Diane Rayor: “Ἔρος δηὖτέ μ’ ὀ λυσιμέλης δόνει, γλυκύπικρον ἀμάχανον ὄρπετον.”
Ellie Brigida: Welcome to Sweetbitter, a podcast where we investigate the truth and controversy surrounding Sappho, her life, the Isle of Lesbos, and her relevance today. We’re your hosts, Ellie Brigida…
Leesa Charlotte: …and Leesa Charlotte.
EB: In our final episode, we’re going to be talking about the future of Sappho and the Classics as a whole.
LC: As we do each episode, we’re going to start with one of Sappho’s fragments, chosen by our resident poet, Alyse. Stay tuned until the end of the episode to hear our own version of the poem as a song. Alyse, hello.
Alyse Knorr: Hi, y’all.
EB: I’m so excited for this fragment. And also, like, sort of depressed. I’m sad this is our last episode.
AK: I know. I can’t believe it’s here.
LC: It’s just goodbye for now.
EB: Yes, I mean, we’ll be back. We will be back. But, let’s talk about the fragment. I feel like it’s the perfect fragment for the last episode. So what fragment have we chosen, Alyse?
AK: It really is perfect. It’s Fragment 147. And I’m actually gonna let Chris Mason, who you’ve heard on previous episodes–he’s one of the members of the band, Old Songs–he’s gonna read it for you in Greek, and then in English, and then talk about it a little bit. So here you go.
Chris Mason: “μνάσασθαί τινά φαιμι †καὶ ἕτερον† ἀμμέων.” “Someone I say / will remember us / in another time.” So I mean, she’s looking forward to us, just like we’re looking back at her.
LC: We want all of you future listeners to know that we are looking forward to you, 2,500 years in the future when I’m sure you’re listening to this very artistically important podcast.
EB: I just love–it really makes me teary-eyed. It is such a gorgeous fragment.
EB: Like, “Someone, I say, will remember us in another time.” Like, just that sentence has so much beauty and so much weight. It’s one of my favorite fragments–I think it’s a lot of people’s favorite fragment.
LC: So there is actually a Fragment 147 Project that is putting together the Fragment 147 in a short film with queer women from all over the world, who are reading that poem in their native languages. So definitely something to look out for, and we’ll share it on our social media when it comes out. I’m super excited to hear it.
EB: It’s very cool. Alyse, why did you pick this fragment for this particular episode?
AK: I mean, I really like this idea that Sappho is thinking about her future reception, not just herself, but it’s “someone, I say, will remember us.” So her whole community of women who she was hanging out with, writing these poems about–we remember her, we remembered Gongola, we remember Atthis, we remember all these people, because she wrote these stories.
EB: Don’t forget Anaktoria.
LC: I was Ellie, I’m like, Alyse would really do that and forget Anaktoria?
AK: Whew! Yeah, that wasn’t cool. That wasn’t good.
EB: “Someone will remember all of us, except Anaktoria.”
AK: Yeah, sorry, Anaktoria. My bad, honey. But yeah, just this idea that art lives on. You know, I don’t expect anyone will remember my poems in 2,500 years, but it’s cool that Sappho had the guts to say, like, “No. Mine are gonna survive.” And she was right!
LC: I mean, I’m gonna call you out on that. I think what you need to do is you need to write them in every format you can think of. I think you need to go bury them in the sand, in the desert, on papyrus.
AK: Okay, yeah. That’s a really good idea. That’s a really good idea. Yeah, that’s a smart plan.
LC: Because you know what? Even then, people will think that, like, you were prolific, even if you weren’t. Just trick the future.
AK: All you need is one, all you need is one to survive. There’s actually–Margaret Atwood, the writer Margaret Atwood, did this–is part of this project that a bunch of writers are doing, where they write these novels that no one will see for 100 years. And so they planted a forest. And in 100 years, the trees will be big enough to make books out of them. And so in 100 years, they will read these novels, but like, the authors will be long dead. Anyone who cared about the authors while they were alive will be long dead. It’s really weird and cool.
LC: Wow. Another reason for me to want to be a vampire, honestly. Are you telling me that I can’t experience that, or I have to live to like 135? I could do it. I can stop aging now.
EB: I think you can do it.
AK: There’s just like–there’s just so much cool stuff in here about time and about, like, memory and the longevity of art. And I think it’s really haunting and weird and interesting and beautiful that this is a fragment, right? And the only line of the poem. This is from a longer poem or song, but the line we have is, “Someone I say / will remember us / in another time.” It’s like, that’s what survived. It just gives me chills.
LC: Thanks so much, Alyse, and thank you for being such an amazing resident poet for us, and guiding us through Sappho’s works. We just–we’re so appreciative.
AK: Love you guys.
LC: Ugh, we love you, too!
EB: So much love.
LC: And that’s Sappho’s legacy. As we mentioned at the start of the episode, the focus of today’s episode is on the future of Sappho and the future of Classics, papyrology, and archaeology.
EB: We’ll start with Dr. Tracey Walters, an associate professor of literature and chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Stony Brook University. She told us about her work within Classical Africana, an important and exciting area of Classics.
Tracey Walters: Classical Africana, let me define what it means. So this is a term that was coined by Michele Ronnick, when she came up with this term, kind of in response to Classical Americana, which was a subfield of study in the Classics thinking about how American intellectuals and artists appropriated the Classics, right, and neoclassicism. And so Michele Ronnick was intrigued with the tradition of African American or African descended people who work within the Classics as well, and recognize the racialization of the Classics, and there’s other people who write about the gendering of Classics. And Professor Ronnick recognized there were kind of three main areas. She recognized that writers of African descent either were practitioners of the Classics, meaning for them that they taught the Classics, or they were trained, even if they didn’t teach it, they were trained, and they knew how to speak and to write in Greek or Latin. Then there were scholars who wrote about Africans in antiquity, and then there are those who–the artists, right, the creatives–who are drawn to neoclassicism, and you see it in the work of W.E.B. DuBois, you know, you see it from the 19th century through to contemporary time. So Classical Africana is a subfield of classical studies that examines the contributions of African descended people.
LC: Tracey first got interested in Classical Africana in grad school, when she read Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem, “The Anniad,” from her Pulitzer Prize-winning collection, “Annie Allen.” The poem chronicles the life of a black woman living through World War II. The title plays off the name of Virgil’s famous epic, the “Aeneid.”
EB: Many scholars have interpreted it as a kind of satire, but Tracey saw it differently.
TW: But I’ve been studying Classical Africana for about 20 years, and I came to this in graduate school. I came upon Gwendolyn Brooks’s “The Anniad,” and the poetry was something I always actually ran from. I just found it was like math, a little bit too complicated to work out, just kind of wasn’t my thing. But for some reason, I ended up writing a dissertation and a book. But I was just so drawn to “The Anniad,” and most people have looked at Gwendolyn Brooks’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection called “Annie Allen,” written in 1959. But, within that collection, she has “The Anniad,” and I kind of resisted this notion that it was a mock epic, that she was being satirical, that, because she was a woman and a woman of color, that she wouldn’t take it seriously, that she wouldn’t commit herself to working within that form. It’s not a mock epic. I felt like it was undermining her craft, and her artistry, to suggest that she’s mocking the tradition. She wasn’t mocking it at all. And we know that there’s a long history of people of color using the Classics as a way to legitimize their–or to validate their–longing within the arts and letters. And so, Brooks admits that in an interview, that she needed to prove that she was a legitimate poet, in the same way that we have to, right?
EB: We also wanted to tell you more about Phillis Wheatley. She was an 18th century poet. She was a slave and she also used the Classics to write her poetry. So we just want to make sure everyone knows who Phillis Wheatley is when Tracey is talking about her.
LC: One way Tracey is working to make the Classics more exciting for her students is by highlighting the ways that they show up in contemporary pop culture.
TW: It would be nice for Sappho to move beyond the stuffiness of Classics–the classicist’s circle. Sorry. Classicists. The Classics are still view today as so, like, stuffy and white and male and old and–in the minds of people, even though the Classes are around them every day, right, they’re engaging with them every day–but, when you think about it, they think, “Ugh, serious, boring.” But I think the work that you’re doing with this podcast–I was so happy when you invited me, and I was like, “Oh, wow, that sounds cool and interesting and fresh.” So I think the kind of work you’re doing and connecting with other scholars and maybe, I don’t know, these days, there are a lot of really good virtual conferences I’ve gone to already. Put together a conference where people can come and talk about Sappho, and that kind of builds your intellectual community and gets it beyond the boring classes, the circles.
LC: One way Tracey is working to make the Classics more exciting for her students is by highlighting the ways that they show up in contemporary pop culture.
TW: Everywhere I turned, it was like all the Classics are everywhere. They’d always been everywhere, but just kind of tuning in and being more aware of how prominent they are in the literature. And obviously, I was telling you, Ovid’s “Medea” was a reference that comes up, and is an easy reference that people make. Tyler Perry kind of ruined that, but that’s a little joke. So they’re in the Disney films, are referencing them, and there’s superhero films as reference. And obviously, I taught a class a long, long time ago, when I first graduated, I taught at The New School for a year. I taught a course on the Classics and contemporary pop culture. And we looked at the “Wizard of Oz” and “Star Wars” and “Jerry Springer,” actually. Ovid, we used “The Metamorphoses,” and we looked at all of the incest and betrayal, and all of the stories and how they related to these “Jerry Springer” tricks of Jerry Springer. And then thinking about the epic, right, as a foundational text. The students really took to it, the material, very well. And subsequently, over the years, I married contemporary literature with classical literature, as well. I teach a class on Spike Lee, and so we did “Lysistrata,” Aristophanes’s “Lysistrata,” with “Chi-Raq.” I’m going to work on this actually. It just came to me last week. “Moonlight.” As I watched “Moonlight,” I really didn’t pay attention to Chiron, until the other day. And then I went and I looked, I was like, “Oh my gosh, it’s like right there.” So, obviously, it’s still alive and well.
EB: You may remember Vanessa Stovall, from the last episode. She’s an independent scholar and musician with an MA in classical studies from Columbia. She’s also interested in making the Classics more accessible.
Vanessa Stovall: I don’t know, I just think the Classics have the potential to be so much more accessible than many classicists make them. I think that many of us need to interrogate our own personal inner elitism, and how much we like being good at things that other folks aren’t good at, and being able to explain to folks pedantically about those things. Because I actually think that’s, like, the underlying issue with many of the Classics’ issues of accessibility. I think if folks are just willing to do certain work or stuff to make things more accessible, that makes it easy. I think Sappho was someone that, like, even in fragments, I think there’s a reason why she’s so popular, and has been written, even though she’s also been censured a lot at the same time. But I think that, also in the ways in which she talks about people, I think that’s why I was thinking about, of like, how much she deals with cosmos. And I love cosmos a lot. That’s where–you’ll hear me say, cosmos, cosmetically, all these things, this very Ancient Greek idea that pulls together a lot. The cosmos is, on the one hand, like your style, your makeup, especially female makeup. But it’s also the cosmos of a city, the city has to be in good order together. But it’s also the cosmos of the entire universe. So it’s like, this very big–yeah, it’s actually, I think makeup is a very good phrase for it, because it’s like your makeup on the one hand, but then also the makeup of the city, the makeup of the entire cosmos. And so I love her ideas of cosmos. I think her style is fascinating. She has a lot of commentary on style, in general, what gals should wear, the sorts of crowns they should put in their hair. Even just, like, things to pick apart, like plectrum. And not even just like, you know, some of–I know you guys have noted how queer and great the plectrum is, but even just thinking about where the word comes from, and how it relates to the different verbs around, like poking holes and like braiding and weaving that comes together, because like your plectrum is like your weaver, but also these connotations of style and hair that come out. That I would even argue, like, filter down to contemporary words, because I’m like, “Yeah, we have our picks, like for our guitars. But I’m like, ‘pick’ is also the name of the comb that I use for my hair, too.” And so I think there is so much to just sort of pick apart, if you’ll excuse the pun, with Sappho in that way.
LC: I have honestly, until we spoke to Vanessa, never thought about the relationship between the word “cosmos” and “cosmetics,” and that’s so cool. Like I was listening to her, like, my mouth was just open. I was just like, “Oh my goodness,” ’cause I’m a big, like, micro-macro person. I love, like, you know, the intricate versus the expanse, and I just–I just thought that was great.
EB: I love it. I also love that she’s talking about making the Classics less elitist, because that’s what we hope to do with this podcast. We hope that all of you listening feel as though this is also accessible to you, and not just academics, not just papyrologists. Everyone should feel like the Classics are for them.
LC: It was literally what we were setting out to do. So if we’ve helped make Sappho more accessible for you, we’ve done our job, and if you’re still here, hopefully that’s the case.
EB: Yes, we really hope so. Another way Vanessa is making the Classics more accessible to a general audience is through her Medium channel, Corona Borealis. She writes about all kinds of cool things, and often makes connections between ancient literature and pop culture.
LC: One of our absolute favorite pieces that she recently wrote put Sappho into a conversation with female and non-binary rappers, like Cardi B and Janelle Monáe. And she particularly focuses on our favorite one-day Sappho song, “WAP.”
VS: “WAP,” also known as “Wet Ass Pussy,” is a song by Cardi B, featuring Megan Thee Stallion. Women just like singing about their sexuality in a really brash and open way. There’s actually this great interview Megan did, pretty recently, with Maxine Waters, where Maxine was just like, “I watched ‘WAP,’ and Megan’s like, oh god, oh god.” She’s like, “No, no, no, no, no. Don’t hide your face.” She’s like, “‘Cause I remember the 90s, when like women in rap were not allowed to say what they wanted. And so I watched it, and I was like, that’s audacity.” It’s very audacious for those who haven’t seen it and don’t know what it is. I’m like, just go watch it. It’s great. It’s just female sexuality out on display. And of course, whenever there’s female sexuality out on display, some men, in particular, really can’t help themselves. One of which is Ben Shapiro, who is just trash. Terrible. He’s the big–for folks who don’t know, he’s the dude who’s always just like, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” which is usually something he says, particularly, to trans folks, a lot. Like when he just goes for lots of gender essentialism, lots of calls for, like, biological gender and other things like that. But his big thing is just, like, “Facts just don’t care about your feelings.” And it’s such a dumb, stupid thing that, I mean, he’s such a hypocrite with it constantly. As he was when he just decided to speak out against Megan and Cardi and their song. And–but then in a very bizarre way, he also used the fact that his wife is a doctor to justify a lot of his critiques. But at the same–he just came across sounding like he’s just doesn’t know how to pleasure women. So it was pretty hysterical. And so there were some really great responses to it, some of which I talk about in my article. One of my favorite was actually Nicolette D’Angelo, who talked about basically how, like, “WAP” is, like, aligning with the Hippocratic ideas of wetness and dryness when it comes to genders and antiquity. And I was like, this is fantastic. She had a whole, like, great, long thread about it, which she used citing Hippocratic doctrine, but also using the lyrics to illustrate it. It was a very familiar rant for me, because it’s like Shapiro always does this with black women, but also black trans folk, but also black non-binary folk as well. And I had remembered, especially when he started bringing up “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” ’cause he’s just like, “Why can we listen to ‘WAP,’ but we can’t listen to ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’?” And everyone’s always like, “Who is stopping you from listening to ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’?” I realize that this was–I had heard this before. Specifically, when he was tearing apart Janelle Monáe’s “PYNK,” when it was nominated for a Grammy. He, then again, was just like, “Why can we listen to this like highly explicit song?” Which is hilarious to me, because “PYNK” is all about being like, sneaky gay, and like sort of saying things without saying that–I’m like, “WAP” is way more explicit than “PYNK” is. And he compared that one to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” too. And so I was like, “You know, let’s just–hey, like, this dude is making a lot of, like, fuss over stuff that he doesn’t really know about, like, probably doesn’t care to learn about.” Which in turn, reminded me, again, of just, like, a lot of Sappho’s reception in antiquity.
EB: I just am sitting here laughing. I have nothing to say, except, just yes. Yes, Vanessa. Yes. Thank you.
LC: It is really worth reading her whole piece about this. And we’ll put a link to it in our show notes, because I’ve already shared it a couple of times on social media. She talks about Sappho’s meter in conjunction with “WAP”‘s looped trap beat. And she also told us in our interview a little bit about the comparisons between Sappho’s poetry, and “there’s some whore in this house.” Every time I say that I’m just like, “There’s some whores in this house,” like just singing to myself. I can’t–I can’t read that line anymore, but here we are.
EB: This is out of control. This is so good.
VS: So I thought there was, like, an interesting parallel to draw between the ways in which men receive open female sexuality. But then at the same time, I realized as I was writing it, that like, I could even go a lot deeper with some of the parallels that I was saying, particularly around, like–even things like the use of hetaera, which Sappho uses very explicitly to talk about her female companions, her girlfriends, or just sort of her crew, her cohort. But then that’s a word that then, by the time we get to fifth century Athens, becomes very specifically about being like a mistress to men and like male citizens, specifically, especially around Athens. And like, hetaera were in the symposium, there’s supposed to be a lot of these ideas around, like, men’s extracurriculars, and like men’s pleasure. But then, you know, a man still had his citizen wife, who he was supposed to, and like, hetaera were often foreign women and, like, not supposed to be like those proper, citizen, household wives. And so it’s–I’ve had a lot of conversations with folks. We’ve been trying to think of what’s the closest we can think of a contemporary symposium, like especially how male-dominated they are. And what we could come up with were actually like strip club cultures, especially, like, in the south, which is a very specific type. If folks haven’t watched the show “P-Valley,” definitely check it out. But then also, I think that’s such an interesting, nuanced thing, especially thinking about female musicians, because we always hear about female musicians in and around the symposium. Like, there’s all these lines about, “Oh, send that flute girl out,” or, “Have her come back in,” or like, you know, “We’re chasing them all down,” and stuff. And so, I thought that was sort of an interesting parallel to draw, especially considering Cardi did a lot of stripping and, like, came up through like strip clubs and was rapping through that before she broke out big. And that is a way that especially a lot of, like, different female rappers have come up, and like, some get called out for it, some don’t. And so like, I have this line in that piece, where I was just like, “Oh, like, you know, we see this sort of like, reversal of a lot of these ideas, with the main sort of underlying hook of ‘WOP.’ ‘There’s some whores in this house.'” Like finally, the hetaera, they’ve come into, like, the oikos, like the place they’re not actually supposed to be, because that’s sort of like the citizen woman. It’s juxtaposed in the song, because you know, Cardi is talking about, she’s like, “I don’t cook, I don’t clean. Let me tell you how I got this ring.” Like, you know, being married to rapper Offset, who was very upset by a lot of what she said. And she almost divorced him over it. A lot happened last year. There was a lot of rap drama over this song. And then he turned around really quick, because he was like, “I guess the song does pay my bills. Alright, nevermind.”
EB: Oh, there’s some hetaera in this oikos.
LC: I’m just imagining Sappho and her lyre with a trap beat.
EB: “Hetaera in this oikos, there’s hetaera in this oikos.”
LC: It doesn’t have quite the same ring.
EB: Yeah, yeah, I don’t know if I’m saying that quite correctly. But I love that. I am obsessed with that interpretation. I also love, like, the fact that Vanessa is talking about women, who we will call whores, but that’s just, you know, society’s definition of them. Women in places where they’re not supposed to be, in the same way that Sappho was writing poetry in a place she was not supposed to be–is setting the groundwork for women to be in places they were not expected to be before. So, I love that interpretation.
LC: All the way up to Kamala Harris in the friggin’ White House. We love to see it.
EB: I love that interpretation. The future of Classics is definitely about accessibility and connections to our modern day world. But it’s also about decolonizing the field in every way possible.
LC: For instance, classicist Marguerite Johnson is doing really innovative work on connections between the Classics and the First Australians.
Marguerite Johnson: A lot of my research is in classical reception studies, which is basically tracing the influence of Classics, the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds in post antiquity. So my area is looking at colonial Australia. So, the beginning of white Australia, and looking at how the Classics, the knowledge of Greek and Latin and ancient history, was, you know, transported into Australia–and, really early on, in, you know, the 18th century. And later, people represented Aboriginal bodies, indigenous Australian bodies, through a classical lie. So when they were asked to draw them, quite often they drew them like they were Greek statues. They were white, and they were muscular, and they were actually in positions and poses of Greek statues. And a lot of the ancient attitudes were used to describe First Australians. What I’ve also branched into is how First Australians have appropriated the classical stories for themselves, which I think is really empowering. So I have done research on Wesley Enoch’s “Black Medea,” which is a retelling of Euripides’s play from 431 BC, about the witch Medea. And she does dreadful things, absolutely dreadful things, including killing her own children. And I went to see a production of Wesley Enoch’s “Black Medea,” where he casts the whole thing in an indigenous context, and Medea is a black Australian, she’s an Aboriginal woman. And she brings all of the rage of the treatment of Aboriginal people for hundreds of years into that production. And so, I think it’s really empowering to see Aboriginal Australians taking active control of what is such a white, elite tradition that–usually Classics was in the hands of very wealthy English and German people, white people, who sent their children to school to learn Greek and Latin. So it was always regarded as an elite form of education. And that’s certainly how it was when it was brought into Australia. And so now you’re getting this evening out and distribution of Classics into the hands of working class people, kids who don’t go to private schools, and Aboriginal Australians who are making their own stories from the legends and the myths of the ancient world.
EB: And then, there’s the world of papyrology, which we of course had many episodes about.
LC: Just one or two, or four. Scholars Katherine Blouin, Usama Gad, and Rachel Mairs are still hard at work on their Everyday Orientalism blog, collaborating together to decolonize the field.
Katherine Blouin: Our friendship is tied to–the start of it was this seminar on papyrology, but also the project of Everyday Orientalism started as we had conversations and exchanged some views and frustrations about the field and also antiquity-related fields more generally, but papyrology more specifically, because this is what we had in common. So yes, so we actually owe a lot to the papyrological community, which I think we are all very much invested in and grateful for their support. But at the same time, I think when you love someone, you also feel it’s your responsibility when something’s wrong to just address it. So, this is a bit of the life motive behind the launch of the blog. There’s still a bit of resistance, but, you know, my sense is that the news are showing more and more that we cannot pretend like what we do is disconnected from today’s world, and that our disciplines are not colonial products. And, if we keep on pretending like this is not the case, and if we keep on putting our head in the sand, I think in the long run, we’re going to become irrelevant.
EB: This papyrology friendship is tied to papyrology. And our friendship is tied to Sappho.
LC: Oh, Ellie!
EB: And our podcast.
LC: So sweet.
EB: It’s so beautiful.
LC: It’s a special kind of friendship, I think.
EB: I love it so much. I also really appreciate that Katherine is talking about, “We can’t put our heads in the sand.”
EB: We have to talk about these things, which is why we are here talking about Sappho.
EB: Leesa said, “Here’s a podcast that doesn’t exist. Let’s make it.”
LC: Here’s what Usama Gad had to say about all this.
Usama Gad: That’s what I say that Eurocentrism, it has to do with organization of the knowledge in former colonies, which are now independent, as we say, you know. So they are not independent, economically, culturally, educationally, and in the sphere of knowledge, also, we can say that they are still dependent on the heritage of this era. And that’s exactly what Eurocentrism is. If you look at archeology, and papyrology, exactly, you will see this, that these ideas still prevail. And it is repeated by almost everyone. A few of my colleagues have begun to realize this fact, and begun to speak out loud against all this. And they are really doing a great job in decolonizing the curriculum, the textbooks, and, most importantly, the ideas and concepts behind these curriculum textbooks and canons, which we inherited from the colonial era.
LC: I just–I loved Usama’s thoughts on this whole kind of papyrology scandal and his views on Eurocentrism in the Classics, and I just–I really look forward to seeing where his career goes, like talking about future of the Classics. Like I really hope that he’s like the first Egyptian head of papyrology of–can’t remember the names of the organizations, but I hope that he’s, you know, up there, because I just think it’s really important for us to be bringing more Egyptian voices into this field. And he’s just such a lovely man.
EB: We want to leave you with some thoughts from Tracey, and her hopes for the future of Sappho, in particular.
TW: Let’s kind of bring Sappho back to her glory, and she’s been tainted by these kinds of stories that are incorrect, or stories that dishonor her great name. And let’s kind of revitalize the memory of Sappho. So in that, heteronormative relationships weren’t seen as they are today, and to be a woman who loved and to love freely, I don’t think would have been read in the same way that we do today, would have been labeled in the same way that we do today. So I think that, through the years, I knew Sappho was before I started working on the Classics, and because of the name Sappho of Lesbos, and then you think lesbian. Then it stops there, right? No one expounds upon it more than that, but, “Oh, Sappho was a lesbian.” Okay, what’s that mean?
EB: We are bringing Sappho back to her glory. Yes we are, Tracey.
LC: “We’re bringing Sappho back. Yeah!”
EB: Yeah. So beautiful. That was like the Kidz Bop version of it.
EB: I do appreciate Sappho and her reverence for Sappho, which we also have. We also talked to her about black feminist thought and Sappho. And what she said was really incredible.
TW: What I love about bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins is their commitment to ensuring that a black feminist epistemology is legitimate, and that writing from the lived experience, right, the personal is political, is powerful. And Sappho, as a character, I think that, from a black feminist standpoint–whether it’s Sappho or any other figure from Greco-Roman mythology, but Sappho here in particular, because its the Bittersweet podcast and that’s what we’re doing–she enables women or scholars who work on the Classical Africana to tap into their own experiences as black women, and to put forward that lived experience into the writing. So it doesn’t have to get buried within the jargon of academia. But the lived experience is what rises to the surface in the tradition of a Sappho, thinking about reclaiming. Okay, think about reclaiming my time, right? It’s about–it’s about the power of “nomo,” or “the law,” right, the power of the word, transforming silence into action, refusing to be silent, refusing to accept that because you’re a woman and a woman of color, that you should be invisible. To draw on the work of Zanele Muholi, who’s a fantastic South African visual activist who chronicles the lives of black and trans women in South Africa who are persecuted daily because of that same love and sexual desire. In the tradition of Sappho, and from a black feminist epistemological standpoint, these women, like Sappho, bring a different trajectory, and they can do it courageously today, courageously and unapologetically.
LC: Ellie, I don’t really think we can say anything better than that.
EB: We truly cannot, thank you so much, Tracey, for your beautiful words. We’re going to leave you all with that. While this is the last official episode of the season, we could not leave you so soon. We have a couple of bonus episodes for you.
LC: Alyse, our amazing resident poet, had the opportunity to interview living legend Judy Grahn. She is a lesbian poet and activist who was a leader in the gay liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s, and continues to be a prominent voice to LGBT rights.
EB: We also have a live event, which we’ll be recording on April 24th, along with some of our faves, including Vanessa, who you heard on this episode; Liv Albert from our Aphrodite episode; Kristin Russo from Buffering the Vampire Slayer; and Leigh Pfeffer from History Is Gay.
LC: You can find all the details of that on our website, and we really hope you’ll join us.
EB: In the meantime, here’s a taste of what’s to come on Sweetbitter’s bonus episodes.
Judy Grahn: It matters a great deal whether you’re included in the origin story and how you’re included, if you are. Look at my hands. They are apples. My breasts are apples, my heart is an apple tree.
LC: Thanks for listening to Sweetbitter. While this episode concludes our season, we will be doing a live season wrap-up this Saturday. And no big deal, but Ellie will be here, in person!
EB: I’m so excited. I am vaxed and unwaxed and ready to go. That’s my new phrase, for being gay and vaccinated. I am vaxed and unwaxed and ready to travel. So I’m going to New York to be there for the show, and I’m so excited. If you enjoyed our podcast, please subscribe, rate, and review us. It really helps, especially written reviews on Apple podcasts. It’s a big reason how we got on our “New and Noteworthy.” So you can also support us on Patreon by going to patreon.com/sweetbitter, to help us for season two. This is our last episode of season one, but season two, we’re coming for you.
LC: Oh my gosh, I’m so excited to learn all about the untold history of lady pirates and queer pirates. It’s going to be so much fun. Thank you so much–
EB: And trans pirates, and non-binary pirates.
LC: –and trans pirates, all the pirates! Thank you so much to our new patrons this week: Hannah and Emma. We’re super grateful for your support. As always, you can find us on Twitter and Instagram at @sweetbitterpod or contact us on our website, sweetbitterpodcast.com.
EB: Sweetbitter is an independent production by me, Ellie Brigida, Alyse Knorr, and Leesa Charlotte. Our artwork is by Istela Illustrated. Music is by Lyre ‘n’ Rhapsody. Special thanks to Chris Mason, Tracey Walters, Vanessa Stovall, Marguerite Johnson, Katherine Blouin, and Usama Gad for sharing their knowledge with us today.
LC: You can read more about our guests and where to find them on our website in the “About” section, and find the reference works in the show notes. Big thank you to Vale, who sent us the sweetest email with a whole bunch of poems that they wrote. It warmed our heart and we’re so grateful to have you as a listener.
EB: And now, our final song of season one, for Fragment 147.