Renée Vivien

Renee Vivien cover final
Cover image for A Crown of Violets.

Renée Vivien (1877-1909) was an Anglo-French lesbian writer of the Belle Époque. For more information on her life, work, and times, I recommend the biographical and critical works by Jean-Paul Goujon, Virginie Sanders, and Nicole Albert.

My book of translations from Renée Vivien’s poetry, A Crown of Violets, is available through Headmistress Press.

Press for A Crown of Violets

Watchlisted by M. Bartley Seigel at Words Without Borders, my translations have been reviewed by Julie Enszer for Lambda Literary

That line, Someone will remember us / in the days to come echoes, inspires us with desire. Vivien knew it when she invoked it in her poem. Pious knew it when she translated Vivien’s words.

by Maryann Corbett for The Rumpus

Samantha Pious has not held anything back about the in-your-face sexiness (the academic phrase would be “the transgressive nature”) of Renée Vivien and her work.

and by Carolyn Gage on her blog:

Vivien suffered from an occupational hazard not unknown to this lesbian writer. She fell in love with the utopian worlds of her own artistic vision […] What she has left behind is her siren song, calling us to remember that time that never was, to entice us to join her in the realm of dreams… and may heartier spirits than hers apply these visions toward the creation of a flawed, but kinder lesbian reality.

Meg Day, who selected A Crown of Violets as finalist for the 2015 Charlotte Mew Prize, writes:

I think it’s very rare to encounter a new lesbian poet through translation and I am very excited to support this collection in its positive obsession and literary innovation alike. If it is that we are encouraged to each become the lover of Renée Vivien through her work, then this translator has succeeded in making the poet’s wishes as transparent as an invitation can be: “The nave has been adorned to welcome you aright.”

More translations

Cover image for Queer, edited by Frank Wynne.

Queer: LGBTQ Writing from Ancient Times to Yesterday, edited by Frank Wynne (Head of Zeus Press, 2021): “The Latent Night,” “Words to My Love,” and “She Passes.”

Queen Mob’s Teahouse  Queer Translation Issue (November 2016): Several of my English translations from Vivien’s French re-imaginings of Ancient Greek fragments by Sappho, Telesilla, Korinna, and Erinna.

Adrienne 6 (January 2016): “Victory,” “Desire,” “Upon the Death of a Friend who was Truly Loved,” “Desire Goes Beyond Death,” “Roses Risen,” “Cypress,” and “After Glow.”

PMS (poemmemoirstory) 15 (2016): “Above the Public Place” and “The Violin.”

Lavender Review 11 (June 2015): “The Silent Flute.”

broad! (a gentleperson’s magazine) (Winter 2014): “Litany of Hate.”

Construction (14 February 2014): “Like an apple” (adapted from Sappho).

Doublespeak (2014): “Ode to a Beloved Woman” (adapted from Sappho).

Gertrude 20 (Fall 2013): “Drowned Women” and “Furs.”