‘Or failing that, invent’ – Monique Wittig


Originally published in 1969 by Les Éditions de Minuit, I first encountered Monique Wittig’s Les Guérillères when my dad brought home a copy of David Le Vay’s Picador translation (along with a copy of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch). Both books were decorated with the now iconic artwork of John Holmes, whose surrealist covers made quite the impression! But it was Wittig’s challenge to phallogocentric language that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I didn’t have the language to describe it back then, but could feel the furniture being entirely rearranged in my teenage brain.

Returning to it a few years ago, I became interested in pushing the pronouns of the translation a little further, as well as exploring Wittig’s position re white space and margins, and so began a slow and as yet unfinished translation of the book, which I dip in and out of whenever I have a quiet period in my own work.

I am delighted to say that Blackbox Manifold have decided to publish some sections of this ongoing translation in their Winter issue. The pieces included are the two lineated poems that open and close Wittig’s novel, and three short extracts from the main body of the text, the closest description of which would be ‘epic prose poetry’. The circle is an important motif of the novel, both graphically and thematically, and I have tried to convey that. For any ‘English-only’ speakers interested in reading the whole thing, I recommend Le Vay’s translation, some of the phrasing of which would be difficult to improve on.

I also recommend the whole of Blackbox Manifold Issue 21, which is filled with fantastic work –

More about Monique Wittig and her work –

‘A Woman, Island, Country, Tree, and City, Feminine we see’



(After Mary Beard – my battered copy of Kennedy’s Revised Latin Primer. As per MB, also nicked from school. Pronouns page appropriately graffitied…thirty five years ago now!)

Really enjoyed Beard’s piece on Radio 4 today. ‘Amo Amas Amusical’ focuses on Benjamin  Kennedy’s daughters, Marion and Julia, who made their father’s original ‘incomprehensible’ primer THE go-to guide to Latin grammar. Her brief history of the lives of the Kennedy sisters, coupled with her account of opposition to women’s education in the late-19th/early-20th century is cut with Emily Levy’s delightfully bonkers choral renditions of sections of the book and anti-clever women sentiments of the day, sung by a Chorus of Trolls. Brilliantly playful, it is perfect New Year’s Day listening –

Screen picture of Mary Beard credit – Amanda Benson


Jardins de Salvador Espriu


Frederic Amat’s monument, SOLC (furrow) to Catalan poet Salvador Espriu (1913–1985) – the monument is a negative of the neighbouring obelisk, El llapis (the pencil) that originally celebrated Francesc Pi i Margall.

video of construction:

poema visual – Joan Brossa






Libreria del Palau, Barcelona


(Mall Books, an important publisher of Catalan-European works in translation in the post-Franco period)


(“Want to learn how to write poetry?”)

“I make no distinction between painting and poetry” – Joan Miró


(Poema III – at the Fundació Joan Miró, on Montjuïc, Barcelona)

Yes, it took me just a moment to draw this line with the brush. But it took me months, perhaps even years, of reflection to form the idea – Joan Miró, speaking elsewhere of Bleu III.



Up to the Lakes for a bit of fell walking and the Kendal Mountain Festival launch of Waymaking. Thanks to Vertebrate and the brilliantly feral Claire Carter for organising, and to all the massively inspiring women involved, you’re all completely awesome. And if anyone reading this has not already bought a copy, why not get yours from the Sam Read bookshop in Grasmere? They’ve been here since 1887 and have a brilliantly curated poetry section…Sod Black Friday; go and pay full price for something in a real-world shop! Then treat yourself (again) to a bit of the world’s best gingerbread.