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.
'Tiger Girl is published by Bloodaxe. It pushes deep into the wilder places of the forest and the human heart. It shimmers with the colours of bee-eaters and flycatchers and rages at the darker regions of environmental exploitation and cruelty... the shortlisted poets: Pascale Petit, for the alarming, mythic, beautiful Tiger Girl.' - Alexandra Harris, Chair of Judges, Forward Prize for Best Collection
‘Tiger Girl by Pascale Petit is preoccupied by place, as was Petit’s previous Laurel Prize winning collection Mama Amazonica. The latter was set in the thick heat of the Amazon Rainforest, exploring nature, wildness, and extinction. Tiger Girl is instead set in central India, continuing to explore similar themes. The poems are strewn with jewels, rich fabrics, endangered animals, and the humans who treat them cruelly… Petit shows us how the places of our past live inside of us; how your country of origin snakes into the psyche and defines you, even when you are thousands of miles away from it. She interweaves the domestic with depictions of forests, poachers, and wild animals. Her luminous language brings India to life…’ – Jasmine Ward, Poetry School (Poetry Books of the Year 2020)
'Like all her previous collections, Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl (Bloodaxe, 2020), whose ‘hymns […] burn/at the centre of the earth,’ is fiery, intense. Petit explores her mixed heritage through the lexicons of flora and fauna, through lenses that lend immediacy and intimacy to the devastating effects of environmental exploitation and destruction.' - Mihaela Moscaliuc, Plume Magazine (Favorite Books from 2020)
‘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
‘Petit’s search for human heritage in the Indian jungles could not come at a better moment… Tiger Girl’s poems, like ‘hymns that burn/at the centre of the earth’, are incantations and lamentations, conjuring lost animal spirits and a world in flames, but also constitute recovery, providing tenderness and beauty in the face of trauma.’ – Natalie Perman, Oxford Review of Books
‘Throughout the pages of Tiger Girl, Pascale Petit casts her beloved grandmother’s history as parallel to the planet’s, and with the twin voices of memory and prophecy pays tribute to those two true mothers of her childhood: the Earth and tiger-girl. This volume rests upon critical borderlands, all of which manifest within the body of Petit’s grandmother. She stands poached, skinned, triumphant, and abandoned; she mirrors the Earth itself in her vitality and endurance. Through Petit’s devoted immortalization, we are made witness to a tigress tender enough to cradle the planet, as it has midwifed her.’ – Florinda, amberflora magazine
‘… Petit succeeds in bringing to us a collection at once personal and universal, terrifying and transcendent, gory and gorgeous. She opens our eyes to beauty and death, fires and stars, transfixes us, and thereby transforms us. Tiger Girl is mandatory reading.’ - Skendha Singh, DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts)
‘The vibrant poems on animals and nature for which Petit (Mama Amazonica) is rightfully known are fully realized in this dazzling work. Petit considers her family history, her grandmother’s Indian heritage, and the folklore that fills the speaker’s mind with images of animals, night markets, and shouting vendors. Petit’s gift for luminous juxtaposition shines...This mesmerizing collection is full of delights.’ – Publishers Weekly [on Tiger Girl]
'Tiger Girl shimmers with beauty and rage: for every exquisite description of a bird or tiger, there's an incident of cruelty and horror unfolded on the page by a poet who watches and refuses to flinch... If Petit is unflinching in her depictions of the cruelties of life, it is because she recognises that they are part of what is true. Poets may not change the world, but they can change our understanding of it. Bearing witness, celebrating beauty, honouring what is true: this is the work of poetry.' - Vicky MacKenzie, New Welsh Review
'Pascale Petit’s Tiger Girl is a beautiful and devastating book. Much of what is recounted in these poised, crafted poems is brutal, but at its centre it feels like a book about love, and finding your place in a fragile world. A family story, arching between India and Wales, develops from the opening poem (‘Her Gypsy Clothes’), in which themes of mothering (and its absence), and rituals of care layer up.' - Elizabeth Edwards, Planet
'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
'Tiger Girl is an incandescent collection that bursts onto the page with a fury of colour, heartbreak, tragedy, rage and pain... An astonishing eighth collection from a poet at the peak of her powers.' - Jennifer Lee Tsai, Mslexia
'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.
Pascale Petit reads ‘Jungle Owlet’
Here Pascale Petit reads her poem ‘Jungle Owlet’ from Tiger Girl at the online Forward Prize for Poetry online event in October 2020.
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