Nathalie Quintane; ‘Joan of Arc‘






I am the saint who transmits

Catherine speaks to you

Through Joan will others be conceived

Joan, you are exceptional

but you must remain humble.

When men of arms follow you

do not forget to speak of the Catholic faith

                                           your knees will guide horses

Catherine conceives Joan of Arc

                                                     you cannot last here

Joan, you must go to Vaucouleurs, meet

       Robert de Baudricourt, gain audience with

          Charles VII, convince him of your mission,

          be put at the head of a small army, compel

        the English to lift the siege of Orleans, and have

    the king crowned at Reims.

                                 Through your ears so goes your life


Why do people give her, standing with arms dangling, a wide berth, whereas when she’s seated milking or sewing a button, they stop just far enough away to watch her : there’s only a bit of her own past caught working for someone else that matters at this point ?

Why, in what way, was a basic action (to rub down, to furbish) not enough?
Why, in what way, was a basic reflection (sound of rain, dust of dandelion) not enough either?
What could make the action be even more active, and reflection be even more reflective?

Of course, having reached this stage of the question of the reflection and the action, anyone would think, right away, of working flat out.

The militant of humility sips the soup someone spat in.

The young monk labors without stint.

Neither ready for this, nor for waiting anymore, she would hold in the balance the voice of angels in her ear and her charger between her thighs, copulative action and reflection, until the rout.


She thinks of new forms of assault.

— Unfortunately, the number of military ruses is limited; one gets, at best, only a new combination of old ruses, one ruse fitted into another, or an unexpected sequence.
— The way they are built, cities can only be approached, even captured, in 7 ways : by the gate, an open gate, by the closed but staved-in gate, by scaling the walls, by knocking the walls down, by making a breach, from the top by throwing weapons, objects, fire, from below by digging a tunnel.
— By brandishing above the crenels heads stuck on spears, 8 ways.

Pyramid of Burgundian arms piled at the gates of Orleans
Fashioning a sarcophagus to halt the stench

— I do not despair of adding to the repertory of ruses one that will bear my name
Because the preparation for war gives me a taste for invention.

It’s a matter of making things concrete through action.

The more the battles mount, the more my virginity expands.

— For the moment, I’m pretty radical and spontaneous :
if you don’t like war, change wars.


To go from the uncertain names of Tarc, Dare, Daire, of a girl who could have been unnamed — who would have been the shepherdess, her father’s daughter, a Domremian, a partisan —, to the immunized Joan of Arc, whom one learns to recognize from A.R.C. and





Arc to duplicate, finally as moniker, that which one dreams oneself : Angel Benefactor, Exterminator, Guardian Blonde, Gay and Patient Provider, Aide to Salvation, Soldier Lily, Faithful Standard, Unfailing Adjuvant, Linear and Wise Flower, Eye and Ear, Altar of Clairvoyance, Kind Enterprise, Prudent Victory, Image, Creatrix of Evidence, Gleaming Blade, Scourge of God.



Joan, dressed in her armor, spends a lot of time observing herself in the different parts of this armor, piece by separate piece, down and back up depending on whether she first considers the plates of articulated metal that cover the feet, or rather the shoulder.

When she walks, she does not walk all of a piece, but follows herself, independently and by turns, in each part of her new guise.

In the same way, having worn a new dress, she had found herself reduced to her dress many days in a row, its shape, its weight, and its color, weighing on her mind.

Reconstructed temporarily around her dress, she’d had little latitude for thinking about anything else: to plan, to decide. She hardly had leeway enough to obey an order still.

To admire herself in her new dress paralyzes her.
To regret it, too.

(In the same way, when she has just washed herself, her cleanness prevents her, for a time, from distancing herself from cleanliness.)

– Before my first assault, there was a world between the world and me: bells rang, my father yelled, the sheep bleated.



Zig-zag, arm semi-circling, lunging my horse, it turns itself round three times,
chimneys were blown down, and, as they say, lamentings heard i’ the air, strange
do not follow my finger, three times I turn myself round, rough draft of
screams of death, and prophesying with accents terrible of dire combustion and
duel, no part of the standard can serve as flask, no backhand of gauntlet will make
confused events new hatch’d to the woful time: the obscure bird clamour’d the live
him jump, down! down! once on the ground, he does not rise, because his armor
long night: some say, the earth was feverous and did shake. ’twas a rough night
is too heavy, although English-made, he would need one aide, or two,
my young remembrance cannot parallel a fellow to it. O horror, horror, horror!
and everyone busy, just my luck, however, if I happen to fall
Tongue nor heart cannot conceive nor name thee. What’s the matter? Confusion
myself, I’m in as hapless a position, yet neither time nor wit comes to me,
now hath made his masterpiece. Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope the
what to do? if not to speak while swinging the arm, surely, useless to seek to see
Lord’s anointed temple, and stole thence the life o’ the building. What is’t you
to seek to see, even to distinguish, whatever it is, though his name be Black, he
say? The life? Mean you his majesty? Approach the chamber, and destroy your
is variegated enough, but dusty (due to the ardor), rough draft of duel, surely,
sight with a new Gorgon: do not bid me speak; see, and then speak yourselves, ah!
I will remember nothing from all this; in sum, what do you think happened?
Ring the alarm-bell, murder and treason! Banco and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake!
Joan of Arc! Joan of Arc! Joan of Arc! Jesus! in the name of self and king! exhor
shake off this downy sleep, death’s counterfeit, and look on death itself! up, up,
invocation, exhortation, defy! let your bones go to the Loire, the hardest! not without
and see the great doom’s image! As from your graves rise up, and walk like
the right, fluctuat: he’s on my coat of arms! may your issue rot in your balls,
spirits! to countenance this horror. Ring the bell. What’s the business, that such
at thigh-guard! knee-plate! Spew yourself out piece by piece from your mouth, Joan
a hideous trumpet calls to parley the sleepers of the house? Speak! speak!
rain, knights rain, Joan rain! and Knights rain!

our traces: runs, pellets, droppings; no more than a badger.

In the end, me on the ground heavy as a tree trunk, head

like the inflated bladder of a pig

Me, with feet twice the size of my hands.
Me, with lame shoulder.
Me and my sentence, 100 times the same 100 days.
Me and my horse, and the blows I rain when it falls.
Me, Joan, my chin always closer to my brow (without
PROUD: is there any way to be hunchback in armor?

PURE: water falling over my body, from which, it’s
JOYOUS: from the tacit joy that gets me up in the
PROUD: by my chin, and the stance of my feet.
PURE: after the war.
PROUD: everywhere always and I bring my horse.
PURE: I am clean in thought, word, and deed.
JOYOUS: smiling, with mouth wide, my teeth golden from
pollen caught in them.

Here I am, credulous, high up on the crest, reeking of
myself reeking, running in my own grease,
cular before this crescendo that’s killing me, before the
gle of cretinous cretins

– Even though it had been more useful for me to learn to write standing up, or sitting in motion (horseback), being given (a chair) without further ado, I sat on it, and in that understanding I was to begin to write sitting down.
– My hand draws a big circle that the index finger and thumb cannot close—the sword handle is not the nib of a quill.
– I often touch my lips.
– I lean over less when I eat.
– I stop between each letter, never having dreamed of observing the skin on my fingers so close up.
– And so, while learning, you regard, as much as the letters you’re drawing, the table’s wood, the paper’s paper, the master, and in this one: eyes, mouth (which moves), front teeth, collar, first button on the collar when you have just made an error.
– The time I wanted my eyes to follow the letter being formed, I could not finish it.



Jeanne Darc is a series of fifty untitled prose poems on the subject of Joan of Arc by the experimental French writer and performance poet, Nathalie Quintane. Joan of Arc is not biographical, even though its eponymous character had a short, vivid life fighting the English on behalf of the French heir to the throne, Charles VII. The dramatic outlines of her brief life and terrible end are well-known, and Quintane sees no reason to reiterate them. Rather, she writes from the margins and in the interstices of the well-known story, focusing on the overlooked or insignificant aspects of Joan’s life, which opens up our imaginations to questions about her lived life. She shepherded her father’s sheep in her earlier life. How, then, would she have learned to wear armor, ride a horse, plan a battle? How did the shepherdess Jehane become the symbol of France, Joan of Arc (what’s in a name)?The first two poems included here are apostrophes to Joan, St. Catherine addressing the shepherd-girl, and as such, represent the moment in which “Joan of Arc” is “conceived” by St. Catherine, whose voice Joan claimed to hear first. It is St. Catherine who instructs Joan to defeat the English and crown the Dauphin the King of France (also to speak of the Catholic faith to the men she will lead!). The sequence moves from that voice to specifics about becoming Joan of Arc. To approach the subject of Joan of Arc in a fresh way, actually to humanize her palpably, Quintane writes imaginatively from inside Joan’s embodied experience, mining the marginalia of the legend, evoking sensory impressions and existential reflection. Quintane is not trying to replace one narrative with her own corrective, but to deconstruct the narrative process, which simplifies a complex history, altogether.From an opening sequence that places Joan in her original quotidian context, Jeanne Darc weaves its sections in fragments among the components of the received narrative. Joan plans her first campaign and sews a button. She had always been an excellent seamstress. She contemplates military strategy and considers the challenge of inventing new modes of assault. Worth noting is that the title in the original comes from the fact that Joan herself spelled out “Darc, patron of angels” when she could write. Joan is portrayed less as a spiritual visionary in Jeanne Darc than as a remarkable (and cross-dressing) military strategist. The two parts of Joan’s life, warrior on the surface but austere virgin underneath, comprise a trope for contemporary feminist self-performance that would subvert dominant nationalist narratives that use the image of Joan of Arc as pawn to power.Jeanne Darc © P.O.L éditeur, 1998
translated from the French by Cynthia Hogue and Sylvain Gallais (Waxwing Literary Journal)

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