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If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  7,107 ratings  ·  598 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.
Paperback, 397 pages
Published 2003 by Virago
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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 ·  7,107 ratings  ·  598 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
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

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Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 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 ...more
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
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
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: the erotic refrigerator magnet poetry industry
Shelves: 2016, poetry
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
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
☙ percy ❧
"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: 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
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


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

Dec 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: beautiful, poems, strange
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,
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
yes! radiant lyre speak to me
become a voice
Khashayar Mohammadi


Go [
so we may see [

of gold arms [
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.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, translated
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
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
only by the power of lesbians could i get out of my reading slump
Had to reread, it's just so beautiful

Reread: December 2019
Reread: May 2019
Read: December 2018
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
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.
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.
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
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm fine, I'm not fucked up over this or anything.
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 ...more
кай жук
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, lgbtq, greece
When the notes are worth reading, you know you have something quite special on your hands.

98a.3 “ornament” or “good order” ( kosmos = English “cosmos”): a word that implies all sorts of order, from the arrangement of planets in the sky at night to the style with which an individual wears her hat. In the language of politics, kosmos means the constitution or good government of a city. In the language of cosmology, kosmos means the entire, perfect, ordered universe. According to one ancient
Jason Gignac
(Original Review)
This is the sort of book that strikes me cleverness dumb. So I will simply begin by telling you what the book is.

If Not, Winter is a collection of all of the known works of Sappho - almost entirely fragments. Sappho was, in ancient Greece, considered one of the two greatest lyric poets, alongside Pindar. However, probably in part because she was a woman and in part because she appears to have been bisexual (her home was Lesbos, and the words lesbian and sapphic come from her),
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
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: very-gay, poetry
stars around the beautiful moon
hide back their luminous form
whenever all full she shines
on the earth


-from fragment 34
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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 ...more
“someone will remember us
I say
even in another time”
“their heart grew cold
they let their wings down”
More quotes…