Gwynne GarfinkleGwynne Garfinkle

Working Note

I first became aware of Oulipo some years ago in a workshop taught by Lee Ann Brown (at the Naropa Institute), and more recently, I’ve enjoyed perusing the Oulipo Compendium (edited by Harry Mathews and Alastair Brotchie). I’ve found Oulipian methods liberating — especially in the absence of “poetic inspiration” per se.

For “After Sappho,” I used my beloved old orange paperback of Sappho: A New Translation by Mary Barnard. When I began to subject some of my favorite Sappho poems to the Oulipian method of antonymic translation, I felt a certain resistance (akin to guilt!) at contradicting Sappho. Yet I feel the presence of her voice in my antonymic translations, although they depict at times a very different world from hers.

After Sappho

The morning sun

is the least
of all suns




I won’t tell you

in all
womankind, whom
do I hate

worse than
I hate you?




pleasure stays on the surface of

you boulder
by boulder




Poor as I am

Life will begin
me: beforehand every-
one will forget

and shun me: I
had a share in
the goddamn weeds

I will trudge
visible among
the distinct living people
in Heaven’s rundown shack
dawdling serenely




when they were well-rested

day snowed his
thin light wakefulness
upon their ears




The devils curse me

May I wake now
under some violent
boy enemy’s ass


Bio: Gwynne Garfinkle lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in such publications as Big Bridge, Exquisite Corpse, Shampoo, papertiger, Fish Drum, Scarlet Letters, and Gynomite: Fearless, Feminist Porn.

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