Shortlisted for the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Collection
Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl marks a shift from the Amazonian rainforests of her previous work to explore her grandmother’s Indian heritage and the fauna and flora of subcontinental jungles. Tiger girl is the grandmother, with her tales of wild tigers, but she’s also the endangered predators Petit encountered in Central India. In exuberant and tender ecopoems, the saving grace of love in an otherwise bleak childhood is celebrated through spellbinding visions of nature, alongside haunting images of poaching and species extinction.
Tiger Girl is Pascale Petit’s eighth collection, and her second from Bloodaxe, following Mama Amazonica, winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2018 – the first time a poetry book won this prize for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry best evoking the spirit of a place. Four of her earlier collections were shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.
‘I think this might be her best book so far because of this complexity of a family in crisis against a planet in crisis – she’s very much a poet of the environment… She has a powerful, imagistic authority over the landscape. It’s a very moving, powerful book.’ – Daljit Nagra, reviewing Tiger Girl on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row
'Family history is at the heart of Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl, the story of her grandmother, born in Rajasthan to her father’s maid but brought up as his wife’s child....Petit is a passionate laureate of the natural world, but alive to the cruelty of human depredation...' - Aingeal Clare, The Guardian
'No one in these islands writes poems like Pascale Petit. Part of this is formal: Petit trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art in her youth, and didn’t publish her first full poetry collection until 1998, in her mid-forties. Her poems bear out this history in their tactility, their keen awareness of space, their density of colour and hyperreal imagery. My only experiential comparison is walking into a room in a gallery, in which every surface has been transformed: often unsettling, often unsettlingly familiar, a lucid, vivid dream.' - Dave Coates, Versopolis, introducing an interview with Pascale Petit
'This poem has an elegant form and distinctive imagery which convey and celebrate a bird native to Central Asia in a contemporary ode that really doesn't put a foot wrong from start to finish. And the poem asks us to think about this bird in relation to time, as observations become part of a subtle comment on the fragility and resilience of the natural world against a backdrop of the impacts of climate change.' - Judge Will Kemp on 'Indian Paradise Flycatcher', winner of the 2020 Keats-Shelley Poetry Prize (a poem from Tiger Girl).
Praise for Mama Amazonica
‘No one writing in English today comes anywhere near the exuberance of Pascale Petit. Rarely has the personal and environmental lament found such imaginative fusion, such outlandish and shocking expression that is at once spectacularly vigorous, intimate and heartbroken.’ – Daljit Nagra (judge for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018)
‘Beautifully sad, the imagery inexhaustible, the sorrow and torment both tempered and sharpened by the relish for language and the ingenuity of the imagination.’ – Simon Armitage on Mama Amazonica
‘Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica powerfully twists together fantasy and experience. Over a sustained sequence of poems, Petit transfigures her mother’s desperate and disturbed life through fabulous imagery of the rainforest and its flora and fauna, moving towards a kind of extreme, Ovidian release into metamorphosis. It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize this year, a first for a book of poetry.’ – Marina Warner, The Tablet (Books of the Year 2018)
‘Petit won [the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018] for her glittering and breathtakingly fearless book of poems, Mama Amazonica, which marks the first time that poetry has beaten novels and travelogues in this category… In just 112 pages, Petit creates a work of indelible power and tragic, dramatic force. ’ – Nilanjana Roy, Financial Times
'Mama Amazonica is an unforgettable read - rich with metaphor, the poems explode on the page…this is a book that feels almost magical in its unlikeliness.’ – Tahmima Anam (judge for the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018)
Pascale Petit: Tiger Girl launch reading
Pascale Petit launched her new collection Tiger Girl in a Bloodaxe online launch reading shared with Wayne Holloway-Smith and Phoebe Stuckes on 8 September 2020. This video is an excerpt from that event which went out on YouTube Live.