Ô Malheureuse: Celebrating the Voices of Louisiana Women

Women’s history month is a time to celebrate the lives, contributions, and achievements of women across the country, and what better way to celebrate than by showcasing the voices and experiences of the women in our community? Women in Louisiana are in a unique position, as many of them try to bring to the forefront a historic yet shrinking culture of Cajun French speakers while also being agents of change and navigating what it means to be a woman. Ô Malheureuse highlights the experiences of French-speaking women in this state and preserves their writings for future generations. A small sample of those writings are presented here, along with videos show the faces behind the poems, songs, and stories in Ô Malheureuse. Look out for the next part of this blog series as there are more videos to come!


Shakespeare, survie, vanille by Maggie Perkins

Une mer anglophone
Une mère anglophone
C’est meilleur en anglais
C’est mes erreurs anglaises
Ça me sert à quoi, l’anglais
À part Shakespeare et la survie?
Faulkner c’est bien, mais en anglais
On attend un tas de menteries
“You’ll confuse them. You’ll hold them back...”
“We have room for but one language in this country.”

Ça laisse un mauvais goût, ça
Même si chez Faulkner il y a
une vérité éternelle, éblouissante
Je peux trouver cette même profondeur
dans le mot “calimatcha”
Et le calimatcha a un meilleur goût
Mais le coût?
Ça coûte bien cher aujourd’hui
Les ingrédients   : du riz, de la viande, de la trinité...
                              et 5 ans de ta vie à apprendre à parler français.
C’est plus cher que le safran, ça
Plus cher que la vanille


English Translation

An English-speaking sea
An English-speaking mother
It’s better in English
It’s my English mistakes
What use is English to me
other than Shakespeare and survival?
Faulkner’s nice, but in English
We hear a lot of lies
“You’ll confuse them. You’ll hold them back…”
“We have room for but one language in this country.”

It leaves a bad taste
Even if in Faulkner there is
an eternal, awe-inspiring truth
I can find that same profundity
in the word “calimatcha”*
And calimatcha tastes better
But the cost?
It costs a lot these days
The ingredients: rice, meat, trinity…
and 5 years of your life learning to speak French.
That’s more expensive than saffron
More expensive than vanilla


*“Calimatcha,” also called “galimatias,” is the name of a rice and meat dish. It is not the sort of thing you would see on a restaurant’s menu, but it is the sort of quick meal women like my mother made for their families on a busy evening.


Charpentier by Gracie Babineaux

Rêver dans la nuit, les étoiles en haut
Glisser avec les ailes d’oiseaux.
Tu peux aller à la lune dans le ciel
Si tu veux une vie nouvelle.

Hey Charpentier, le monde tournait
Hey Charpentier, je voudrais prier.

Le vent d’été
M’apporté par l’hiver.
Je cours aux places que je connais
J’ai peur.

Hey Charpentier, le monde tournait
Hey Charpentier, je voudrais prier.

Ça c’est une chanson pour mon père. Son grand-père, John, est mort ce jour-là. John était un charpentier pour toute sa vie. Cette chanson est pour mon père parce qu’il était triste et je pense un peu perdu.


English Translation

Dream in the night with the stars above
Glide with the wings of birds 
You can go to the moon 
If you want a new life 

Hey Carpenter, the world turns 
Hey Carpenter, I would like to pray 

The summer wind 
Brings me through the winter 
I run to the places that I know 
I am scared

Hey Carpenter, the world turns 
Hey Carpenter, I would like to pray

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