French Women Poets of Nine Centuries
Johns Hopkins UP

NTA Winner 2009
National Translation Award

The 2009 National Translation Award winner is Norman Shapiro for his translation of French Women Poets of Nine Centuries.

Norman R. Shapiro has been one of the foremost translators of French literature for almost four decades. Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Wesleyan University and “writer-in-residence” at Adams House, Harvard, he has translated numerous works of fiction, theater, and poetry, including Four Farces by Georges Feydeau, which was nominated for the National Book Award for Translation, and One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine, which won the Scaglione Translation Prize from the Modern Language Association. His recent volume The Complete Fables of Jean de La Fontaine was recipient of the MLA’s Lewis Galantière Award. Shapiro noted that “translation is a perfect compromise between total freedom and total responsibility: with none of the angst of the blank page [when one writes creatively], and yet with an almost limitless choice within the givens of the text.” In reflecting on his selection as this year’s NTA recipient, he added that “since literary translation is basically a solitary pursuit — something we (or at least I) do as a form of creative self-expression—it is especially rewarding when our fellow translators appreciate our efforts.”

French Women Poets of Nine Centuries is the first anthology of its kind. Unprecedented in scope and depth, this tour de force collection of poetry by French-speaking women contains over 600 poems from 56 different pens, from the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman Marie de France through such noted poets of the past century as Lucienne Desnoues, Liliane Wouters, and Albertine Sarrazin. Ranging from the late twelfth to the late twentieth-century, the voices and styles of these poems convey the changing as well as constant features of French women’s poetry over the last eight hundred years. Introductions to the historical eras, brief biographies of each poet, and a bilingual format add even more depth to this monumental compilation. Through artful, careful translations that remain true to the authors’ voices, style, and artistic integrity, Shapiro provides an exceptional window into the development and evolution of French poetry from the Middle Ages up to the present.

French Women Poets of Nine Centuries is also the 2008 winner of the PROSE Award for Best Single Volume Reference in the Humanities and Social Sciences and the 2008 winner of the PROSE Award for Excellence in Reference Works from the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers.

“Pat adjectives come to mind: monumental, for instance, and authoritative, but likewise one not so pat: iconic. All three happen to fit this artistic and scholarly work of 1,229 pages.” — Virginia Quarterly Review

“Expertly rendered and carefully presented, each gem is lovingly treated… This is an exceptional, magnificent monument to French women poets, so long neglected and herewith redeemed. Summing Up: Essential.” — Choice

“Norman Shapiro allows light to shine on a host of neglected talent in this book. And he does so, lovingly. With 1182 pages in this anthology, there is a lot to love. So if you happen to know somebody who loves women, or better still, if you happen to know somebody who loves poetry, this is a great gift.” — Translation Journal

Norman Shapiro