REVIEW – “What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo” by Pascale Petit


Pascale Petit, a painter and sculptor before she turned poet, has long felt connection with Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Though What the Water Gave Me makes no claim to be a comprehensive verse biography of Kahlo, it succinctly maps the short distance between pain and painting.  Like the paintings, these poems give the sense they insisted themselves into existence.  Giving Kahlo a voice beyond the canvas, they trace an artistic soul from its conception: ‘sheathed in pearl/as I learn,/even before birth,/to doodle in the dark.’   Only half born, Kahlo observes with ‘baby painter’s eyes’:

Look at how
I wear my mother’s body
like a regional dress –
its collar gripping my neck.
For now, her legs are my arms,
her sex is my necklace.

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