Fifty poems by Pascale Petit published by Seren in June 2010
A dazzling and kaleidoscopic look at one of the greatest artists in the world, by Pascale Petit, who is a truly remarkable poet. amazon.co.uk
Author's Note http://pascalepetit.co.uk
The poems in this poetry collection are spoken in the voice of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and bear the titles of her paintings. A few sequences are woven throughout the book, such as the title poem 'What the Water Gave Me'. Some poems keep quite close to the paintings, while others are parallels or versions. I have concentrated on the main events of her life in chronological order: her polio as a child, the near-fatal bus accident she suffered as a teenager which left her in constant pain for the rest of her life, her marriage to Diego Rivera, his infidelities, her miscarriages, the many surgical procedures she underwent, her vivacity and love of nature, and most of all, how she turned to painting as recompense for her suffering. However, this book is not a comprehensive biography and some aspects of her life are not included, mainly because I wished to focus on how she used art to withstand and transform pain.
I was an artist before I became a poet and when I was at the Royal College of Art a tutor said my studio reminded him of the Blue House. I was making full size transparent female figures at the time, with their reproductive organs exposed and pinned with birds, insects and thorns, and when I gave up making sculptures, my concerns in my poems remained similar to hers - the female body, how to portray pain, transcend trauma, and celebrate life-force and the natural world. I started writing my Frida book ten years ago and by 2005 had fourteen poems. These won a competition and were published in a chapbook The Wounded Deer, which was launched at Tate Modern in the Frida Khalo exhibition.
This is Pascale's fifth collection. She tutors at Tate Modern and has twice been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. No other British poet I am aware of can match the powerful mythic imagination of Pascale Petit. Les Murray - Times Literary Supplement.
Pascale first published a few of her poems after Frida Kahlo in the short collection "The Wounded Deer" launched at Tate Modern in the 2005 Frida Kahlo exhibition.
The Wounded Deer
I have a woman's face
but I'm a little stag,
because I had the balls
to come this far into the forest,
to where the trees are broken.
The nine points of my antlers
with the nine arrows in my hide.
I can hear the bone-saw
in the ocean on the horizon.
I emerged from the waters
of the Hospital for Special Surgery.
It had deep blue under-rooms.
And once, when I opened my eyes
too quickly after the graft,
I could see right through
all the glass ceilings,
up to where lightning forked
across the New York sky
like the antlers of sky-deer,
rain arrowing the herd.
Small and dainty as I am
I escaped into this canvas,
where I look back at you
in your steel corset, painting
the last splash on my hoof.
Remembrance of an Open Wound
Whenever we make love, you say
it's like fucking a crash -
I bring the bus with me into the bedroom.
There's a lull, like before the fire brigade
arrives, flames licking the soles
of our feet. Neither of us knows
when the petrol tank will explode.
You say I've decorated my house
to recreate the accident -
my skeleton wired with fireworks,
my menagerie flinging air about.
You look at me in my gold underwear -
a crone of sixteen, who lost
her virginity to a lightning bolt.
I didn't expect love to feel like this -
you holding me down with your knee,
wrenching the steel rod from my charred body
quickly, kindly, setting me free.
What the Water Gave Me II
The water opened
into the vortex of my daughter's face.
Her skin was a rippled mirror.
She was wearing the bath around her
like a dress of glistening scales.
She was my fish-flower.
I floated on her tongue
like the word 'Mama'.