsandaled Dawn", "piercing breezes") sung accompanied by the gentleness of the lyre — wooing, proclaiming, praising. Other than Sappho's indub ...more
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Sappho (Σαπφώ or Ψάπφω) was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. In history and poetry texts, she is sometimes associated with the city of Mytilene on Lesbos; she was also said to have been born in Eresos, another city on Lesbos. Her birth was sometime between 630 BC and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and great ...more

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“someone will remember us
I say
even in another time”
“their heart grew cold
they let their wings down”
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