Poetry Book Society Choice
Shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018
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. Four of Pascale Petit's previous six collections have been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Mama Amazonica is shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place.
‘Pascale Petit manages to do the impossible, weaving together a story of trauma, illness, and tragedy and steeping it in the natural world, transforming her troubled relationship with her mother into a story of the Amazon rainforest. It is a feat both stylistic and imaginative, and the result is something utterly original.’ – Tahmima Anam, on behalf of the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018 Judges
'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
'Pascale Petit has made a career out of looking where other poets might turn away – and her seventh collection is no exception. Mama Amazonica returns to the twinned subjects of her late mother’s lifelong mental illness, and the ecology of the Amazon rainforest... poems that are as radical as they are necessary – because they enable us to see in new ways.' - Alice Hiller, The Poetry Review
‘Pascale Petit’s latest collection, Mama Amazonica, is a lush, horrifying beauty which plunges the reader into a jungle of violence, mental illness and heartbreaking memory… Mama Amazonica is a profoundly moving collection which leaves the reader with an enriched sense of the natural world as well as a renewed admiration for this incredible writer.’ – Sarah Coles, Planet
'Mama Amazonica is an example of how the transformative power of art can buffer pain and trauma. Petit renews, rebirths and reconstructs her relationship with her mother into something ethereal, shimmering and ultimately breathtakingly beautiful and wild.’ – Flavia, Good Reads
‘In likening her [mother] to various rainforest creatures, Petit has carved for the reader a portrait of a woman who is utterly changeable – at once, impossible to love and yet also impossible not to. She is the Victoria Amazonica, the jaguar and the caiman, amongst the many other animal-identities she assumes throughout the collection. Each creature or plant shows a little more of what it must have been like to live with her… A triumphant collection inspired by her life and her trips to the Amazonian rainforest, Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica is thoroughly recommended.’ – Literature Works
'For those who have Pascale Petit in their pantheon of favourite British poets, her seventh collection, Mama Amazonica, will not disappoint. It vibrates with images that run before you like the last picture show... It is a portrait of art itself, though it be Coyoacán or Peruvian. The world is aroused, her imagination has widened the myth and the tropical groves hum.' - Lin van Hek, Quadrant
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.