Surrealist texts by surrealist women: Joyce Mansour (2)


In French the explosively unconventional work of Joyce Mansour and Marianne van Hirtum brought something new to surrealism (...) With her deep-sea insolence, mountain-high erotic erotic rage, and bitte, insect-leggy laughter, Joyce Mansour gave the world an atonishing body of poetry such that no woman had ever written.
Penelop Rosemont, op.cit, p. 203.

Joyce Mansour,(1928–1986). Poet and athlete born in Bowden, England, of Egyptian parents, she was educated in Switzerland. In her youth she was a champion high-jumper. She married Robert Habib in 1950 and moved to Paris three years later, the year her first collection of poems, Cris, was published. It received a very favorable review in Médium and she joined the Paris Surrealist group in 1954. Jean-Louis Bédouin has described her impact in the following terms: “Dès lors Joyce Mansour collaborera à toutes les publications surréalistes et apportera à la vie du groupe un élément unique, irremplaçable” (Vingt ans de surréalisme 1939–59, 269) (From then on Joyce Mansour will collaborate on all the Surrealist publications and bring to the group a unique, irreplaceable element). In BIEF, she wickedly parodied women’s magazines of the period. She brought out a new collection of poems, Déchirures, in 1955. Her writings continued to receive the plaudits not only of the group: André Breton himself has described her as one of the three most important French-language Surrealist poets to have emerged since World War II, hailing Les Gisants satisfaits (1958) as both a masterpiece of humour noir and “this century’s Garden of Earthly Delight”; and Alain Bosquet has even claimed that, compared to Mansour, “The Story of O is mere rosewater and Henry Miller a choirboy.” Her work frequently contains elements of sado-masochism and a savage eroticism, as is the case with Rapaces (1960). After the dissolution of the official Surrealist group in 1969, Mansour collaborated on the Bulletin de liaison surréaliste and Arsenal: Surrealist Subversion. Her various collections were illustrated by artists such as Robert Lagarde, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Max Walter Svanberg, Jorge Camacho and Pierre Alechinsky. She died in Paris and after her death an edition of her Poésie et prose was published by Actes Sud in 1991.
Keith Aspley, Historical Dictionary of Surrealism, (Lanham,Toronto, Plymouth,The Scarecrow Press, Inc, 2010), pp.316-317

I want to sleep with you side by side
Our hair intertwined
Our sexes joined
With your mouth for a pillow.
I want to sleep with you back to back
With no breath to part us
No words to distract us
No eyes to lie to us
With no clothes on.
To sleep with you breast to breast
Tense and sweating
Shining with a thousand quivers
Consumed by ecstatic mad inertia
Stretched out on your shadow
Hammered by your tongue
To die in a rabbit’s rotting teeth

Joyce Mansour, Déchirures (Torn Apart, 1955)


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