Saturday, 12 June 2010

Ruth Padel reviews What the Water Gave Me in the Guardian

Ruth Padel has reviewed What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo in today's Guardian. I didn't know it was to be reviewed so it's a lovely surprise. Here is an extract:

'Petit's collection is not a verse biography, but a hard-hitting, palette-knife evocation of the effect that bus crash had on Kahlo's life and work. "And this is how I started painting. / Time stretched out its spectrum / and screeched its brakes." WH Auden, in his elegy for Yeats, tells the Irish poet: "Mad Ireland hurt you into poetry." 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.'

This is the painting on the cover of my collection. Six title poems 'What the Water Gave Me' are threaded through the book and respond to Kahlo's  surreal painting What the Water Gave Me or What I Saw in the Water, where images from her life and paintings float around her in the bath. The floating scenes refer especially to the devastating bus accident she suffered as a teenager and its traumatic aftermath which she countered with art. 

I'm busy preparing for the second session of my Tate course Poetry from Art this weekend, when we'll be in Mike Nelson's powerful installation The Coral Reef at Tate Britain, then Seren will launch my book at The Horse Hospital this Thursday.



  1. It's an amazing and well-deserved review. Couldn't believe it when I saw it this morning.

    Looking forward to Tate tomorrow and the launch on Thursday. It will be fantastic.


  2. Hi Annie,

    Thank you! It's such a pleasure to have you and your fab poems on the course, your first collection not too far off I hope.

  3. Just received my copy of 'What The Water Gave Me' through the post this morning along with ten other books I selected from the London Review Bookshop as my prize for winning the Birkbeck College Pantoum Competition recently. I have a lot of reading ahead of me and I'm going to start with your book, so it will be interesting to have the review to accompany it. I lived in Mexico for a while and I know Kahlo's work quite well. I'll be ask you to sign my copy at Ledbury in about three weeks.

  4. Hi Graham,
    Thanks for reading my book, I hope you enjoy it and wonder what will make of it with your knowledge of Mexico and Kahlo. Congrats on winning the Birkbeck comp. I look forward to seeing you at Ledbury and will be happy to sign the book then.

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