Different Women Doing Woman Different: Renee Vivien

You for whom I wrote, O beautiful young women!
You alone whom I loved, will you reread my verse...?
Will you say, 'This woman had the ardor which eludes me ..
Why is she not alive? She would have loved me
Renee Vivien was born Pauline Mary Tarn in England on 1877. Pauline was educated in Paris, where when she turned nine, her father died and her mother forced her back to England, while also trying to declare Pauline insane in effort to collect Pauline's inheritance left to her from her father. She was made a ward of the state until the age of 21 when she legally came into her inheritance. Her youth was difficult and lonely and Pauline soothed her grief and loneliness with literature and poetry, in the reading and the writing of both.
Pauline moved back to Paris at age 21 and soon changed her name to Renee Vivien. She quickly met up with a childhood friend Violet Shillito who introduced Vivien to the American heiress Natalie Clifford Barney  who ran what would become a very famous salon for lesbians/artists of the day such as Colette, Joyce, Edna St Vincent Millay, Gertrude and Alice, TS Eliot, Isadora Duncan, Ezra Pound, Nancy Cunard, and Peggy Guggenheim, as well as Adrienne Monnier and Sylvia Beach, F Scott Fitzgerald, Caresse and Harry Crosby, Sinclair Lewis, and Janet Flanner. 

Vivien and Barney soon fell in love and had a very passionate affair. Renee however ended it due to Barney's affirmed open door policy to relationships, although she did pursue Vivien multiple times trying to get her back. Somewhere between the ups and downs of the relationship, Vivien's dear friend Violet died, forever leaving Vivien with intense feelings of guilt for being rapped up in Barney rather than the health of her friend. All this coincided with the publication of Vivien's first book of poems Études et Préludes.

Vivien continued to have very intense passionate affairs with women whom always let her down or left her. Perhaps Vivien sought these kinds of relationships out because they replayed over and over the losing of her father when she was nine, grief and loss being something Vivien knew intimately and maybe through revisiting intimately hoped one day to change the outcome. Sadly that day never came for Vivien, but these intense loves and losses did produced lasting beauty through the art of both Vivien's prose and poetry. Where Vivien's art failed to heal her broken heart, she self medicated with chloral hydrate and alcohol, both of which caused Vivien stomach issues. At the young age of 32, weak from not eating she contracted pneumonia and died in 1909. 

Despite the many emotional trials Vivien suffered, she produced 17 volumes of poetry and 16 volumes of prose. Vivien wore woman differently in several very pertinent ways, she was a poet when women werent poets, she was an out lesbian when even today in our time it still isnt safe and she outly and proudly wrote of her love for women. All of which has went to inspire future lesbians, to write to love and to hope in the absence of light. 



  1. "Woman of the Wolf" is a short story by Renee Vivien.



    "At the Sweet Hour of Hand In Hand" and "A Woman Appeared to Me" are also books by Vivien


    "Unabashedly for women who love women. Poetry befitting the muse's own definition of lesbianism as "a religion of the body, whose kisses are prayers."


    "The Muse of the Violets" is another book by Vivien

  2. Below are some of her short stories and books

    "The Woman of the Wolf"


    "At the Sweet Hour of Hand in Hand", is another book by Vivien

    On comment states,

    "Unabashedly for women who love women. Poetry befitting the muse's own definition of lesbianism as "a religion of the body, whose kisses are prayers." Renee can take your breath away with her lyrical tongue."


    "A Woman Appeared to Me" is another book by Vivien


    "The Muse of the Violets: Poems" is one of her best works.


    Buy any of these books, and keep the legend alive.

  3. The Touch
    by Renee Vivien

    The trees have kept some lingering sun in their branches,
    Veiled like a woman, evoking another time,
    The twilight passes, weeping. My fingers climb,
    Trembling, provocative, the line of your haunches.

    My ingenious fingers wait when they have found
    The petal flesh beneath the robe they part.
    How curious, complex, the touch, this subtle art--
    As the dream of fragrance, the miracle of sound.

    I follow slowly the graceful contours of your hips,
    The curves of your shoulders, your neck, your upappeased breasts.
    In your white voluptuousness my desire rests,
    Swooning, refusing itself the kisses of your lips.

  4. A la femme aimée
    by Renée Vivien

    Lorsque tu vins, à pas réfléchis, dans la brume,
    Le ciel mêlait aux ors le cristal et l'airain.
    Ton corps se devinait, ondoiement incertain,
    Plus souple que la vague et plus frais que l'écume.
    Le soir d'été semblait un rêve oriental
    De rose et de santal.

    Je tremblais. De longs lys religieux et blêmes
    Se mouraient dans tes mains, comme des cierges froids.
    Leurs parfums expirants s'échappaient de tes doigts
    En le souffle pâmé des angoisses suprêmes.
    De tes clairs vêtements s'exhalaient tour à tour
    L'agonie et l'amour.

    Je sentis frissonner sur mes lèvres muettes
    La douceur et l'effroi de ton premier baiser.
    Sous tes pas, j'entendis les lyres se briser
    En criant vers le ciel l'ennui fier des poètes
    Parmi des flots de sons languissamment décrus,
    Blonde, tu m'apparus.

    Et l'esprit assoiffé d'éternel, d'impossible,
    D'infini, je voulus moduler largement
    Un hymne de magie et d'émerveillement.
    Mais la strophe monta bégayante et pénible,
    Reflet naïf, écho puéril, vol heurté,
    Vers ta Divinité.

  5. Dirt: “she was a poet when women werent poets”

    Renée Vivien's contemporaries included Anna de Noailles, Gérard d'Houville (Marie de Heredia), Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Marie Dauguet, Elsa Koeberlé, Jane Catulle Mendès, Cécile Sauvage, Hélène Picard, Jeanne Perdriel-Vaissière, and Laurent Evrard. All of them were admired poets in their day. The best-known is probably Anna de Noailles, who in addition to poetry wrote three novels and an autobiography. In 1921 she received the Grand Prix of the Académie Française; she was the first woman Commander of the Légion d'Honneur and the first woman to be admitted to the Belgian Academy of French Language and Literature.

    If you're looking for lesbians among them, then, while Marie de Heredia was rumoured to dabble, and Hélène Picard, though generally preferring men in the bedroom, had an affair with Colette, three of them were quite unambiguously lesbian: Elsa Koeberlé, painter as well as poet and partner of the Russian artist Genia Lioubow; Laurent Evrard, whose partner was the novelist Augustine Bulteau (is Evrard's sober masculine pseudonym more - or less - forgivable when we learn that in private life she gloried in the moniker “Comtesse Isabelle Gontrau de la Baume-Pluvinel”?); and, to my mind, the most interesting among them, Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, who in addition to writing poetry was a novelist, sculptor and designer and in total authored over 70 (yes, SEVENTY) books. She wrote a series of love poems to Natalie Barney, published in the 1950s (after her death) as Nos secrètes amours, and Barney is also depicted in her novel L'Ange et les Pervers (1930). Somehow this prodigious multi-tasker also found time to participate in the French Women's Chess Championship of 1927. A contemporary wrote of her "She is adorable. She sculpts, rides a horse, loves a woman, then another, and yet another. She was able to rid herself of her husband and has never embarked on a second marriage or the conquest of another man."

    If these women's names are unfamiliar to us, it is not because they were obscure loners whose work went unappreciated by their contemporaries. On the contrary, they enjoyed critical acclaim and widespread popularity among female and male readers. The fault lies rather with successive generations of literature teachers and course planners (perhaps more than anywhere in what the French call “the Anglo-Saxon countries”) who have systematically marginalized, devalued or simply ignored their contribution. I studied French literature in my last two years of high school and first year of university (in England in the late 70s), and it would have been easy to emerge from those courses never having heard of a female French writer of this period, apart from Colette, universally dismissed as “lightweight”. If women were mentioned at all, it was as hostesses of literary salons at which male poets declaimed their verse and fought their critical battles. From a slightly earlier period, we studied Les Fleurs du mal, which Baudelaire originally intended to entitle Les Lesbiennes, and three (notorious) poems of which deal explicitly with female homoeroticism, without anyone thinking it worthwhile to introduce us to the work of real live lesbian poets.

    Well, I'm starting to feel a little like Evadne now:
    “Evadne comes dancing on her toes,
    Declaiming little things she knows.”

    So, having delivered myself of my lecture, here is your (very short) reading list, students:
    ● Karla Jay, The Amazon and the Page: Natalie Clifford Barney and Renée Vivien (1988) Bloomington Indiana University Press
    ● Anna Livia (trans.), The Angel and the Perverts (1995) New York: New York University Press
    ● Pricey at $ 78, but well worth a look if you have access to a good library, is Norman R. Shapiro's monumental French Women Poets of Nine Centuries: The Distaff and the Pen (2008) John Hopkins University Press


Missing Person Kristin Snyder: Lost in a Sea of Myths Pt 4

Next up in our series on the The Lost Women of NXIVM mockumentary is Joseph O’Hara of Albany, NY. O'Hara was an attorney who worked fo...