* Finalist for the Headmistress Press Charlotte Mew Prize
Renée Vivien (née Pauline Mary Tarn, 1877-1909) was an English expatriate who made her home in Paris during the Belle Époque. In 1903, Vivien's collection of translations and adaptations from the Ancient Greek poetry of Sappho became one of the first works of modern European lesbian literature to be published by a lesbian writer under her real name. This courageous act was the death-sentence of her literary career. Parisian critics who had praised the mysterious "R. Vivien" as a young man of poetic genius began to snub at first and then simply ignore the newly un-closeted woman poet. Even in the face of ridicule and disrespect, Vivien continued to write and publish poetry, short stories, translations, plays, epigrams, and a novel based on her real-life romances with Natalie Clifford Barney and the Baroness Hélène van Zuylen van Nyevelt van Haar (née Rothschild). Vivien's poetry is now available in English translation by Samantha Pious: A Crown of Violets
(Headmistress Press, 2015).
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."Meg Day, Judge of the Charlotte Mew Prize
This is an invaluable collection that brings Renée Vivien to life for English-speaking readers. Émigrée and sexual adventurer, Vivien wrote poetry strewn with broken harps and beautiful corpses. Pious's delicate but fearless translations draw out the bruised passions and troubadour rhythms that make Vivien essential reading for anyone interested in lesbian literature, fin-de-siècle poetics, or the agonies of sensual love.Kate Thomas, author of Postal Pleasures: Sex, Scandal and Victorian Letters