‘What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Khalo’


Author: Pascale Petit

SHORTLISTED FOR THE T.S ELIOT PRIZE 2010

LONG LISTED FOR WALES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2011

“Pascale’s poems are as fresh as paint, and make you look all over again at Frida and her brilliant and tragic life.” Jackie Kay,  The Observer

“Poems about paintings rarely set off fireworks, but this is ekphrasis with a difference: Petit speaks in Kahlo’s voice with eerie believability, animating her paintings with a behind-the-scenes narrative of romantic and reproductive woes, chronic pain after a bus crash, and the occasional moment of joy. ‘Whenever we make love, you say/it’s like fucking a crash –/I bring the bus with me into the bedroom’ (‘Remembrance of an Open Wound’)” Time Out London

What the Water Gave Me 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

Pascale Petit’s latest collection of poetry ‘What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo’ has now been published by Black Lawrence Press in the US (April, 2011). 

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