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Pascale Petit: A Poet With a Mission
An alchemist of the question and the answer
Bhuwan Thapaliya (Bhuwan)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-25 10:29 (KST)   
Self-Portrait with Fire Ants

To visit you Father, I wear a mask of fire ants.
When I sit waiting for you to explain

why you abandoned me when I was eight
they file in, their red bodies

massing around my eyes, stinging my pupils white
until I'm blind. Then they attack my mouth.

I try to lick them but they climb down my gullet
until an entire swarm stings my stomach,

while you must become a giant anteater,
push your long sticky tongue down my throat,

as you once did to my baby brother,
French-kissing him while he pretended to sleep.

I can't remember what you did to me, but the ants know.
-- Pascale Petit


What is poetry? Most of us would probably be inclined to evade it with the words of which St. Augustine once used in reference to other matter -- "If not asked, I know; if you ask me, I know not."

Pascale Petit
©2009 Brian Fraser Sullivan
A certain instinctive sense of what constitutes poetry we all have; but to translate it into exact language seems difficult.

But my perception about the poetry changed after accidentally (due to sheer luck) reading some poems of a very talented French/Welsh poet living in the UK. After reading several of her poems in a single sit, one after another, reflecting and digesting those wonderful verses, I came to the conclusion that poetry is nothing but the elements of life all mixed into one big colorful pot of mythic imagination.

The definition of poetry might be extended through many pages but Pascale Petit is such a rare talent that her poetic constitutes would fit under every definition of the poetry.

"No other British poet I am aware of can match the powerful mythic imagination of Pascale Petit," wrote Les Murray in the Times Literary Supplement. In 2004 the Poetry Book Society and Arts Council named her as one of the Next Generation Poets.

Let me share with the readers the poem which was commissioned by the Royal Watercolour Society for The Poet and The Painter exhibition.


Night Boat on Galilee

I board when the surface is calm
as the lull before a symphony.

In that pause a lyre-lake
mirrors the stars.

If I listen hard I almost hear a nocturne's opening chords
as I float over earth's rift,

and in my net, a shoal of notes
flap their tails.

My boat cradles me as a squall swoops
from the Golan Heights

and plucks the roots of subterranean springs
that feed the shrinking lake.

The woods of quiet are carob, willow, Aleppo pine,
terebinth, tabor oak and cedar.

The two-thousand-year-old fishing vessel dredged from clay
after a year of drought

was built from these -- planks so waterlogged
they would disintegrate in air.

I board that craft between destruction and repair,
in the listening-lake Kinneret

where Jesus walked over two thousand strings
of liquid harp,

summoning lightness from a breath of birdsong.
I board my boat

as sound waves lap against the hull
drawing Aeolian sighs

from the rings of the Tree of Life.
And if this wreck is from a battle

I'll sing to the spirits of the trees
which were felled to build it

until the leaves grow back on their branches
and water rises up dry veins -- enough for the world

to drink, for the water-music to stop all wars. I still my ears
as the constellations tune their instruments.

-- Pascale Petit


As a poet, Pascale Petit has made zestful use of visualization to reach the essence of imagery. She uses the visualization to explore the essential paradox of life, mythical timelessness in the rings of the finite and simplicity in the nature. Her confessional imagery, her original and imaginative lyrical verses leaves an incredible impression in the mind of her readers.

Pascale is a prolific poet. She has published four poetry collections. Two of her previous books, The Zoo Father (Seren, 2001) and The Huntress (Seren, 2005), were both shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize and were both Books of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement.

Her latest book is The Treekeeper's Tale (Seren, November 2008). She is very active in the poetry circles too. Pascale was a co-founding tutor of The Poetry School, Poetry Editor of Poetry London 1989-2005 and is the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Middlesex University.

Not only she is a poet, she is an editor too. And she has edited some outstanding journals. For example, she has guest edited Pratik -- the Contemporary British Poetry Issue (Kathmandu) in 2007 edited by Yuyutsu RD Sharma, a renowned poet, translator and editor and co-edited the first anthology from The Poetry School, Tying the Song (Enitharmon, 2000).

Her fame has spread all over the world and her works are gaining so much recognition that they have already been broadcasted on BBC Radio 3 and 4. Furthermore, she has been published in journals in the UK, the US, and Australia; including Poetry Review, American Poetry Review and Quadrant.

Pascal's poems have been translated into Russian, Nepalese, Uzbek, Hebrew, Bulgarian, Chinese, Lithuanian, Spanish, Farsi, Japanese, Portuguese, German, Dutch and Romanian.

The Strait-Jackets

I lay the suitcase on Father's bed
and unzip it slowly, gently.
Inside, packed in cloth strait-jackets
lie forty live hummingbirds
tied down in rows, each tiny head
cushioned on a swaddled body.
I feed them from a flask of sugar water,
inserting every bill into the pipette,
then unwind their bindings
so Father can see their changing colours
as they dart around his room.
They hover inches from his face
as if he's a flower, their humming
just audible above the oxygen recycler.
For the first time since I've arrived
he's breathing easily, the cannula
attached to his nostrils almost slips out.
I don't know how long we sit there
but when I next glance at his face
he's asleep, lights from their feathers
still playing on his eyelids and cheeks.
It takes me hours to catch them all
and wrap them in their strait-jackets.
I work quietly; he's in such
a deep sleep he doesn't wake once.

-- Pascale Petit


Metaphysically speaking, for me poems have always been an aid to the world of introspection and relaxation. But Pascal's poems are ideally suited to those keen on reading something fresh, something that will stir the spirit. She is a very special poet and one of the chief elements of her poetry is its revealing power. Her poems open our eyes to sensuous beauties and spiritual meanings in the worlds of human experience and of nature to which otherwise we would remain blind.

She has been granted an inherent power of imagination and interpretation. What she feels, she sees it with her inner eyes and then makes all of us feel those unseen with her poems. Thus one great service that the poet renders to us is that of "awakening the mind's attention to the lethargy of the unknown; an inexhaustible treasure."

She was originally a sculptor and trained at the Royal College of Art. Her poem educates us to cross all the boundaries of the imaginations as she agrees with Einstein, who said that imagination is greater than knowledge. Her poetry, therefore, cover our relationship with life at almost every point, appeals to nearly all our moods and finds its subject matter in whatever, rightly treated, will yield poetic beauty and meaning.

All successful poets do one thing in common -- they keep on writing on and on not to be immortal but to inspire, energize, and delight. They work wholeheartedly, with all their energy and determination, for a long time before they achieve any worthwhile goal. Pascale has been working hard tirelessly and there are no signs of fatigue as of yet as she brushes hurdles and heads off across the world searching for her poetic destiny.

She is a poet with a mission, immortalizing the art of poetry through her profound poems. She is a trend setter and a path finder. There are poets who don't have answers but ask questions and there are those who don't have questions but have answer. Pascal is the rare breed, she have question as well as the answer. She is an alchemist of question and the answer- she is the revelation.


The Second Husband

After what feels like two thousand years
I find you under the permafrost.
I dig and dig until your twelve frozen horses
spring up in their red felt masks and ibex horns.
You must have ridden each one to heaven

in your high headdress with its gold foil frieze
of Celestial Mountains, your crest
of winged snow leopards and antlered wolves
with eagle tines. When you ask me to stay
I know this is the afterlife.

-- Pascale Petit


In concluding this brief article about Pascale Petit I may therefore repeat that if there is anything new in contemporary poetry then it is Pascal's vivid self expressive imagery. Read her and I bet that you won't be the same again -- your brain would ask questions unasked till date and your heart shall answer answers unanswered until now.

Bhuwan Thapaliya is a Nepali poet.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Bhuwan Thapaliya

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