Frida Kahlo’s birthday 6th July


Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was born July 6 1907 and died at the age of 47.

Frida Kahlo led a traumatic life, she contracted Polio at the young age of six, and was seriously injured on a bus after the vehicle collided with a trolley car in 1925. As the result of the accident was a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken robs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot and a dislocated shoulder. Also, an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, which seriously damaged her reproductive ability. Frida suffered extreme pain for most of the remainder of her life.

In 1929 Frida Kahlo married the Mexican painter, Diego Rivera, whose work she admired.

Poet Pascale Petit has a collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo – this collection contains fifty-two poems on the voice of Frida Kahlo. Some 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 splashed of ferocious colour.

Petit’s collection was shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize 2010 and is currently on the shortlist for Wales Book of the Year 2011.
A poem from What the Water Gave Me ‘My Birth’:

I swivel my emerging head
so you can recognise me
by my joined-up eyebrows.

My mother’s face is covered
with a sheet, so are her breasts –
they will never feed me.

Through the pink fog, I can see
with these baby painter’s eyes
how bare a room can be,

dominated as ours is by that picture
of the weeping Virgin.
Even my unhappiest paintings

will joyful. Look at how
I wear my mother’s body
like a regional dress –

its collar gripping my neck.
For now, her legs are my arms,
her sex is my necklace.

What the Water Gave Me is available at http://www.serenbooks.com

Some of the many review received for this wonderful collection:

“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, Observer Books of the Year

“Poems about paintings rarely set off fireworks, but this is ekphrasis with a difference: Petit speaks in Kahlo’s voice with eerie believability.” — Time Out

“This arresting ollection… exploring the way trauma hurts an artist into creation, celebrates the rebarbative energy with which Kahlo redeemed pain and transformed it into paint.” — Ruth Padel, Guardian

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