Pascale Petit interviews & reviews for Mama Amazonica

Pascale Petit interviews & reviews for 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)

'Pascale Petit’s haunting collection of poems that deal with her mother’s illness, Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe), imagines a psychiatric ward in the rainforest, and does what all poetry dreams of doing - turn the wound into a feast, the trauma into a blossoming' - Tishani Doshi, Open Magazine (Best of Books 2018)

‘Pascale Petit’s dark collection, Mama Amazonica, reaches into my heart to squeeze and squeeze. These are epic, achingly beautiful poems of love, abuse and self-betrayal that are, ultimately, a celebration of the glorious tenacity of life in multitudinous shape-shifting form. That these multifaceted poems simultaneously expose, in microscopic detail, the horrors of the dysfunctional family, while unmasking our patriarchal culture’s violation of Mother Earth, is nothing short of genius, and is what lifts Mama Amazonica into a poetic stratosphere of its own.’ - Sophie McKeand, Wales Arts Review (Best Welsh Books of the Decade, 2019)

Mama Amazonica stitches parallels between the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and a mother and daughter’s experience of mental illness. Alvi says: “We felt that in creating this duality she might have achieved what should have been impossible.” – Moniza Alvi, Judge, The Laurel Prize 2020


Pascale Petit’s seventh poetry collection Mama Amazonica (Bloodaxe Books, 2017) won the inaugural Laurel Prize in 2020, Poet Laureate Simon Armitage's award that recognises and encourages the resurgence of nature and environmental writing currently taking place in poetry. The collection was also the first poetry title to win the Royal Society of Literature's Ondaatje Prize in 2018, and was shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2018.

Mama Amazonica is set in a psychiatric ward and in the Amazonian rainforest, an asylum for animals on the brink of extinction. The book tells the story of Pascale Petit’s mentally ill mother and the consequences of abuse, as well as celebrating the beauty of the wild, whether in the mind or the natural world. It evokes the spirit of the Peruvian Amazon, informed by two trips Pascale made to the region in 2016.  It was followed in 2020 by Tiger Girl, an exploration of her grandmother’s Indian heritage and the fauna and flora of subcontinental jungles.


The Big Issue, online 30 April 2023

Mama Amazonica was chosen by poet Rishi Dastidar for a feature in The Big Issue of 30 April 2023.  It was one of his top 5 poetry books laying bare the truth about the climate emergency.

'Set in a psychiatric ward and the Amazon, this speaks to the collective climate madness that endangers species and their environments. Petit’s language is sometimes brutal, but always beautiful.' - Rishi Dastidar, The Big Issue (Top 5 poetry collections on climate change)

Read the full feature here.



Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3, Wednesday 1 May 2019, 10pm

Pascale Petit and three other winners of the RSL Ondaatje Prize took part in a special event at the British Library on 16 April 2019 to celebrate 15 years of the Prize, and to discuss writing that celebrates the spirit of place.   This event was recorded for BBC Radio 3's Free Thinking, and was broadcast on Wednesday 1 May.  Pascale talked about how the Amazon Rainforest inspired the collection, and read her poem ‘Jaguar Mama’ from Mama Amazonica.

Listen hereAlso downloadable as a BBC Arts & Ideas podcast.


The Verb, BBC Radio 3, Friday 19 October 2018, 10pm

‘The Verb explores the forest as metaphor with Terry Deary and Pascale Petit.’

Pascale Petit was one of the guests on Radio 3’s The Verb on 19 October. Pascale spoke about the Amazon rainforest both real and metaphorical. Her RSL Ondaatje Prize-winning collection Mama Amazonica is set in the Amazon rainforest, and she uses the forest to express her experience of her mother’s mental illness.  Pascale spoke about her four trips to the Peruvian rainforest.  She read her poems ‘Jaguar Girl’, ‘Rainforest in the Sleep Room’ and ‘Mama Oceana’.  She also read ‘Black Caiman with Butterflies’ as an extra poem for the podcast.  All are from her 7th collection Mama Amazonica.

Click here to listen. Pascale features from 31:20.  Downloadable as a podcast - Pascale reads an extra poem at the end of the podcast.


Danne Jobin interviews Pascale Petit, winner of the 2018 RSL Ondaatje Prize and co-founder of the Poetry School, about rainforests, mothers and fathers, and trauma.  Click here to read.

Pascale Petit spoke to Tishani Doshi about Mama Amazonica for The Hindu.  Read the feature review here.

An interview with Pascale Petit is included in the Summer 2018 issue of The RSL Review magazine. She was speaking to Eva Hoffman about winning the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2018. The three-page feature was illustrated with a photo of Pascale next to Grayson Perry at the award ceremony.  Eva Hoffman was one of the three judges of the award.

‘… Petit’s poetic narrative delivered a jolt of surprise in its sheer imaginative intensity, and the originality of its poetic language… Mama Amazonica is both unflinching in confronting the violence of her mother’s madness and a feat of understanding, even tenderness.’ – Eva Hoffman, RSL Review

While Pascale was in Belgrade for the poetry festival in May 2018 she gave an interview to the magazine Rhizome.  Read the interview here.

Mama Amazonica was also shortlisted for the Roehampton Prize 2018, along with fellow Bloodaxe poet Ahren Warner's third collection of poems Hello. Your promise has been extracted

Pascale was filmed speaking to Roehampton judge Nathalie Teitler about her 25-year obsession with the Amazon rainforest here.

[02 May 2019]

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