REVIEW | Beauty is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo by Carole Maso

image via Strand

image via Strand

title: Beauty is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo [support an independent bookseller and purchase at Strand]
author: Carole Maso
pages: 170
genre: poetry
published: 2002
source: New York Public Library

“Something strange had happened. Frida was totally nude. The collision had unfastened her clothes. Someone in the bus, probably a house painter, had been carrying a packet of powdered gold. This package broke, and the gold fell all over the bleeding body of Frida. When people saw her they cried, “¡La bailarina, la bailarina!” With the gold on her red, bloody body, they thought she was a dancer.” (p.33)

In college, I was three measly credits shy of a double major in Art History, and any lecture that focused on the work of Frida Kahlo was always a highlight. As an artist and as a woman she was vibrant, outspoken, honest, raw and incredibly talented.


Carole Maso’s poetic exploration of Kahlo’s life did for Frida lyrically what Julie Taymor did for her cinematically. Both were haunting, dreamlike, and pitch-perfect in capturing Kahlo’s aesthetic.

Maso drew from Kahlo’s own diaries, medical documents, and letters as well as her biography to craft her poetic exploration of/dialogue with Kahlo’s life and art. I found Beauty is Convulsive incredibly hard to put down, as Maso managed to really appropriate Kahlo’s use of startling, jarring, hallucinatory imagery in her work to create a piece that was moving and visceral.

“Beauty is convulsive or not at all.” (p.124)

Rubric rating: 8.5 I am adding Room Lit By Roses and Break Every Rule: Essays on Language, Longing, and Moments of Desire to my epic “to read” list, and I’m adding Beauty is Convulsive to my “must purchase” list.


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