Kept her company. It stayed
though husbands, lovers, doctors 
came and went. A thing darker in paint 
than life. It sat for every portrait.

~ from 'Kahlo's Moustache' by Chloe Wilson


The object I chose to write a response to is an alebrije (a Mexican folk-art sculpture in the shape of an animal, real or imaginary). Mine is a rabbit; I bought it from a workshop in Oaxaca.

It has not been my approach, in this poem, to describe the object in a direct way. In fact, I don’t mention it at all. Rather, I thought about things I associate with this object; the alebrije reminded me of Mexico, which reminded me of Frida Kahlo’s home, the Casa Azul, and of her paintings.

While I was in Mexico, I also read a biography of Kahlo, by Hayden Herrera. In it, Herrera discusses Kahlo’s famous moustache, which she frequently exaggerated in her paintings (and which, legend has it, she used to groom with a particular comb). Kahlo’s connection to her moustache intrigued me, as it suggested defiance (against gender roles and ideals of feminine beauty), but also Kahlo’s deliberate self-creation, or self-mythologising. The ongoing work of creating and maintaining an identity, a public persona, was one of the things that sustained Kahlo throughout her life, which was often beset by personal difficulty. It was a constant, while other things (her husband, her lovers, her health, her money etc) came and went.

The poem is in pantoum form. I chose this form because the repetition of lines allowed me to explore connections and tensions in Kahlo’s biography - her passionate relationships and her sense of loneliness, her fear of death and her flamboyant embrace of it, her despair against her joy. 




Chloe Wilson is a commisioned poet for Red Room Poetry Object.

Chloe Wilson is the author of two poetry collections, The Mermaid Problem and Not Fox Nor Axe. She has been awarded the John Marsden Prize for Young Australian Writers, the (Melbourne) Lord Mayor´s Creative Writing Award for Poetry, the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize and the Arts Queensland Val Vallis Award. She lives in Melbourne.... read more »

Chloe will be judging the Val Vallis Award this year. Find out more »

To find out more:

The Red Room Poetry Object »
Red Room Poetry Object is a poetry writing competition inviting young writers and their teachers from across Australia and New Zealand to submit poems about 'talismanic' objects that are special to them. Red Room Poetry Object is open to students in grades 3-10 and their teachers. In 2015, Red Room Poetry Object linked over 160 school communities and published 2560 student and teacher poems.