Self-Portrait with Thorns
by Gail Goepfert
47 Poems ~ 88 Pages
Price: $16.00
Publisher: Glass Lyre Press
ISBN: ISBN: 978-1-94178378-8
ISBN-13 : ‎ 978-1941783788
To Order: or Glass Lyre Press
or Amazon


Gail Goepfert’s Self-Portrait with Thorns is more than a book of ekphrastic poems in response to Frida Kahlo’s paintings; the poet took inspiration from the art and life of Frida; both have been impacted by physical and emotional pain. Kahlo spent a lifetime dealing with the repercussions of a near-deadly accident at the age of 18, a tempestuous marriage to an unfaithful husband, and her inability to conceive children; all contributed to her derailed life. Kahlo’s strong artistic voice that cries out from the canvas and Goepfert’s poetic voice come out of efforts by both to survive and thrive with pain and grief. There is a deep connection in the gut between the two, Kahlo and Goepfert–the book, the story of an idiosyncratic collision of lives between soulmates.


Gail Goepfert’s ravishing collection, Self-Portrait with Thorns, stands as stunning testimony to the power of art to salve the wounded and to serve as a durable filament connecting us one to another across the chasms of time, space, and circumstance. These poems join in lyrical conversation with the life and paintings of Frida Kahlo, the mirrored pains and losses of Kahlo and the speaker having tuned these women’s instruments to the same pitch. In poems rapturous and drenched in vivid imagery, Kahlo’s colors are as clear and bright as voices, ringing in the poet’s mouth. Self-Portrait with Thorns is a book of injury, of suffering, but it is also, ultimately, a book of empowerment celebrating how a woman bears her own life and then pulls it, lusty and wailing, into the light.
–Francesca Bell, author of Bright Stain

What does it mean to be “broken,” to live and create in a body burdened with disability or disease? In Gail Goepfert’s Self Portrait with Thorns, the poet turns to Frida Kahlo as mentor, muse, and mirror while she negotiates her own life with chronic pain. “I cape myself in the shawl of her pain / trusting that we thread the same // choker of beads.” She finds a lifeline in both the fire and fragility of Kahlo, confessing: “because I / want what’s holy and what’s unholy without asking absolution … / I’m riveted to you, spellbound by your darkest everything.” In crisp, painterly lines threaded through with music and bolts of surreal brilliance, Goepfert meditates on loss and desire. Her searing collection sings to the survivor in all of us.
–Emily Pérez, author of House of Sugar, House of Stone

Gail Goepfert’s Self-Portrait with Thorns is a master class in the ekphrastic. If Frida Kahlo’s paintings both veil and confess, so do these poems. Also thriving as personal lyric, Goepfert weaves a tapestry over the confessional that is both unflinching and surreal. Goepfert shows another way into Kahlo’s work while also demonstrating her own mettle as a substantial artist. Proving every reason, she too, deserves to be seen.
–Rogan Kelly, poet and editor of The Night Heron Barks


A Midwest poet, photographer and teacher, Gail Goepfert is an associate editor at RHINO Poetry. She has four book publications–a nod to the natural world in photoverse, in gratitude for days gone by (2011), a chapbook, A Mind on Pain (2015), Tapping Roots (2018), and Get Up, Said the World (2020). She has numerous print and web publications including The Examined Life Journal, The Night Heron Barks, Sugar House Review, and Rogue Agent; her Frida work has been featured on Open: Journal of Arts and Letters. Her first collaborative chapbook with Patrice Boyer Claeys, This Hard Business of Living, is coming out in 2021 from Seven Kitchens Press; they published a photocento collection, Honey from the Sun, in 2020.


Desperate Beauty

by Gail Goepfort
          –I paint flowers so they will not die. Frida Kahlo

We are watchers, Frida.
Aching but obedient to light,

resurrected by shocks of color.
Mornings you pluck

bougainvillea or pearly
gardenias, plait them in your hair

above your brow. I shadow
the fire of spring poppies

and the profusion of lilacs
and pink hydrangea.

With the organ pipe cactus,
you spike a sage-green fence

on the borders of La Casa Azul
tuned to the rhythms of sun

and rain–its lavender-white
flowers tint while you sleep.

Our love-eyes like greedy
tongues lick the rare-red

of wild angel trumpets.
We are aficionados. Pregnant

with joy in the garden’s cosmos.
We pursue hues like lovers’

lips, stalk columns of yellow
calla-lilies, praise the spell

of honey-petalled sunflowers
and the lobes of violet irises.

We thrive on iridescence–
our eyes attuned to its blessing.

Watchers. We bend near
in reverence to the bloom–

all pain humbled
for a time by beauty.

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