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A Crown of Violets

"I loved the fact that this book gave both the French and then the English translation for each poem—I found it very interesting. I liked the poems as well."

"Beautiful explorations of the complexities of a full spectrum female love — joyful, tortured, expectant, unrequited. Brave and unabashed. Also, the translation sparkles, bringing the verse dancing to life on the page. Absolutely wonderful."


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).

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