Sappho kvennarad

I received a most wonderful comment on Sappho Pie from kvennarad from Scotland. (author/poet/editor/blogger) She apologized for her long reply. Frankly, I did not expect any reply at all so I was therefore twice happy with the long reply.

I agreed with her that the Sappho stanza was “a great vehicle for expression.” She said, “Apologies for ‘blogging on your blog’.” I then went on to say to her, ”Since you do treat expression and poetic form with much heart, you may blog on my blog all you wish. I may wish to reblog this discussion sometime in the future because I think this topic of Sappho can be blogged about at some length. It is worthy content.”

She agreed.

But before I present the wonderful comment/blogging of kvennarad, here is a bit of info on Sappho, the topic of our co-blogging.

The Poetry Dictionary, 2nd Edition, describes the Sapphic stanza as

“Quatrain in which the first three lines contain eleven syllables and the forth line contains five syllables…The fourth line is called an adonic…The adonic effectively punctuates the stanza.”

While I owe a gratitude debt to the writers of the dictionary for introducing me to Sappho, there is one extremely important issue- where the Poetry Dictionary was lax. They missed it completely. They left out that I absolutely love it. I really really do.  I even like the sound of the word “adonic.”

Wikipedia says that,

“Sappho was an Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving.”

Now, without anymore rambling on and on from me, here is  kvennarad.


Interesting. Thank you for posting, and please forgive me for what will probably turn out to be a long reply.

In 2006 I wrote a series of poems in what I referred to at the time as ‘Loose Sapphic’ form. The ‘Sapphic’ form was, I believe, more 18c or 19c conjecture than anything else, but having come across the idea of writing verses in 11-11-11-5 I started to use it in what turned out to be a novel way. It became a good vehicle for expression.

I found that the structure lent itself to containing a discrete idea within a verse, allowing a theme to develop throughout the poem step by step. I also found that I could abandon punctuation if I wished, allowing each line to contain a discrete grammatical element and to dictate further the structure and development of the whole poem. Usually there is a grammatical link between the third line and the shorter fourth of each verse. I discovered I could do this and achieve a great deal of flow.

What I had stumbled onto lent itself very readily to love poetry – I wrote a whole series of poems, mainly in this form, using a cottage on the Island of Iona as a metaphor for the relationship between two women. Rather than explain any further I’ll give you an example. My poetry has moved on several times since 2006 and I have not used 11-11-11-5 for a long time, but the example below gives some idea of how I made use of it. When I explained this form to people I asked them to imagine the 11-syllable lines dictating their breathing, and the 5-syllable line as having a cadence, a falling-away.

One day you will come back and it will be spring
– the cold ground will crack and run with crocuses
brash yellow and shy purple drifting away
into the distance.

Your gift will be days of returning sunlight
new time of evening’s brave and blonde afterglow
a fresh savour in the wind of something green
and young and growing.

Oh sure there will be wind and rain to bother
and slanting sleet upon the high mountain side
but the promise will be there in leaf and bud
and shorter shadows.

It will be the day when the wish of your heart
comes true against all reasoned expectation
that deep knowledge that a time would come for us
to make right a wrong.

Until that day I’ll keep my thoughts of springtime
to myself and nurture that seed in my heart
for I’m afraid you do not want to listen
to the truth in words.

But the river runs beneath the icy crust
and winter is a hoary old fibber now
to hide the truth-flow of ever-warming love
that will conquer cold.

Oh yes you will come back and it will be spring –
I know this as I know the tides ebb and flow
and as the rush of warmth into the black earth
my spring will be you!

I know the poem above is far from my best, but I enjoyed feeling my way around the form back then. They were very emotional times for me – obsessively so – and my poetry at the time reflected this.

Apologies for ‘blogging on your blog’.

Marie Marshall

See also:

Sappho Pie


1 Comment

Filed under Poetry, Uncategorized

One response to “Sappho kvennarad

  1. Thank you for this compliment. 🙂


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