Thursday, 10 July 2014

Fauverie now available to pre-order from Amazon

Fauverie – my sixth collection – is now available to pre-order from Amazon and will be published on 2 September by Seren.

Amazon UK:
Amazon US:

Here is the front cover, featuring Aramis the black jaguar, designed and painted by Dragana Nikolic, and a starry sky back cover.

The book is a follow-up to my second collection The Zoo Father.
Here are sample poems

"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."

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Poetry and Serious Play at Tate Modern: Bill Viola

For two sessions during my Poetry and Serious Play course at Tate Modern we're working with Bill Viola's video installation Tiny Deaths in the Poetry and Dream wing. This piece is exhibited on the occasion of the opening of his permanent commission Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) in St Paul's Cathedral. Here he's interviewed about that commission.

Tiny Deaths is scary. You go into a dark room, you can't see where you're walking, then gradually shadows emerge from three vast screens around you, then one suddenly approaches in a flash of light and explodes back into the dark. I worried that the group might have found this too uncomfortable, but it left them thoughtful and inspired. I brought in poems by Tomas Transtromer, such as 'Prelude', 'Secrets on the Way' and 'Allegro', also about crossing from one threshold to another, as the people seem to do in Tiny Deaths, and I think it helped.

Everyone picked three random lines from Transtromer's poems (from a hat) to incorporate in a poem responding to Viola's art. They could use these as quotes or change them to make them their own, or write a poem after Transtromer.

Next Monday I have asked them to bring the resulting poems to use in a secret exercise – I won't disclose what that will be until then, but all the senses will be used, as they are in the Tiny Deaths room, with its smell of burning charcoal. Then I'm going to share one of my own poems about crossing a threshold – 'What the Water Gave Me (VI)' which has Frida Kahlo in her bath but also at the moment of her death and cremation, and discuss how I wrote it avoiding a literal interpretation of the painting it's based on. We'll finish our Bill Viola fortnight with readings from the two sessions.

It was strange to move to Bill Viola after two weeks in the happy Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition. We had fun with those, played games and made the most of Matisse's summer colours and jazzy titles, which are poems in themselves. If you've visited the exhibition you'll know how crowded it is so imagine us having it to ourselves – for three weeks! We'll end the course there as well, so will return to the astounding creativity and jouissance from a disabled eighty-year-old artist!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Developing Personal Myths at Ty Newydd and the painter Norval Morrisseau

This is the painting Water Spirit by the celebrated indigenous Canadian painter Norval Morrisseau. On my course at Ty Newydd this 14-19th July, my co-tutor Armand Ruffo, an Ojibway Nation Canadian poet, will give a slide talk about him. I've long loved this painting of water as feral force.

Ty Newydd is a hideaway writing centre that has sloping gardens with vistas onto the sea, sky and Black Mountains. I'm scared of the sea. Last week I taught a course at Chateau Ventenac in the Languedoc, and on our day off we went walking along the deserted Narbonne Plage. It was a windy day and the normally calm Med looked more like the Atlantic. It was just like this monster!

For our course, Developing Personal Myths

we'll draw on a rich store of traditional Canadian and Amazonian indigenous myths, to write poems or prose pieces that transform the raw material of our lives into personal mythology. I've researched Amazonian myths for a few decades now, after I twice travelled in the Venezuelan Amazon in the early 90's. 

I'm reading The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman at the moment and it is very enlightening to read how Davi Kopenawa perceives his environment and the spiritual powers of all living beings in the forest, as well as his impressions on visiting Paris and New York.
Here are more Morrisseau paintings, can't wait to hear Armand's slide talk!

 Merman, Ruler of Water

 Fox and Fish

Sacred Caribou with Spirit Man

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cover of Fauverie and some launch readings

This is the cover for Fauverie my sixth collection, due out from Seren in September 2014. The design is by Dragana Nikolic, who painted the cover and illustrations for my Serbian edition of The Zoo Father. Here is a draft of the jacket description:

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.

"Our winner was chosen because of the un-reproducible bite of the images, her brilliant understanding of human psycho-drama, the sustained accomplishment of her metaphorical imagination." Adam O'Riordan, Chair of judges, Manchester Poetry Prize

Launch readings so far include:

Wymondham Words Festival, Norfolk, Friday evening 19 September 2014

Kings Lynn Poetry Festival, 26 - 28 September 2014

Cheltenham Literature Festival, 4pm Tuesday 7 October 2014

Manchester Literature Festival, Living Worlds Gallery at Museum, Wednesday evening 8 October 2014

Resurgence Festival of Wellbeing Bishopsgate, London, Saturday 11 October 2014 

London launch at Yorkshire Grey pub, Chancery Lane, Thursday 16 October 2014

First Thursdays at Chapter Arts, Cardiff, Thursday 6 November, 2014

Dromineer Literary Festival, Tipperary, Ireland, Saturday 3 October, 2015

(More to follow)

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Effigies: Drawings by Lawand, Poems by Pascale Petit, now available from The Mosaic Rooms

Effigies is now available from The Mosaic Rooms or its online shop for £12. This artbook collaboration contains fifteen drawings by the Syrian Kurdish painter Lawand and fifteen poems The Mosaic Rooms commissioned me to write in response to them this summer.

"The result is a deeply moving and imaginative work." Omar Qattan, The A.M. Qattan Foundation

About the artist Lawand and his exhibition Equinox: From Beirut to London

The Mosaic Rooms is currently showing Equinox, From Beirut to London, the first UK solo exhibition by Syrian artist Lawand. The exhibition features new paintings and drawings by the artist, made recently during a prolonged stay in Beirut, Lebanon.

Lawand’s paintings and drawings are dominated by elongated effigies with faceless heads, hanging or hiding in their hands. They float in formless backgrounds thick with paint, situated in the material and yet strangely placeless. The artist often hints at their movement, but denies them real motion, wrapping his figures in a private world within the painted surface. Most appear alone or with a child, each treated with a looseness of touch and depth of form that invests them with intimacy; in both large and small scale these untitled works are hauntingly emotive.

“I am not a painter of loneliness, even though my paintings are so little populated. I see in each and every one of my characters the entire human race. My characters often seem to be moving slowly and sluggishly but they are headed towards the endless path of light…so that my paintings express a desire to live!” (Lawand, 2013).

Lawand’s practice is also heavily influenced by poetry, and he has created a number of publications in collaboration with renowned poets. Born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1984, Lawand came to France with his family when he was ten. He lives and works predominantly in Lille, France.

The exhibition is on until 29th November and entry is free. Effigies was launched on 19 October in the galleries, during a talk between Lawand and Pascale on poetry and art. Photo by Carine Mneimneh.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Launch of my new collection Effigies, with drawings by Syrian Kurdish painter Lawand, at The Mosaic Rooms

This summer The Mosaic Rooms commissioned me to write poems in response to drawings by the young Syrian Kurdish painter Lawand. I had never seen his work before and was stunned by the power of his portraits. I spent August in Paris, got up early each day and sat at my French window which opened out onto a vine-covered courtyard. One day, very early, I walked through the outdoor sculpture park along the quai St Bernard and wrote the first four poems. The gardeners worked around me, watering the shrubs. 

Back in my room I noticed that the wood pigeon chicks in the nest opposite were out on their ledge, and that day I witnessed both their first flights. A few of Lawand's figures seem to be attempting flight. They emerge from a mist of thorns, as if his troubled homeland hangs behind them. Those wood pigeon chicks looked so impatient to launch into their element, yet vulnerable as they crashed into walls and fell, almost within range of the ginger cat below.

One girl – see the painting above, and the drawing below – walks towards us, head down, as if she is entering the world from a childhood in a cave. In the drawing she has a black scrawl in front of her face. She looks determined, advancing doggedly towards her hard-won light.

Tonight I will go to the Private View and meet Lawand for the first time. I will see the paintings in the flesh. I hope it's a well-attended event, but that there won't be too many people obscuring them.

On Monday 14 October I will lead a workshop in the galleries – Writing the Body a full day surrounded by these mist-wreathed figures! If you would like to take part there's just a few places left. You can book on The Mosaic Rooms website

The fifteen commissioned poems I wrote this summer will be published in a special art book Effigies, along with the fifteen drawings by Lawand that I responded to. Effigies will be launched at The Mosaic Rooms at 12 noon on Saturday 19th October, at Art and Poetry, a discussion between me and the artist about the relationship of art and poetry. You are warmly invited but please do RSVP to book your free seat. 

Seven poems from Effigies will also be published by Seren in my next full-length collection Fauverie in October 2014. Fauverie centres on my father and Paris, specifically the Fauverie in the Ménagerie of the Jardin des Plantes, but I wanted to intersperse portraits of other 'effigies' between the portraits of my father and mother in the book, and of course there are numerous portraits of the big cats in the zoo, those few survivors of a harrowing eco-war.

Very grateful thanks to the A.M. Qattan Foundation for offering me the commission, for introducing me to the work of a fabulous artist, and for believing I could do it in just one month! 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

My book Fauverie and the stars of the Fauverie in the Jardin des Plantes Ménagerie, Paris

 This week I handed in my manuscript Fauverie to my editor at Seren. I will still add a few poems and do more work on it before it's published in autumn 2014, but the bulk of the book is there. The title Fauverie comes from the name of the carnivore house in the Jardin des Plantes. For me the word conjures both a big-cat house and a 'fauve' wild beast painting, a habitat of primal colour and encagement. 
Like my second collection The Zoo Father, the central character is my father, but in this follow-up volume, the city of Paris is also centre stage, as is the zoo at its heart. I discovered my estranged father was enclosed in his own fauverie, because in the last years of his life  he was bound to an oxygen concentrator machine in a tiny cluttered room, about ten minutes' walk from the zoo, and was much too frail to go out.

When I stay in Paris I'm drawn back to the Fauverie. I try not to go, because it is an obsession, but I rent a room within walking distance, and this August I was so close that I could walk along the Seine, through the outdoor sculpture gardens, and be there in ten minutes! Even after closing-time – 'la fermeture' –  I would linger in the outdoor park and glance over the road to the art deco semi-circular building and think of the great cats in their night cages, locked in at 6pm for 'security'. Whether for our security in case they escape, or theirs, since they are endangered species, I was never sure. It reminded me of when I lived with my grandmother in Wales from the age of seven to fourteen, how she used to make me go to bed at 6pm, and I'd stand at the window looking out at much younger kids still playing in the fields.

Before closing-time, there is feeding-time - l'heure du repas - which is a spectacle. In fact, to see the cats active it's best to observe them in their outdoor quarters about half an hour before 'la rentrée', when they become restless and impatient for food, then to go inside and watch as the keepers thrust their meals through. At this point they are separated, to avoid conflict, and they sleep alone, apart from the caracal pair.

The star of the show is Aramis the black jaguar (a temporary resident), and when he pounces through his hatch, and it's banged down behind him, there's always a cheer, as he thuds onto the lower floor on his stocky powerful legs. Leila the elderly and solitary North China leopard is next door, and she puts on quite a performance, desperately scrabbling at her grille for her rabbit. There are two other North China leopards, Tao and Bao-bao, but she won't tolerate their company. I took these pics with my iPhone as part of my note-making.

Aramis the black jaguar, a temporary resident, before he is moved to the zoo at Vincennes and larger quarters


Karu the snow leopard, hand reared by a keeper I believe. The keeper has just passed by and Karu spotted him.

Tao the young male North China leopard, snarling at the crowd. Will he ever get used to them/us? He waits until the crowd has left before eating his food, and hides at the top out of sight, just his ears sticking up. His mate is Bao-bao. There is a rumour she is pregnant - I hope so, this is a very endangered species.

Karu's mate Unda, who recently had surgery on her paw, which broke when she leapt down from the hatch, and she 's had heart surgery.

Black-Ears the male caracal.