Imperfection Gives Life – A Poem by Niki de Saint Phalle

Part I of an autograph poem by the French American artist Niki de Saint Phalle



I like roundness.
I like roundness, curves,
wavy lines.
The world is round. the world
is a breast.
I don’t like right angles
they scare me. The right angle wants to
kill me. The right angle is an assassin.
The point of the right angle
is a knife.
The right angle is pain.


I don’t like symmetry.
I like imperfection.
My circles are never
This is my choice.
Perfection is cold.
Imperfection gives life.
I love the imaginary
the way a monk can love
The imaginary is my refuge
my palace.


Imagination leads me
inside what is square and
what is round.
I am blind. My sculptures
are my eyes.
Imagination is the rainbow.
Happiness is imaginary.
What is imaginary is real.

Niki de Saint Phalle from What is Now Known Was Once Only Imagined –
An (Auto)biography of Niki de Saint Phalle, by Nicole Rudick, Siglio Press, 2022

So pleased to feature this poem during National Poetry Month. It comes from an astonishing work of art itself, the so called  (Auto)biography of Niki de Saint Phalle published by Siglio Press last year. What makes this book stand out is that it was assembled solely from Niki’s own’s words (mostly her autograph writing) and art as curated by American writer and editor Nicole Rudick. (More on the artist, performance artist and sculptor, Niki de Sainte Phalle below.)

There is so much I like in Niki’s three-part poem. It captures something of Niki’s unconventional voice but also her artistic originality and wildness. So much of Niki’s art celebrated roundness and in that sense was much more aligned to a feminine sensibility then to a masculine one I associate more with straight lines and right angles.

I so appreciate the cheekiness of these lines:

Imperfection gives life.
I love the imaginary
the way a monk can love

And the truth of these lines holds so true for me in the writing of poetry:

I am blind. My sculptures
are my eyes.

I have mentioned Niki de Saint Phalle in two previous posts. Here is what I said in the most recent of those posts from September 15th, 2022.

Oh, the extraordinary heart and imagination of norm-defying Niki de Saint Phalle, who, early in her career was a model featured in Vogue (and on the cover) and in a cover for Life Magazine but most importantly became a ground-breaking artist and sculptor of the The Nouveaux Realistes Movement (founded in 1960) in Paris.

De Saint Phalle achieved celebrity status with her her performance art especially her so called shootings! Also, from her ninety-foot long sculture installed in a museum in Stockhom of a reclining woman where the viewers entered between her legs and through the vagina. De Saint Phalle loved to stir things up especially when it came to celebrate women in her so-called exuberant full-bodied Nana sculptures, her way of liberating women and the feminine from societal constraints and expectations.

Here is a description of her so-called shootings from a 2014 article from Dazed: “Saint Phalle really made her name in 1961 with her shooting paintings. She would attach containers of coloured liquid paint into her sculptural paintings that would burst when hit by bullets. People would line up to shoot the art at openings, watching as blasts of colour splattered like blood over the work.”

But perhaps her longest lasting legacy was her twenty-two year project in Garavicchio, Tuscany, Italy. It was there in collaboration with her long-time artistic partner and, for a while, her husband, Jean Tinguely, she built her famous Tarot Garden (Il Giardino dei Tarochi) made up of massive and monumental sculptures/constructions (some up to fifty feet high) based on the figures representing the Major Arcana of the Tarot. Many of her astonishing creations there can be walked through and one was large enough (the Empress) that de Saint Phalle lived in in it for a while.


  1. Robert D. Shepherd
    Posted April 5, 2023 at 2:24 pm | Permalink


  2. Richard Osler
    Posted April 10, 2023 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much Robert. What a creative force Niki was.

  3. Sheila Conner
    Posted April 6, 2023 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    So lovely reading this and remember that wonderful day in Italy when we visited her world. Still one of my favorites!

  4. Richard Osler
    Posted April 10, 2023 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    What a great day and place! I am going back in 2024! Would love to have you back! Big love to you Sheila!

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