Sappho is problematic. Very problematic. It's one of those artists whose legend is sadly bigger than their work, for all the wrong reasons, like heroin addict big-mouthed rock stars. The first problem with Sappho is that what we keep of her is little and fragmentary. The second problem is that she was a woman who composed love poetry dedicated to both men and women. Lesbian critics want to make her a lesbian; feminist critics who want to make Sappho universal say that she composed sincere erotic poems to her husband and that the poems to her girlfriends were strictly platonic. I don't care either way. All I know is this: Sappho was a woman who composed poems about the beauty of women and men, about happy weddings, and about her baby daughter. And she was so good at it that the men of her country, a few centuries after her death, thought she was a goddess. I still haven't figured out if I like her work or not, but I like the fact that she existed.
Some an army of horsemen, some an army on foot
and some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest sight
on this dark earth; but I say it is
whatever you desire:
and it it possible to make this perfectly clear to all;
for the woman who far surpassed all others in her beauty,
Helen, left her husband
-- the best of all men --
behind and sailed far away to Troy; she did not spare
a single thought for her child nor for her dear parents
but [the goddess of love] led her astray
[...which] reminds me now of Anactoria
although far away...
--Translated by Josephine Balmer