shortlisted for the 2014 T S Eliot Prize / winner of the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize
Buy Fauverie from Seren
Pascale Petit’s sixth collection, Fauverie, was published by Seren in September 2014 and is shortlisted for the 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 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
Petit marks her father’s passing with one of the most extraordinary declamations of loss, celebration, courage and compassion I have ever read. And what, and why is poetry? This. – Clare Shaw, The Compass Magazine
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.
The cover painting is by Dragana Nikolic.
(Please scroll down for more reviews)
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.
Poems copyright: Pascale Petit 2014
Clare Shaw reviews Fauverie for The Compass magazine, here is an extract:
“The songbirds in this collection are frozen and are part of a long list of brutalised and silenced creatures but Petit continues to sing, sing, sing. In doing so, she allies herself to a tradition of writers who achieve the alchemical transmutation of pain into something beautiful. Petit marks her father’s passing with one of the most extraordinary declamations of loss, celebration, courage and compassion I have ever read. And what, and why is poetry? This.”
Helen Dunmore the chair of judges for the T S Eliot Prize 2014 reviews Fauverie in her prizegiving speech:
“The animals of the Fauverie in Paris – Aramis the black jaguar first among them – pad through Pascale Petit’s new collection, as charismatic as the father whose magnetism still holds the narrator transfixed after many years of estrangement. 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. Pascale Petit, in the tradition of Ted Hughes or indeed T S Eliot, understands that through knowing the nature of beasts we come to know ourselves.”
Aime Williams interviewed Pascale Petit for Prac Crit about writing Fauverie
Dave Coates has reviewed Fauverie in his Blog: https://davepoems.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/pascale-petit-fauverie/
Katherine Stansfield reviews Fauverie in a podcast for New Welsh Review