This unwitting monument (PoemTalk #161)

Sarah Dowling, 'Entering Sappho'

Sarah Dowling


Al Filreis convened Larissa Lai, Maxe Crandall, and Julia Bloch to discuss Sarah Dowling’s book Entering Sappho (Coach House, 2020), in which an abandoned town named for the classical lesbian leads to vexing questions of history, settlement, translation, violence, “impossible geographies,”* the idea of the “unwitting monument,” and the abusive economics of the s0-called company town. The group focuses on two passages from the book. First there’s “Clip,” the opening poem, a kind of verse preface or prelude to the recurring themes. Then there are the first three paragraphs of a prose statement (or prose poem?) at the end of the book, “White Columns.” The texts of these passages can be found HERE and HERE. Sarah Dowling’s extensive PennSound page had not included these parts of Entering Sappho, so she obliged us at PoemTalk by preparing recordings of “Clip” and “White Columns.” These short videos can be found HERE and HERE and also below.

This episode of PoemTalk was recorded through Zoom in our virtual Wexler Studio — by Zach Carduner, who was also, as always, its editor. The recording is being made available (this being a podcast, after all) only as edited audio. The PoemTalk team wishes to thank our partners at the Poetry Foundation, especially Janet Cheung, and also Nathan and Elizabeth Leight who have generously supported PoemTalk. PoemTalk is made possible through collaborations with PennSound, the Kelly Writers House, the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing, and the Wexler Studio. We honor the generosity of Nina, Gary, and Freddy Wexler who made, and continue to make, the activities of the studio possible.

[*] The phrase is Juliana Spahr’s.