Zoë Brigley


This essay works to review the poetry of the Welsh-French writer Pascale Petit through the lens of recent theoretical scholarship relating to women, violence, and confession. More specifically, through a detailed analysis of two of her collections, The Zoo Father (2001) and The Wounded Deer (2005), I examine the ways in which Petit attempts to extricate confessional poetry from the stereotype of self-indulgent, ‘awful’ femininity outlined by Deryn Rees-Jones in Consorting with Angels (2005). It is my view that by recapitulating stories of women and violence in a variety of new contexts, Petit is able to reconfigure the politics of sexual violence, radically reconceptualizing the traditional meaning of victimhood, the relationship between victims and perpetrators, and the stubbornly gendered notions of activity and passivity. This, I argue, is demonstrated most explicitly in the mythological poems of The Zoo Father, and in Petit’s poems about Frida Kahlo in The Wounded Deer. Locating the poetry of Petit alongside the painting of Frida Kahlo, I analyze the extent to which these artists are identified as ‘confessional,’ and interrogate the validity, as well as the usefulness, of this problematic (and gendered) descriptor.

Author Biography

Zoë Brigley is a Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Northampton University. She is also a poet, her first collection, The Secret, was published by Bloodaxe in 2007.