The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Timothy Steele’s “Sapphics Against Anger” is composed of seven stanzas written in the sapphic form of four unrhymed lines. Sapphic verse is organized around a special strophe form. A poem in sapphic strophes always appears in four-line stanzas with a short fourth line. The title of this poem has to do with seven sapphic strophes written against, or in opposition to, feelings of anger. As the title poem of the collection, the piece reflects some of the themes of the whole book, especially in its apparently autobiographical first-person speaker, which in this instance is also true to the first-person voice of Sappho’s own poetry.

The general theme of “Sapphics Against Anger” is the need to control anger, one of the strongest of human emotions. The poem serves as a caution and a reflection for the speaker, who exorcises his anger through the writing of this disciplined form. The tone of the poem becomes lighthearted as it progresses, and a secondary theme, of not taking oneself too seriously, is established. The first stanza sets up the conflict between perspective and impulse, which governs the entire poem. The speaker wishes when angered to be “near a glass of water” to douse the flames of his temper. He longs to remember the importance of silence as a means of controlling what might be an ill-considered reaction. The poem plays off the interrelations of the temper, temperament, and temptation.

Continuing in a meditative manner,...

(The entire section is 521 words.)