An abandoned town named for the classical lesbian leads to questions about history and settlement.
Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you come to a road sign: Entering Sappho. Nothing remains of the town, just trash at the side of the highway and thick, wet bush. Can Sappho’s breathless eroticism tell us anything about settlement—about why we’re here in front of this sign? Mixing historical documents, oral histories, and experimental translations of the original lesbian poet’s works, this book combines documentary and speculation, surveying a century in reverse. This town is one of many with a classical name. Take it as a symbol: perhaps in a place that no longer exists, another kind of future might be possible.
Sarah Dowling is the author of DOWN, and Security Posture, which received the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. A literary critic as well as a poet, Sarah's first scholarly book, Translingual Poetics: Writing Personhood under Settler Colonialism, was a finalist for the American Studies Association's Lora Romero Prize. Sarah is an assistant professor in the Centre for Comparative Literature and Victoria College at the University of Toronto.
This is a book that finds its beauty in impossible questions, impossible geographies. Taking as her concern Sappho, Washington, a once-thriving town that many called home but now is just marked by a sign on the side of the road, Sarah Dowling moves to tell the lost history of Sappho the town and also puts it in dialogue with Sappho's lyrics. It's an odd juxtaposition that she uses skilfully to examine the legacies of forgotten places, their role in manifest destiny, and the poetries that they too held on to define them." - Juliana Spahr