Samantha Pious is studying for a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her specialties are medieval French and English [courtly poetry and women’s writing]. Some of her pieces have appeared or are forthcoming in Mezzo Cammin, Lavender Review, broad!, Lunch Ticket, PMS (PoemMemoirStory) and other publications. Others are available on her blog at samanthapious.wordpress.com.
Who is your favorite female identifying written character and why?
Consuelo, from the novels by George Sand, embodies everything I would like to be in life and writing. Reading La Comtesse de Rudolstadt (The Countess of Rudolstadt) was like coming home.
What literary work by a female identifying writer had the most effect on you as a writer and/or person?
The “Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc,” by Christine de Pizan, inspired me to begin learning French, studying medieval literature, and translating poetry.
How did your work/works in Alyss come about?
“Chaucer by Candlelight” is a response to the murders and other acts of violence which police have been committing against African-Americans and other people of color. A certain verse from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, “The blood out crieth on youre cursed dede” (Prioress’s Tale 578) kept echoing through my head during the weeks after I heard about the murder of Tamir Rice, who was twelve years old. To write about police brutality in my own voice (white and well-to-do) would have been deeply appropriative, and I’m concerned that even adapting Chaucer may be harmful in ways of which I’m not aware. The piece struggles to consider what the study of the humanities, in particular medieval literature, could possibly have to offer social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter. I’m coming to think more and more that the reverse proposition is true. Black Lives Matter has much more to offer Medieval Studies — not to mention the humanities in general — than medievalists could ever hope to give back. This may seem obvious to lay-people, but for academics it bears repeating: there’s more to life than our fields of study, and there’s so much more to our fields than the back-woods of western Europe.
What has been your greatest writing life moment so far?
In terms of writing as a practice or in terms of publications and acceptances? If the former, I’ve had some wonderful moments of looking at half-written drafts and realizing just how many directions the drafts could go before they become finished pieces. It’s a feeling of euphoria, of enormous power. If the latter, I’m always thrilled to see my name in print.
What is your favorite piece by another writer from Issue One and why?
The sound and the imagery of Meg Matich’s Cellar Violin leave me feeling sick, as they’re intended to.
And from Issue Deux?
If I had to choose, my favorite would be Cassandra de Alba’s poem America as a Room. The nineteenth-century home as a metonym for “America” (whether nation-state, geographic region, or culture) is deeply resonant for me.
What are you currently working on ?
I’m currently translating Christine de Pizan’s Cent Ballades d’Amant et de Dame into English as 100 Ballades: Lover & Lady. It’s a narrative sequence of lyric poems about a courtly love affair, alternating between the voices of a lady and her lover. Also, my translations from the French poetry of Renée Vivien are forthcoming from Headmistress Press. Renée Vivien (née Pauline Mary Tarn, 1877-1909) was a lesbian writer of the Belle Époque and one of the first modern European women writers to publish poetry for, by, and about lesbian women. Vivien’s work should be essential reading for anyone interested in lesbian “herstory.”
Who/what is your favorite Alice/Alyss?
Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, who names herself as “Alisoun” in her Prologue.