Tag Archives: Frida Kahlo

Bonkers in op shops


Six weeks ago it all started going bad. A weekend with the girls took me to Sydney where the Grayson Perry exhibition was on. It was all good, brilliant really, including a walk from Bondi to Bronte and the Waverley cemetery with Henry Lawson in residence. 37 degrees was a tad warm but we barely broke into a glow. But within hours we’d gone from artistic revelry to Cheapstar aviation hell. Five hours in Sydney airport with Bloody Mary’s at $16 a pop. All because of a bit of thunder and lightning.You’d think Sydney would see enough of that to dodge the problems and keep planes airborne. No.

When I finally got back home where nothing looked changed from five days before, the man announces he’s ‘done his back’. That could have been annoying except it gave me a good chance to get to the op, charity, thrift shops to source him a proper chair. And this is what I found. A wavy Shaker-style chair that might have been in Nelson’s cabin. It’s in my lounge room now but so lovely I wont let him sit in it. Just needs a bit of paint stripper and back to blonde. A steal at $30 and nobody will ever get to sit in it.


Trouble is he’s had major surgery so not mobile and sleeping a lot. A bit like having a baby at home and we know what that means. Three hours to yourself in the afternoon. I took the thinking time to come up with an idea for a book cover for my new book. Our new book, actually. It’s a pamphlet that UK poet Terry Quinn and I have been working on for the last year. They’re reply-poems which we’ve called ‘To have to Follow.’ Terry is from wet, wild and woolly Preston, Lancs and I’m writing from the Surf Coast, Victoria so diametrically opposed weather wise. But we were joint winners of the Geoff Stevens Poetry Prize (Indigo Dreams) and have kept in contact ever since as mentors and friends. I’ve fiddled with the image so it’s abstract but you get the idea. we both like a bit of travel whenever we get the chance. I dug out the man’s old hiking boots complete with cobwebs and found my old Readers Digest Atlas. I must remember to make it nothing like Kei Miller’s.


I’m looking forward to poems coming up in Poetry Salzburg, Under the Radar (16 already out) and Cordite. Poems currently in Plumwood Mountain thanks to Tricia Dearborn.

In the meantime there’s a whiff of autumn in the air and the need to revamp some old clothes and bling. I’m going androgynous Tilda Swinton this year. Have been buying lots of browns and tans from local op shops. Spent this morning repairing earrings and shoes.Badly. Brown pinstripe trilby to go with everything. Looking for a feather.

Reading a bio of Frida Kahlo after presenting Pascale Petit’s poetry at an event last week. Also ‘Landmarks’, Robert Macfarlane and Colm Toibin’s ‘The Empty Family’. Have been enjoying Jane Hirshfield and have just ordered Ada Limon’s ‘Bright Dead Things’.





Pascale Petit

Les Murray says, No other British poet I am aware of can match the powerful mythic imagination of Pascale Petit, and a comment that particularly resonates with me is from David Morley, Magma when he writes, ..her poetry never behaves itself or betrays itself….

Portraiat PP

When I read The Wounded Deer I was hooked. And as soon as I heard about Pascale’s residential in Ventenac I rushed to book my spot in 2013 with a room overlooking the Canal du Midi. Bliss. This was in the same week that my first collection was being published so I was in a state of high anxiety and not at my best, but it was Pascale in one of our one – to – one sessions who put me at ease me with her tranquil mien and who taught me a vital lesson when she wisely and gently posed the question of one of my poems, What are you trying to say? I have never forgotten it.

I never tire of reading and revisiting Pascale’s dazzling and heartbreaking poems. She invests so much of herself in each work.This recent radio broadcast, Poetica, highlights her depth of spirit, humanity and artistry. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/poetica/images-as-strong-as-sculptures3a-the-poetry-of-pascal-petit/4896370

Pascale is the most generous and indefatigable poet I know. She tutors regularly and intensively, often posting sessions from the Tate on her blog. There is a series of workshops on the Mslexia website. She has a punishing schedule on the reading circuit yet still finds the time to keep up with social media and, most surprisingly, finds the mental space and energy to write. In Ventenac I was pleased to see that she enjoys a glass of vin du pays between stanzas and that must help.

I’m very excited to bring you four poems that appear in Fauverie, published early September by Seren. My copy is winging its way and I can’t wait. And what another unforgettable front cover by Dragana Nikolic.

Welcome! Pascale Petit.

pascale Fauverie front


Arrival of the Electric Eel

Each time I open it I feel like a Matsés girl
handed a parcel at the end of her seclusion,
my face pierced by jaguar whiskers
to make me brave.
I know what’s inside – that I must
unwrap the envelope of leaves
until all that’s left
squirming in my hands
is an electric eel.
The positive head, the negative tail,
the rows of batteries under the skin,
the small, almost blind eyes.
The day turns murky again,
I’m wading through the bottom of my life
when my father’s letter arrives. And keeps on arriving.
The charged fibres of paper
against my shaking fingers,
the thin electroplates of ink.
The messenger drags me up to the surface
to gulp air then flicks its anal fin.
Never before has a letter been so heavy,
growing to two metres in my room,
the address, the phone number, then the numbness –
I know you must be surprised, it says,
but I will die soon and want to make contact.

Black Jaguar at Twilight

He seems to have sucked
the whole Amazon
into his being, the storm-

clouds of rosettes
through a bronze dusk.
I’ve been there, sheltered

under the buttress
of a giant, felt
the air around me –

its muscles tense,
stalking me
as I stumbled

through dense fur,
my father’s tongue
wet on my neck

as I fell into a gulch,
the blackout of his mouth.
And when I woke

I thought I heard
the jungle cough – this jungle,
the jaguar safe

behind bars. I lean over
and touch his cage – his glance
grazes me like an arrow.


Sleeping Black Jaguar

A solar eclipse – his fur
seems to veil light,
the smoulder

of black rosettes
a zoo of sub-atoms
I try to tame –

tritium, lepton, anti-proton.
They collide
as if smashed inside

a particle accelerator.
But it’s just Aramis sleeping,
twitching himself back

to the jungle, where he leaps
into the pool of a spiral
galaxy, to catch a fish.

Later, the keeper tells me
Aramis has had surgery
for swallowing

a hose–head
where his hank of beef
was lodged. But

what vet could take
a scalpel to this
dreaming universe?

What hand could shave
that pelt, to probe
the organs

of dark matter, untwist
time’s intestines
and stitch

night’s belly
together again, only
to return him to a cage?

 A Tray of Frozen Songbirds

For our last meal together
my father takes out of the freezer
a tray of frozen songbirds.
He’s saved them up, these delicacies
with ice crystals in their beaks,
wings stuck to ribcages.
There are skylarks, blackbirds, doves.
He tells me how some were plucked
while still alive,
about the mist net at dawn,
how one nightingale was thrust
into a sack of discarded heads
and cried, then the poacher licked
the sticky lime from its plumes
tenderly, before slitting its throat.
He pours champagne as if it’s
the river of life.
We eat like two drunks
woken from dreams of flying,
me on his lap, singing the song
I’ve just learnt at school – Alouette,
gentille alouette, alouette je te plumerai.

Back cover PP

Pascale’s mini biography
I’m a French/Welsh poet living in London, UK. My latest collection is Fauverie (Seren, 2014). A portfolio of poems from the book won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize and the manuscript won an Arts Council England award. My fifth collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo, published in 2010 by Seren, 2011 by Black Lawrence Press, US, was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and Wales Book of the Year. I tutor poetry courses in the galleries at Tate Modern and for The Poetry School. Two previous books, The Zoo Father and The Huntress, were also shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and my books have been books of the year in the TLS, Independent and Observer. Literary SupplementIndependent and Observer. She tutors courses at Tate Modern and for The Poetry School.