Ondaatje prize goes to ‘mythic’ poems about a mother’s mental illness

Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica takes £10,000 prize for writing evoking the spirit of a place – here blending a hospital with the rainforest

Pascale Petit’s poetry collection Mama Amazonica, which merges the Amazon rainforest with the psychiatric ward caring for her mentally ill mother, has won the RSL Ondaatje prize for books that best “evoke the spirit of a place”.

Petit’s seventh collection tells the story of her mother, exploring the consequences of abuse as she transforms into a series of creatures – a hummingbird, a wolverine, a “jaguar girl”. Petit, who dedicated the book to her troubled parent, writes: “She’s a rainforest / in a straitjacket,” And: “My mother, trying to conceal / her lithium tremor // as she carries the Amazon / on her back, // her rosettes of rivers / and oxbow lakes, // her clouds of chattering caciques, / her flocks of archangels.”

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Ondaatje prize goes to ‘mythic’ poems about a mother’s mental illness

Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica takes £10,000 prize for writing evoking the spirit of a place – here blending a hospital with the rainforest

Pascale Petit’s poetry collection Mama Amazonica, which merges the Amazon rainforest with the psychiatric ward caring for her mentally ill mother, has won the RSL Ondaatje prize for books that best “evoke the spirit of a place”.

Petit’s seventh collection tells the story of her mother, exploring the consequences of abuse as she transforms into a series of creatures – a hummingbird, a wolverine, a “jaguar girl”. Petit, who dedicated the book to her troubled parent, writes: “She’s a rainforest / in a straitjacket,” And: “My mother, trying to conceal / her lithium tremor // as she carries the Amazon / on her back, // her rosettes of rivers / and oxbow lakes, // her clouds of chattering caciques, / her flocks of archangels.”

Continue reading...