Tag Archives: What the Water Gave Me

Pascale Petit’s What the Water Gave Me

Pascale Petit (credit Jemimah Kuhfeld)

  
Pascale Petit trained at the Royal College of Art and spent the first part of her life as an artist, before deciding to concentrate on poetry. Since then she has published five collections, two of which were shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and featured as Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement and the Independent. In 2004 the Poetry Book Society selected her as one of the Next Generation Poets. She teaches poetry writing courses for a number of organisations, including Tate Modern. Petit has read her work at many festivals around the world and travelled to Mexico several times to research Frida Kahlo’s life.
 
 

  
  
What the Water Gave Me (Seren Books, 2010) contains fifty-two poems in the voice of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Some of the poems are close interpretations of Kahlo’s work, while others are parallels or version homages where Petit draws on her experience as a visual artist to create alternative ‘paintings’ with words. More than just a verse biography, this collection explores how Kahlo transformed trauma into art after the artist’s near-fatal bus accident. Petit, with her vivid style, her feel for nature and her understanding of pain and redemption, fully inhabits Kahlo’s world. Each poem is an evocation of “how art works on the pain spectrum”, laced with splashes of ferocious colour.
 
“Their apparent shared sensibility makes the ventriloquism of these poems entirely unforced, and while Kahlo’s voice is subtly distinguished from Petit’s own, both women have a way of taking painful, private experiences and transmuting them, through imagery, into something that has the power of folklore. They capture the unsettling spirit of Frida Kahlo and her work perfectly.” Poetry London

“No other British poet I am aware of can match the powerful mythic imagination of Pascale Petit.” Les Murray Times Literary Supplement
 
 
 
Remembrance of an Open Wound
Pascale Petit
  
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.
It’s time to pull the handrail out.
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.
 
 
 
The Little Deer
Pascale Petit
 
Little deer, I’ve stuffed all the world’s diseases inside you.
Your veins are thorns
 
and the good cells are lost in the deep dark woods
of your organs.
 
As for your spine, those cirrus-thin vertebrae
evaporate when the sun comes out.
 
Little deer too delicate for daylight,
your coat of hailstones is an icepack on my fever.
 
Are you thirsty?
Rest your muzzle against the wardrobe mirror
 
and drink my reflection –
the room pools and rivers about us
 
but no one comes
to stop my bed from sliding down your throat.
 
 
 
Published in What the Water Gave Me (Seren Books, 2010).
 
Order What the Water Gave Me.
 
For information regarding launches and readings, please visit Pascale’s blog.
 
Visit Pascale’s website.
 
Read Dreams, Spirits and Visions, my interview with Pascale in the third issue of Horizon Review.

A poetry list

I thought I’d share a few poetry titles I’m looking forward to reading this year. Some have recently been published, some are not yet available. If you’re interested in buying copies online, do make a note of their publication dates or ask your online book store to let you know when they become available.
     
Four of the poets are relatively new to me – Elisabeth Bletsoe (Pharmacopoeia & Early Selected Works), Mary O’Donnell (The Ark Builders), Carolyn Jess-Cooke (Inroads) and Anna Robinson (The Finders of London) – and I’m looking forward to becoming better acquainted with their work.
   
I greatly enjoyed Naomi Foyle’s bold, imaginative and sensuous collection, The Night Pavilion, and am looking forward to her pamphlet, Grace of the Gamblers – A Chantilly Chantey (Waterloo Press), illustrated by Peter Griffiths.
  
Philippa Yaa de Villiers’s second collection The Everyday Wife, published by the intrepid South African women’s publisher Modjaji Books, follows her popular first collection, Taller than buildings. As a poet living in South Africa, I’d like to mention how proud I am of the strong, beautiful books sent into the world by Modjaji.
   
Helen Ivory’s The Breakfast Machine (Bloodaxe), Pascale Petit’s What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo (Seren), Katie Donovan’s Rootling (Bloodaxe) and Penelope Shuttle’s Sandgrain and Hourglass (Bloodaxe), have been long awaited. Their previous collections – The Dog in the Sky (Ivory), The Treekeeper’s Tale (Petit), Day of the Dead (Donovan) and Redgrove’s Wife (Shuttle) – are favourites and occupy the top shelf of my poetry bookcase.
  
Edited by Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra, Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe) will be available later this year. The anthology aims to reflect “the multicultural make-up of contemporary Britain” and to showcase the work of talented poets such as Mir Mahfuz Ali, Rowyda Amin, Malika Booker, Roger Robinson, Karen McCarthy, Nick Makoha, Denise Saul, Seni Seniviratne, Shazea Quraishi and Janet Kofi Tsekpo.
   
Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets, also published by Bloodaxe and edited by Roddy Lumsden, promises to be a feast. I hope, as I’m typing this, my copy is winging its way south from the United Kingdom.
  
Identity Parade includes poetry from Patience Agbabi, Jonathan Asser, Tiffany Atkinson, Simon Barraclough, Paul Batchelor, Kate Bingham, Julia Bird, Patrick Brandon, David Briggs, Andy Brown, Judy Brown, Colette Bryce, Matthew Caley, Siobhan Campbell, Vahni Capildeo, Melanie Challenger, Kate Clanchy, Polly Clark, Julia Copus, Sarah Corbett, Claire Crowther, Tim Cumming, Ailbhe Darcy, Peter Davidson, Nick Drake, Sasha Dugdale, Chris Emery, Bernardine Evaristo, Paul Farley, Leontia Flynn, Annie Freud, Alan Gillis, Jane Griffiths, Vona Groarke, Jen Hadfield, Sophie Hannah, Tracey Herd, Kevin Higgins, Matthew Hollis, A.B. Jackson, Anthony Joseph, Luke Kennard, Nick Laird, Sarah Law, Frances Leviston, Gwyneth Lewis, John McAuliffe, Chris McCabe, Helen Macdonald, Patrick McGuinness, Kona Macphee, Peter Manson, D.S. Marriott, Sam Meekings, Sinéad Morrissey, Daljit Nagra, Caitríona O’Reilly, Alice Oswald, Katherine Pierpoint, Clare Pollard, Jacob Polley, Diana Pooley, Richard Price, Sally Read, Deryn Rees-Jones, Neil Rollinson, Jacob Sam-la Rose, Antony Rowland, James Sheard, Zoë Skoulding, Catherine Smith, Jean Sprackland, John Stammers, Greta Stoddart, Sandra Tappenden, Tim Turnbull, Julian Turner, Mark Waldron, Ahren Warner, Tim Wells, Matthew Welton, David Wheatley, Sam Willetts, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch and Tamar Yoseloff.
  
Are there any anthologies and collections you’re particularly looking forward to getting your hands on this year?
  
I’d love to hear what’s on your list.
  
  
Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets,
edited by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)

  
Pharmacopoeia & Early Selected Works
,
Elisabeth Bletsoe (Shearsman Books)
 

  

The Ark Builders, Mary O’Donnell
(Arc Publications)

 
Inroads
, Carolyn Jess-Cooke
(Seren Books)
 

  

Grace of the Gamblers, Naomi Foyle
(Waterloo Press)


  

The Finders of London, Anna Robinson
(Enitharmon Press)

 
The Everyday Wife
, Philippa Yaa de Villiers
(Modjaji Books)
 
 

 
The Breakfast Machine
, Helen Ivory
(Bloodaxe Books)

 
Rootling
, Katie Donovan
(Bloodaxe Books)
 
 

 
What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo,
Pascale Petit (Seren Books)

 
Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word
,
edited by Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra
(Bloodaxe Books) 

 

 
Sandgrain and Hourglass
, Penelope Shuttle
(Bloodaxe Books)
 

Pascale Petit’s The Treekeeper’s Tale

Pascale Petit has an interesting interview on her new blog.  Romanian MA student, Oana-Teodora Ionesco, interviews the French/Welsh poet about her latest collection, The Treekeeper’s Tale (Seren, 2008).
    
On her blog, Pascale has also posted photographs and accounts of her trips to Venezuela’s Lost World as well as an article about translating Yang Lian’s ‘The Valley and the End: A Story’.
    
For fans of Frida Kahlo, Pascale’s fifth collection, What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo, is to be published in June 2010.
    
Read the interview by Oana-Teodora Ionescu here.
    
Visit Pascale’s blog and website.