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. Five poems from Fauverie won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize and the manuscript in progress was awarded an Arts Council England Grant for the Arts.
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. It was the Poetry Book Society Choice for autumn 2017 and was shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2018. It won the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018, a prize for works of fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place – the first poetry title in the prize’s 15-year history to win the award.