Poetical Dumpster Diving Pays Off


As somebody who has lost two computers—one to carrot juice and the other to theft—it is only natural that I worry constantly about backing up my files. And yet, my Time Machine has grown tired of reminding me to plug in, noting only when prodded that my most recent backup was January 22nd of last year. I can think of several professors and friends who would grow dizzy at such a realization considering my history, but I have always found a thrill in starting not quite all over, and rebuilding my work through notes and scraps of anything I thought was important enough to write down.

With such scholastically deviant tendencies, it is no great surprise that I have long delighted in the fragments of Sappho. But it is hard not to adore everyone’s favorite Lesbian poetess of antiquity when she offers such heart-punchers as

Once again that loosener of limbs, Love,
bittersweet and inescapable, crawling thing,
seizes me.

Packs a bit more of a punch than a corgi in a bowtie proclaiming, “It’s not just puppy love!” And now people who enjoy the longing and pining nearly as much as the loving itself have cause to rejoice: new fragments have been uncovered.

A piece of papyrus, perhaps rescued from the Oxyrynchus dump—a hot hunting ground for black market papyrus dealers in the know—introduces us to Sappho’s two brothers and sheds some light on family gossip. I don’t want to spoil the surprise of what that rascal Charaxos got up to on one of his trips to Egypt, but it’s a Nicholas Sparks adaptation waiting to happen.

Sure, a bit of well-preserved reed pulp may not have the same flash as the average tabloid, but when one considers that this scrap was jotted down nearly one thousand years after Sappho herself penned it, it gives hope to those of us who are not quite Emily-Dickinson-level fastidious when it comes to keeping track of our work.

So take heart, my creative friends who struggle with the sands of time! There will always be people like Dr. Obbink and myself who will fawn over that gum wrapper you wrote your film idea down on, or that embarrassing journal from middle school that will published as your Juvenilia by the Earth II University Press. To quote the lady herself, “I say someone in another time will remember us.”

Originally written for WiseLit.

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