This week, our Friday Poem is ‘My Father’s Wardrobe’, from Pascale Petit’s Fauverie, which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 2014.
The Fauverie of this book is the big-cat house in the Jardin des Plantes zoo. But the word also evokes the Fauves, ‘primitive’ painters who used raw colour straight from the tube. Like The Zoo Father, Petit’s acclaimed second collection, this volume has childhood trauma and a dying father at its heart, while Paris takes centre stage – a city savage as the Amazon, haunted by Aramis the black jaguar and a menagerie of wild animals. Transforming childhood horrors to ultimately mourn a lost parent, Fauverie redeems the darker forces of human nature while celebrating the ferocity and grace of endangered species. Five poems from Fauverie won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize and the manuscript in progress was awarded an Arts Council England Grant for the Arts.
My Father’s Wardrobe
after Peter Redgrove
In the late afternoon he begins his toilette –
he has limestone pyjamas threaded with fossils,
a nightshirt of catacombs through which his dreams drip.
He has a dressing gown woven with petrol fumes, between its folds
echo car-horns and the murmur of tourists.
He tries on the long rail of awakening suits.
He dresses from the quarries that built Paris.
He wears a cathedral cloak with chimera eyes.
His raincoat is stuccoed with spouting gargoyles.
He has trousers that are stained-glass windows,
casting shadows like candied fruit as he walks.
His cravat is a knotted métro train,
one tie is an escalator, another a fountain
with Saint-Michel fighting Satan.
A carousel turns silently between his knees
and in it a boy is singing on a lacquered foal.
He has a shirt of hotel fronts
and a waistcoat of bridges under which bateaux mouches glide.
He emerges from the trapdoors of nightclubs
in a wedding suit of pavements that steam in the sun
and in it he marries the dawn.
He has a jacket made of wind-blown newspapers
and a cocktail suit of cigarette smoke
with balconies for pockets. Sometimes
he wears a suit of ash that scatters when he moves.
Pascale Petit will be at Tŷ Newydd Writing Centre, March 14-19, along with Robert Minhinnick for Writing the Wild: A Poetry Course. To book tickets, visit the Tŷ Newydd website.