A Renaissance Poem in Translation

The backlog continues … here is a translation from the French of Clément Marot (1497-1544), who composed this occasional poem to Marguerite of Navarre (1492-1549; yes, the Marguerite, princess of France, Queen of Navarre, Duchess of Alençon and Berry, and author of the Heptaméron!) in the happy, halcyon days before FICO credit scores.

Reply to the Queen of Navarre

My creditors, whom dozens could not move,
Have read your letter, wherewith I averred:
“Sir Michael and Sir Bonaventure, you’ve
The sister of the King for her good word.”
Then they, of my great credit well-assured,
Called me my lord in clamor, and behold!
Your guarantee was worth as much as gold,
For they have sworn, not only to attend,
But, on their merchants’ faith, to lend tenfold,
And I have sworn, on Clement’s faith, to spend.

— Translated by Samantha Pious

Réplique à la reine de Navarre

Mes créanciers, qui de dizains n’ont cure,
Ont lu le vôtre, et sur ce, leur ai dit:
“Sire Michel, sire Bonaventure,
La soeur du roi a fait pour moi ce dit.”
Lors eux, cuidant que fusse en grand crédit,
M’ont appelé monsieur à cri et cor,
Et m’a valu votre écrit autant qu’or,
Car promis ont, non seulement d’attendre,
Mais d’en prêter, foi de marchand, encor,
Et j’ai promis, foi de Clément, d’en prendre.

— Clément Marot

Anon was a woman

As an antidote to the previous translation, here is a lyric composed by an anonymous trouvère and voiced by a woman:

My lover and I,
in a wood near Bethune,
spent all Tuesday night
by the light of the moon,
playing until daylight dawned,
and the lark began his song:
“My love, it’s time to go.”
My love responded, soft and low,
My delightful, lovely one,
the dark is not yet dying,
so help me God of Love,
because the lark is lying.

Then he drew close to me,
and I did not draw back;
a good three times he kissed me,
and I gave him kisses back,
for I was not offended.
How we wished that splendid
night could last a hundred days,
with no more need to say:
My delightful, lovely one,
The dark is not yet dying,
So help me God of Love,
Because the lark is lying.

— Translated by Samantha Pious


I have a backlog of translations that I think are unlikely — for various reasons, having very little to do with their quality — to find a publisher. (If anyone knows of a journal or press that might consider formalist translations of poets who perished prior to 1917 … please let me know!) For lack of a better alternative, I’ll post some of these “fugitive” poems here.

I’m going to start with a particularly provoking bit of verse that I found in the Cancioneiro de Palacio, a mid-fifteenth-century multilingual songbook of the Iberian peninsula. The original was so entertaining … so, well, quaint in its misogyny … that a wicked spirit moved me to draft this version:


translated by a woman
from the Portuguese
of Jorge d’Aguiar

Take courage, fortify, my heart,
draw strength, and go on living!
Remember they are only women.

Remember she has yet to be
born, who doesn’t fall in error.
Remember, I have yet to see
a woman ever taste of pleasure
when she grants mercy to a man.
To passion, therefore, don’t give in —
take your pleasure where you can!
Remember they are only women.

Relax, sad lover, take a break.
To wrong her would be sweet revenge.
Dry your tears, it’s getting late —
leave off this waiting, make an end!
Hope, like ladies, has no reason.
On these, therefore, do not attend!
Refusal can be overridden:
remember they are only women.

Your steadfast strength, your blazing passions,
and their deceitfulness (which happens
to be a trait of noble breed)
are making you a wretch indeed!
My heart, don’t kill yourself in vain:
however stricken with this pain
you may be, however smitten,
you’ll find that they are only women.

What profits you to pine away?
Why wish upon a shooting star?
They’ll never change, nor ever be
otherwise than what they are.
Leave them, then, in Nature’s state.
Don’t wait, and never ask permission!
Remember they are only women.

Live, my heart! Don’t kill yourself
for those who never will be true.
They have no feeling for themselves —
why should they therefore feel for you?
Live, my heart, and blazon forth!
You’ll see (exactly as I’ve written)
they are women — only women.

Long ago, the realm of Spain
was lost, and for Florinda’s — kiss;
the Trojan city, too, destroyed
for wicked things that Helen did.
Unbind yourself, my heart, and live!
For she who first made Adam sin
and taste, of her, the fruit forbidden,
was the first mother of these women.

— Samantha Pious

The prudishness of the late-medieval clericus is matched only by his desperation …

LBT+ Women & Non-Binary Poets

[EDITED 19 May 2019: After reading Sam Escobar’s essay “On Being Non-Binary in Female-Centric Spaces” and Kat Marchán’s “On the Design of Women’s Spaces,” I realized that this list, “LBT+ Women & Non-Binary Poets,” has been saying one thing and doing another. The title mentions non-binary poets, but the vast majority of poets actually in the list are women. So as not to continue tokenizing non-binary poets, I have created a new list: “Lesbian and Bi+ Women Poets,” which obviously includes both trans and cis women. You can find a list of non-cis poets, including non-binary people and trans men, by Bogi Takács on GoodReads.]

Here is a list of published volumes by contemporary lesbian, bi+, and trans women and non-binary poets who are writing today. Obviously this list is Anglophone-centric and informed by the volumes inhabiting my bookshelves … If you would like to be added or removed, please let me know!

Note: One anthology that everyone should read is Black Lesbians — We Are the Revolution!, a recent issue of Sinister Wisdom guest-edited by JP Howard and Amber Atiya. My copy arrived in the mail just a few days ago, and already it’s an invaluable resource as I continue to update this list.

  • Patience Agbabi, Telling Tales (Canongate Books)
  • Liz Ahl, Beating the Bounds (Hobblebush Books)
  • Anastacia-Renée, (v.) (Gramma)
  • Joan Annsfire, Distant Music (Headmistress Press)
  • Colette Arrand, Hold Me Gorilla Monsoon (Opo Books and Objects)
  • Amber Atiya, the fierce bums of doo-wop (Argos Books)
  • Samiya Bashir, Field Theories (Nightboat), Gospel (RedBone), Where the Apple Falls (RedBone)
  • Maureen Bocka, First Name Barbie Last Name Doll (Headmistress Press)
  • Carolyn Boll, Social Dance (Headmistress Press)
  • Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Arrival (Triquarterly), Raw Air (Fly By Night Press), Night When Moon Follows (Long Shot Productions), Convincing the Body (Vintage Entity Press)
  • Elizabeth Bradfield, Interpretive Work (Arktoi Books)
  • Dionne Brand, The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos (Duke University Press)
  • Nicole Brossard, aube à la saison and These Our Mothers (translated by Barbara Godard)
  • Farrell Greenwald Brennan, Diatribe from the Library (Headmistress Press)
  • Yoseli Castillo Fuertes, De eso sí se habla / Of That, I Speak
  • Sarah Caulfield, Spine (Headmistress Press)
  • Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Rocket Fantastic (Persea Books)
  • Audrey Carroll, Queen of Pentacles (Choose the Sword Press)
  • Anne Carson (translator), If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • Louve -ch, the wolf & her moon (UniqueRadiance)
  • Ching-in Chen, The Heart’s Traffic (Arktoi Books)
  • Staceyann Chin, Wildcat Woman
  • Franny Choi, Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing)
  • Cheryl Clarke, Narratives (Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press), By My Precise Haircut (The Word Works Press)
  • Elizabeth Colen, What Weaponry (Black Lawrence Press)
  • Flower Conroy, The Awful Suicidal Swans (Headmistress Press)
  • Dani Couture, Good Meat (Pedlar Press)
  • Cristie Cyane, demain j’y vais (Éditions Geneviève Pastre)
  • Elayna Mae Darcy, Unraveling Light (Magic Key Media)
  • marissa dahlson, Sunshine Girl: a collection of memories (CreateSpace)
  • Meg Day, Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street Press)
  • Wendy DeGroat, Beautiful Machinery (Headmistress Press)
  • Risa Denenberg, Whirlwind @ Lesbos (Headmistress Press)
  • Lori Desrosiers, Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak (Salmon Poetry)
  • Natalie Diaz, When My Brother Was An Aztec (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Dinah Dietrich, Paper Cranes (Headmistress Press)
  • Lisa Dordal, Mosaic of the Dark (Black Lawrence Press)
  • Julie Enszer, Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press), Avowed (Sibling Rivalry Press), Lilith’s Demons (A Midsummer Night’s Press)
  • Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, I’m Alive / It Hurts / I Love It (Boost House)
  • Laura Foley, Joy Street (Headmistress Press), Night Ringing (Headmistress Press)
  • t’ai freedom ford, how to get over (Red Hen Press)
  • Angélica Freitas, Rilke Shake, tr. Hilary Kaplan (Phoneme Media)
  • Diane Furtney, Riddle (Headmistress Press)
  • Celeste Gainey, The Gaffer (Arktoi Books)
  • Olivia Gatwood, New American Best Friend (Button Poetry)
  • Andrea Gibson, The Madness Vase (Write Bloody Publishing)
  • Jewelle Gomez, Oral Tradition (Firebrand Books)
  • Janice Gould, The Force of Gratitude (Headmistress Press)
  • Judy Grahn, Hanging On Our Own Bones (Arktoi Books)
  • Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (Duke University Press)
  • Marilyn Hacker, Selected Poems (W. W. Norton & Co.)
  • Jane Eaton Hamilton, Love Will Burst into a Thousand Shapes Caitlin Press)
  • Milla van der Have, Ghosts of Old Virginny (Aldrich Press)
  • Eloise Klein Healy, A Wild Surmise (Red Hen Press)
  • Ellen Hopkins, Tricks (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
  • Leah Horlick, For Your Own Good (Caitlin Press)
  • JP Howard, Say/Mirror (The Operating System)
  • Jessica K. Hylton, The Great Scissor Hunt (Headmistress Press)
  • Candice Iloh, Catalyst 
  • Omotara James, Daughter Tongue (APBF & Akashic Books), Mama Wata (Siren Songs & CCM Press)
  • Jenny Johnson, In Full Velvet (Sarabande Books)
  • Jackie Kay, Darling (Bloodaxe Books)
  • Joy Ladin, Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press)
  • Amy Lauren, Prodigal (Bottlecap Press), God With Us (Headmistress Press)
  • Frances Glessner Lee, Doll Studies: Forensics (Black Lawrence Press)
  • Ruth Lehrer, Tiger Laughs When You Push (Headmistress Press)
  • Kathryn Leland, I Wear the Only Garden I’ve Ever Grown (Headmistress Press)
  • Jill McDonough, Reaper (Alice James Books)
  • Rachel McKibbens, blud (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Maureen N. McLane, Some Say (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux)
  • Mary Meriam, The Lillian Trilogy (Headmistress Press)
  • Constance Merritt, Blind Girl Grunt (Headmistress Press)
  • Jane Miller, Who Is Trixie the Trasher? And Other Questions (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Deborah A. Miranda, The Zen of La Llorona (Salt Publishing)
  • Cherríe Moraga, Loving in the War Years: lo que nunca pasó por sus labios (South End Press)
  • G.L. Morrison, Chiaroscuro Kisses (Headmistress Press)
  • Eileen Myles, I Must Be Living Twice (Ecco)
  • Lesléa Newman, I Carry My Mother (Headmistress Press)
  • Alix Olson, Built Like That: The Word and Independence Meal: The Ingredients
  • Trace Peterson, Since I Moved (Chax Press)
  • Jennifer Angelina Petro, A Life Lived With Wings (CreateSpace), Transcendencies (CreateSpace)
  • Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Bodymap (Mawenzi House Publishers)
  • Sarah Pinder, Common Place (Coach House Books)
  • Samantha Pious (translator), A Crown of Violets: Selected Poems of Renée Vivien (Headmistress Press)
  • Cassie Pruyn, Lena (Texas Tech University Press)
  • Sina Queyras, My Ariel (Coach House Books)
  • Shivanee Ramlochan, Everyone Knows I Am A Haunting (Peepal Tree Press)
  • Rita Mae Reese, The Book of Hulga (Arktoi Books), The Alphabet Conspiracy (Arktoi Books)
  • Verónica Reyes, Chopper! Chopper (Arktoi Books)
  • Jen Rouse, Acid and Tender (Headmistress Press)
  • Kay Ryan, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press)
  • Trish Salah, Lyric Sexology Vol. 1 (Roof Books)
  • Raquel Salas Rivera, oropel/tinsel (Lark Books & Writing Studio), huequitos/holies (La Impresora)
  • Metta Sáma, After ‘Sleeping to Dream’/After After (Nous-zot Press)
  • Ollie Renee Schminkey, The Taste of Iron
  • Venus Selenite, trigger (CreateSpace)
  • Warsan Shire, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (flipped eye publishing limited)
  • Shye, Salutations to the Dawn
  • Danez Smith, Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press), Boy (YesYesBooks)
  • Pamela Sneed, Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery (Henry Holt), KONG And Other Works (Vintage Entity Press)
  • Jan Steckel, The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press)
  • Carter Steinmann, Sticky (Headmistress Press)
  • Lynn Strongin, The Burn Poems (Headmistress Press), A Bracelet of Honeybees (Headmistress Press)
  • Kai Cheng Thom, A Place Called No Homeland (Pulp Arsenal Press)
  • Gail Thomas, Odd Mercy (Headmistress Press)
  • Ann Tweedy, The Body’s Alphabet (Headmistress Press)
  • Julene Tripp Weaver, Truth Be Bold (Finishing Line Books)
  • Valerie Wetlaufer, Mysterious Acts By My People (Sibling Rivalry Press), Call Me By My Other Name (Sibling Rivalry Press)
  • Arisa White, You’re the Most Beautiful Thing that Happened (Augury Books)
  • Rachel Wiley, Nothing Is Okay (Button Poetry)
  • Shannon Connor Winward, Undoing Winter (Finishing Line Press)
  • Abe Louise Young, Heaven To Me (Headmistress Press)
  • Sandra Yannone, top (Bigelow Press)
  • Carina Yun, On Loving a Saudi Girl (Headmistress Press)

Renée Vivien is coming out today!

The new edition of A Crown of Violets is now available through Headmistress Press and [edit—Amazon link redacted due to strike]! It incorporates new translations — this time, together with their originals! — that were not included in the previous volume.

Renée Vivien (née Pauline Mary Tarn, 1877-1909) was one of the first “out” lesbian writers of modern Western Europe, and probably the first lesbian translator of the fragments of Sappho.

Renee Vivien cover final

No more Baudelaire

I know this is an unpopular opinion, and I suspect it will offend many people, but here goes. I am declaring a moratorium on any and all further translations of Charles Baudelaire. Unless you are actually Edna St.-Vincent Millay, Michael Field, Stanley Kunitz, or Richard Wilbur, you are no longer permitted to translate, adapt, emulate, or mimic Baudelaire. The English language is saturated with Baudelaireanisms. “Spleen,” “pussycats,” “flowers of evil” … The English tongue is crying, ENOUGH!

Find another French or Francophone poet to translate. Find several. Norman Shapiro’s anthology The Distaff and the Pen would be a very good place to start. Mary Ann Caws’ Twentieth-Century French Poetry would be another.

You may think I am joking, but that is not the case. I am perfectly serious. There are many, so many other poets to choose from! A few, such as Marie de France, Anna de Noailles, and Renée Vivien have already been translated into English. (Full disclosure: I am a translator of Renée Vivien.) And yet these translations have gone, for the most part, unread. Wherefore so? Because American poets and publishers just can’t get past Baudelaire. Or if they do, it is only to loiter among Apollinaire, Rimbaud, and Verlaine.

So please — I am begging — no more translations of white, cis, male French poets! Anglophone translators, start your google searches with “femmes poètes,” “auteures,” or “écrivaines.” Learn something about the writers of “Négritude.” But for pity’s sake — clémence — merci! Que Charles Baudelaire soit enfin banni!


George Sand, on the real Donald Trump

Time for a re-post! I am editing this adaptation to make it more obvious what George Sand is talking about.

Cato’s The G.O.P.’s ideal is an oligarchy with slaves; virtue for the privileged few, equality for a select group of men, oppression and dehumanization for the masses. Caesar’s Trump’s ambition is political energy, development, and social agitation at any price; order and disorder, peace and war, reform entangled with abuse, every good and every evil, rather than the dissolution of the physical city of Rome and the extinction of its vitality.

At first glance, the adventurous genius of Caesar Trump is far more seductive than the rigid stubbornness of Cato the G.O.P., and it may even seem that Caesar Trump represents faith in progress, human dignity, while Cato represents the eternal obstacle to human development and the love of the Rule more more than the love of his fellow men.

However, it is not so. Cato The G.O.P. positions virtue in the past, but he believes in it, and he loves it. Caesar Trump laughs at virtue, and suppresses it. The moral ideal is absolutely lacking in Caesar Trump. He has a deep contempt for his fellow men, and that is why he is practical — because he knows how to use them. Cato’s ideal is sublime, but it is too narrowly applied, and he is ignorant of the needs of a new century.

Caesar Trump, a skeptic, legally violates liberty, even while introducing liberty in morals and liberty in actions. Cato The G.O.P., blind socialist, would bind the individual to the State, and he would willingly sacrifice liberty to duty. […]

For all that, I do not see Caesar Trump as a hypocrite sworn to evil from the beginning and offering it as the goal of all his intrigues. No, I see him as a continual spontaneity for evil and for good, an energetic personality, over-stimulated in every sense; gentle in temperament, taking neither pleasure nor pity in his cruelty; a cold and empty heart, with some imagination; a colossal vanity […] dissimulating and careless by turns […] vindicative […] ultimately, a character of much less depth than we imagine, but endowed with instincts that are always on the alert. […] He is a political artist, he sees the beauty in power, and, in the deep, calm pride of a triumph so long awaited and sought for, he says to himself: “Rome The U.S. is me!”

— George Sand, in her review of the first volume of The History of Julius Caesar by Napoleon III, appearing in Univers illustré, March 11, 1865 (adapted by Samantha Pious)