Pascale Petit: inspiration, writer's block and cloning
Ahead of Pascale Petit's event at The Manchester Art Gallery on 19th October, we asked her a few questions about influences, inspirations and alternative careers. Here are her answers:
MLF: What are you reading at the moment?
PP: Gauguin’s Letters from the South Seas and Handbook of Polynesian Mythology (I’m about to work in the Gauguin exhibition at Tate Modern teaching my Poetry from Art class), María Sabina edited by Jerome Rothenberg, Eduardo El Curandero: The Words of a Peruvian Healer, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
MLF: What made you want to be a writer? Who/ what is your biggest inspiration?
PP: Keats’ ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. I first heard this read out by the teacher at school when I was fifteen and it spoke to me. It was the deepest, saddest and most mystical thing I‘d heard. I knew then I wanted to write poetry.
MLF: If you could meet any writer, artist, musician (alive or dead) who would it be and why?
PP: I’d like to meet Fray Cesáreo de Armellada, a Venezuelan monk (1908–1996) who lived with the Pemón tribe of Venezuela’s Lost World and compiled a Spanish/Pemón dictionary. He also wrote transcripts of their myths and chants. I have a longstanding obsession with the otherworldly table mountains of that area and the Pemón know them intimately. He lived with them for many years and I’d loved to be able to talk to him about their culture and relationship with that landscape.
MLF: What would you be if not a writer?
PP: A visual artist. I was a sculptor for the first part of my life and trained in fine arts, but gave that up to concentrate on writing. If I could clone myself and have double the time and energy I’d do both.
MLF: Do you ever get writer's block? If you do, how do you get over it?
PP: Yes I do. I read poems that excite me and search for new discoveries, including poets in translation, or I go to exhibitions, or I travel, sometimes somewhere remote. I read non-fiction books and may get ideas from these – books about all kinds of passions of mine that can lead to poems, lots on myths, natural history, artists, ethnography. I also try to tell myself that it isn’t a block but a transition and hopefully poems or even new directions are gestating.
MLF: Which piece of your own work are you most proud of?
PP: That’s hard to answer because I’m never satisfied with my work. I guess though that my own favourite books are The Zoo Father and What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo.
MLF: What do you see in your future?
PP: I’m working on my first novel and hope to finish it next year. I also want to write short stories. As for poems, I’ve no idea what comes next now that I can no longer write in Frida Kahlo’s voice! Maybe something will grow out of my novel and the research for that. There is a lot of material floating around in my head.
MLF: What are you looking forward to most at MLF?
PP: I’m really looking forward to reading at Manchester Art Gallery. I visited the Angels of Anarchy exhibition there recently and adored it and the gallery space. I wish I could stay for other MLF events, but have to go there and back in one day from London as I’ve a lot of travel for readings that week.
Don't miss Pascale read from her poerty collection What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo tomorrow (19th October) at Manchester Art Gallery. Find out more/book tickets here.