Frida: Viva La Vida!, by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

Viva La VidaA biography of Frida Kahlo, narrated in first-person poems.

The trouble I generally have with nonfiction-in-poetry is that it’s often not that good as poetry. I’ll make an exception for Marilyn Carver’s book on Emmett Till, but that’s it. The poems here are just good enough: never bad, never mawkish or hagiographical or cliched, but they rarely sing like poetry. Except – the book does include lots of color prints of Kahlo’s paintings, and her most symbolic and surrealistic paintings are accompanied by poems that give them context and background. Do “San Francisco,” “The Two Fridas,” “My Diego My Child” explain too much? Well – they explain enough, and I’m able to understand the paintings in a way I otherwise might not have been able to.

I do feel some small discomfort for the author putting words in Kahlo’s mouth, but a lot of the phrases are actually taken from diaries and correspondence and other biographical sources, which is pretty neat!

Worth reading just for the artwork, good poetry or no.

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