Bernier-Grand, Carmen T. 2007. Frida: ¡Viva la vida! Long Live Life!. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Co. ISBN: 9780761453369
Carmen Bernier-Grand’s poetry paired with Frida Kahlo’s paintings creates a biography unlike any other. Beginning with Kahlo’s birth and ending with her death, Bernier-Grand gives insight into the life of Frida Kahlo. Each poem is inspired by a painting and gives intimate detail of Kahlo’s tumultuous life. The chronology of the poetry and placement of the paintings create a well-rounded story that serves as tribute to Kahlo’s life.
Readers, both young and old, will find Frida: ¡Viva la vida! intriguing and engaging. This collection creates a compelling biography that artistically tells Kahlo’s story. Through poetry paired with Kahlo’s artwork, Kahlo’s life story is told in a way that seems fitting with respect to her and her place in art history. Bernier-Grand gives Kahlo a voice through the poems; almost as if Kahlo is speaking directly to readers through the poems and her art. Readers are given insight to the pain Kahlo endured in a terrible bus accident that is seen in the poem “Life Begins Tomorrow”.
Life Begins Tomorrow
Enclosed in a cast,
It hurts a lot to laugh with carcajadas.
Spinal column broken in two places,
Pelvis in three,
Ribs in two,
Right leg in seven,
Left elbow dislocated,
Deep abdominal wounds.
But I laugh with carcajadas,
For Death didn’t take me.
“I’m still alive,” I tell mi jefe.
“And besides, I have something to live for,
That something is painting.”
Bernier-Grand’s poetry echoes the sentiments portrayed in Kahlo’s art. While much of Kahlo’s art focuses on the traumatic events that shaped her life, there is also a sense of empowerment. Paired with the painting The Little Deer (1946), “Wounded Deer” leaves readers with hope despite much suffereing.
My barren landscapes show my barren self.
I have lost three children.
Four arrows in my heart
to remind Diego how his shots have made me bleed.
Shooting pains in my hip,
Shooting pains in my foot,
Shooting pains in my spine.
I am not sick.
I am broken.
But I am happy to be alive.
To complete the biography, Bernier-Grand includes quotes from Kahlo’s diary, a glossary (for terms in Spanish), a chronology, detailed notes, and sources for further reading. These additions, round out the biography and add further depth to Kahlo’s story.
English and art teachers could work together to use this collection to have students create a self-portrait and then create a poem to explain a turning point in their lives.
Pair with other biographical poems such as:
My Name Is Gabito/Mi Llamo Gabito: The Life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez/La Vida De Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Monica Brown
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle