Poetry Book Society Choice
Mama Amazonica is set in a psychiatric ward and in the Amazon rainforest, an asylum for animals on the brink of extinction. It reveals the story of Pascale Petit’s mentally ill mother and the consequences of abuse. The mother transforms into a giant Victoria amazonica waterlily, and a bestiary of untameable creatures – a jaguar girl, a wolverine, a hummingbird – as she marries her rapist and gives birth to his children. From heartbreaking trauma, there emerge luxuriant and tender portraits of a woman battling for survival, in poems that echo the plight of others under duress, and of our companion species. Petit does not flinch from the violence but offers hope by celebrating the beauty of the wild, whether in the mind or the natural world.
Mama Amazonica is Pascale Petit's seventh collection, and her first from Bloodaxe.
'Since 2001, when Pascale Petit published The Zoo Father, her greatest, most singular achievement has been to tackle difficult subject matter head-on while simultaneously distancing herself from it through the use of exotic metaphor. The distancing is crucial. It lies at the core of her method, and has enabled her to procure poems of a raw, almost ecstatic, beauty and, to paraphrase Ruth Padel, to write the unwritable. In this, her seventh extraordinary collection, possibly her most integrated book so far, this sort of elongated lens is much in evidence... This is a major literary feat, and this a brilliant sequence of poems. It burns in its own supranatural light.' – Tim Liardet & Vona Groarke, PBS Bulletin.
Four of Pascale Petit's previous six collections have been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. From the reviews:
'Pascale Petit’s Fauverie is astonishing, one of those books that breaks new ground in how to approach writing about the unwritable.' – Ruth Padel, London Review Bookshop Books of the Year
'The voice of Fauverie speaks both bravely and with bravura from the heart of its material. There is conspiracy in these poems and great beauty. They venture into the cellar of the past, summon up memory and conjure it into a firework display of metaphoric brilliance.' – Helen Dunmore, Chair of Judges, 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize
'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 (Books of the Year), on What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo
'This is a wonderful and red-raw collection that captures pain, love and loss.' – The Independent, on The Zoo Father
'A brave and unsettling collection. These are psychological explorations of relationships and power struggles that take risks. – Robyn Bolam, Poetry Review, on The Huntress
Pascale Petit reads 'My Wolverine'
Pascale Petit reads her poem ‘My Wolverine’ from Mama Amazonica. This poem was first published in Ploughshares (USA) and also appears in Hwaet! 20 Years of Ledbury Poetry Festival (Bloodaxe Books, July 2016). Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed her reading ‘My Wolverine’ in London in January 2015. To read the poem, click on VIEW EXTRACT below.