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What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo

What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo

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Shortlisted for the 2011 Wales Book of the Year
Shortlisted for the 2010 TS Eliot Prize
Book of the Year, The Observer

The poems in this collection are spoken in the voice of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and bear the titles of her paintings. A few sequences, such as the title poem 'What the Water Gave Me', represent one painting over several poems and are woven through the book. Some poems keep quite close to the paintings, while others are parallels or versions.

The poet has concentrated on the main events of Kahlo's life in chronological order: her polio as a child, the near fatal bus accident she suffered as a teenager which left her in constant pain for the rest of her life, her marriage to Diego Rivera, his infidelities, her miscarriages, the many surgical procedures she underwent, her vivacity and love of nature and, most of all, how she turned to painting as recompense for her suffering. The collection is not, however, a comprehensive verse biography. It is an exploration of the way the artist used art to withstand and transform pain.

"Kahlo can be a demonically inspiring figure for other women artists (witness Barbara Kingsolver's novel The Lacuna, winner of this year's Orange prize), but Petit [has] used this potent connection in an exemplary way... Petit's collection, 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, The Guardian

Pascale Petit was born in Paris, grew up in France and Wales and lives in London. In 2004 the Poetry Book Society and Arts Council named her as one of the Next Generation Poets. Two of her previous collections, The Zoo Father (Seren, 2001) and The Huntress (Seren, 2005) were shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize and were both Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement. The Zoo Father was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and a poem from the book was also shortlisted for a Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She also co-edited the first anthology from The Poetry School, Tying the Song. She is currently the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Middlesex University. She trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art and tutors for Tate Modern, The Poetry School and Oxford University.