Imagine Otherwise: Kiki Petrosino on Writing from the Body

Imagine Otherwise: Kiki Petrosino on Writing from the Body

November 7, 2019

In this week’s episode of Imagine Otherwise, I interview Pushcart Prize–winning poet Kiki Petrosino about the role of the racialized and gendered body in her newest book Witch Wife, how Kiki teaches her students to wrestle with the histories buried in the land they’re on, why culture and art are such powerful ways to do public intellectualism, and how building a world full of conversations is how Kiki imagines otherwise.  


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You can also read the transcript and show notes on the Ideas on Fire website, which have links to Kiki’s work and all the concepts, people, and events we discuss on the show (great for teaching!).

Kiki Petrosino wearing glasses and a purple pattern shirt. Quote reads: Witch Wife is about the wildness and strangeness of the body, but it's also about the body as a form, a container for our emotions and the vessel that we use to go through our life. I use traditional and contemporary poetic forms to talk about the body's desires and also the body's frustrations.

Guest: Kiki Petrosino

Kiki Petrosino is the author of three books of poetry: Witch Wife (2017), Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013), and Fort Red Border (2009), all from Sarabande Books.

She holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

Kiki’s poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, the Nation, the New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, Jubilat, Tin House, and Ploughshares. 

Kiki is a professor of poetry at the University of Virginia. She is also the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Fellowship in Creative Writing from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Al Smith Fellowship Award from the Kentucky Arts Council.

Key quote

“I use a variety of traditional and contemporary poetic forms in order to talk about the body’s desires and also the body’s frustrations. So there are villanelles in this book, there’s a pantoum, there’s a sestina in this book. Throughout the poems there’s an exploratory speaker who is thinking about her life—sometimes thinking about her coming of age in the early sections, thinking about her marriage in some of the later sections, and coming to terms with the boundaries and also the freedom that being grounded in a body could possibly represent.”

– Kiki Petrosino on episode 99 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast


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