Fauverie

Fauverie cover by Dragana Nikolic
Pascale Petit's sixth poetry collection Fauverie is published by Seren in 2014



Shortlisted for the 2014 TS Eliot Prize

A portfolio of poems from the book won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize

The manuscript in progress was awarded an Arts Council England Grant for the Arts








 

 

"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 

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.


“No other British poet I am aware of can match the powerful mythic imagination of Pascale Petit.” Les Murray, Times Literary Supplement Books of the Year

“Pascale Petit creates forms and strategies that go beyond common knowledge of what a poem can or should do; her poetry never behaves itself or betrays itself; and contemporary British poetry is all the livelier for it.” David Morley, Magma

“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



Arrival of the Electric Eel


Each time I open it I feel like a Matsés girl
handed a parcel at the end of her seclusion,
my face pierced by jaguar whiskers
to make me brave.
I know what's inside – that I must
unwrap the envelope of leaves
until all that's left
squirming in my hands
is an electric eel.
The positive head, the negative tail,
the rows of batteries under the skin,
the small, almost blind eyes.
The day turns murky again,
I'm wading through the bottom of my life
when my father's letter arrives. And keeps on arriving.
The charged fibres of paper
against my shaking fingers,
the thin electroplates of ink.
The messenger drags me up to the surface
to gulp air then flicks its anal fin.
Never before has a letter been so heavy,
growing to two metres in my room,
the address, the phone number, then the numbness –
I know you must be surprised, it says,
but I will die soon and want to make contact.



Black Jaguar at Twilight


He seems to have sucked
the whole Amazon
into his being, the storm-


clouds of rosettes
through a bronze dusk.
I've been there, sheltered


under the buttress
of a giant, felt
the air around me –


its muscles tense,
stalking me
as I stumbled


through dense fur,
my father's tongue
wet on my neck


as I fell into a gulch,
the blackout of his mouth.
And when I woke


I thought I heard
the jungle cough – this jungle,
the jaguar safe


behind bars. I lean over
and touch his cage – his glance
grazes me like an arrow.




Sleeping Black Jaguar

1.

A solar eclipse – his fur
seems to veil light,
the smoulder


of black rosettes
a zoo of sub-atoms
I try to tame –


tritium, lepton, anti-proton.
They collide
as if smashed inside


a particle accelerator.
But it's just Aramis sleeping,
twitching himself back


to the jungle, where he leaps
into the pool of a spiral
galaxy, to catch a fish.


2.
Later, the keeper tells me
Aramis has had surgery
for swallowing


a hose–head
where his hank of beef
was lodged. But


what vet could take
a scalpel to this
dreaming universe?


What hand could shave
that pelt, to probe
the organs


of dark matter, untwist
time's intestines
and stitch


night's belly
together again, only
to return him to a cage?



A Tray of Frozen Songbirds


For our last meal together
my father takes out of the freezer
a tray of frozen songbirds.
He's saved them up, these delicacies
with ice crystals in their beaks,
wings stuck to ribcages.
There are skylarks, blackbirds, doves.
He tells me how some were plucked
while still alive,
about the mist net at dawn,
how one nightingale was thrust
into a sack of discarded heads
and cried, then the poacher licked
the sticky lime from its plumes
tenderly, before slitting its throat.
He pours champagne as if it's
the river of life.
We eat like two drunks
woken from dreams of flying,
me on his lap, singing the song
I've just learnt at school – Alouette,
gentille alouette, alouette je te plumerai
.

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