detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Thursday, December 19, 2002

: . The Tenth Muse:

    Breaks are always, and fatally, reinscribed in an old cloth that must continually, interminably be undone.
    -- Jacques Derrida, Positions (24)

From If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson:
    When translating texts read from papyri, I have used a single bracket to give an impression of missing matter, so that ] or [ indicates destroyed papyrus or the presence of letters not quite legible somewhere in the line. It is not the case that every gap or illegibility is specifically indicated: this would render the page a blizzard of marks and inhibit reading. Brackets are an aesthetic gesture toward a papyrological event rather than an accurate record of it. I have not used the brackets in translating passages, phrases, or words whose existence depends on citation by ancient authors, since these are intentionally incomplete. I emphasize the distinction between brackets and no brackets because it will affect your reading experience, if you allow it. Brackets are exciting. Even though you approach Sappho in translation, that is no reason you should miss the drama of trying to read papyrus torn in half or riddled with holes or smaller than a postage stamp – brackets imply a free space of imaginal adventure.




    Go                   [
    so we may see  [

    of gold arms     [


    ]in a thin voice


    deep sound


    you burn me


    Dead you will lie and never memory of you
    will there be nor desire into the aftertime – for you do not
       share in the roses
    of Pieria, but invisible too in Hades’ house
    you will go your way among dim shapes. Having been breathed out.




    someone will remember us
                    I say
                    even in another time


    for it is not right in a house of the Muses
              that there be lament
              this would not become us


            far more sweetsounding than a lyre
    golder than gold


    these things now for my companions
                            I shall sing beautifully

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