USEREVIEW 095 (Capsule): Entering Sappho

Sneha Subramanian Kanta/ September 21, 2022/ Book Review, Capsule Review

Sarah Dowling
Entering Sappho (Coach House Books, 2020)
ISBN 978-1-55245-418-3 | 96 pp | $21.95 CAD | BUY Here


The dedication of Entering Sappho begins with “To a future time.” This is reminiscent of the fragments of Sappho, as translated by Sherod Santos: “Someone, I tell you, will remember us, / even in another time.” Dowling’s book is a historical document and the poems occupy space on the page, allude to history and seek to deviate from established narratives.

In this book, Dowling claims history as being a queer continuum. You enter history and become acquainted with geography, the poetics of place and aphorisms for what it means to occupy a place. The poem ‘Soft Memory,’ particularly the lines “okay, this fever / burns me and it seems that finally I did / live” takes evocative, inventive turns. Dowling pays attention to form and lineation. This is incorporated, to quote Emily Dickinson, in a “tell it slant” manner.

The titles bear sonorous reflections with the narrative of the poems. The title ‘These Things Now For My Companions / I Shall Sing Beautifully’ is continued in the lines “I dreamed of twenty-four Olympias, / twenty-three Clios, and twenty-two Venuses who / were all fond of Sappho’s poetry.” Like history, a sense of chronology for time, space, distance and exactness are infused into every poem.

Recommended excerpt:

‘This Word: I Want’ retraces the settler-colonial narrative. The lines: “In our period of birth and consolidation, daughter / colonies spread outward, open. We have recorded / 2,405 classical names scoring the rocks, pounding / the flanks of these northern peripheral zones.” The stanza encapsulates that which is forgotten but true. The past is remade with deft attention to syntax — and how the concrete space of every poem appears on the page.

Sneha Subramanian Kanta is a writer from the Greater Toronto Area, Canada. She is the recipient of the inaugural Vijay Nambisan Fellowship 2019. Her chapbook Ghost Tracks is available to order from Louisiana Literature Press. She is the founding editor of Parentheses Journal. More:

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