Sappho was a highly esteemed poet in her own time, which bridged the 7th and 6th centuries BCE. Along with running a school for young women, teaching them poetry writing and choral performance in a two-year program, raising her daughter, contending with a husband, and then being sent into exile, she wrote about 10,000 lines of poetry. Only about 650 lines survive, many just a word or two. Only one poem, “Ode to Aphrodite,” survives in its totality.
Much of what remains of her work is exquisite, the huge gaps inviting an intensely felt visual response. I read several translations, and gathered the most affecting lines. I had twenty-four pieces of particularly inviting paper, so that made the series. Sappho wrote in a Greek lyric meter, the most well-known Sapphic stanza is four lines. Each of the twenty-four pieces contains my visualization of this Sapphic form and a line from her poems for the title. I chose images from favorite sculptures and nature, working all these elements together in watercolors and collage. In the end, I didn’t fill those gaps.