Kiki Petrosino teaches at the University of Louisville, where I received my undergraduate degree. Though I wasn’t lucky enough to take a class of hers, I remember discovering her work in the library and thinking, “The person who wrote these poems is on this campus?” I keep her books within arm’s reach; one thing I continue to appreciate about her work is her insistence on writing into or from whatever spaces she feels are hers. In this interview conducted via email, we discuss how place and lineages (familial and poetic) inform her work, particularly in her latest collection, Hymn for the Black Terrific (2013, Sarabande Books)—Jeremy Michael Clark
Jeremy Michael Clark: During a recent conversation between the writer Claudia Rankine and the artist Carrie Mae Weems, Rankine said that where some people see her as a poet who writes about race, she sees herself as someone who writes about how people negotiate space, in which race necessarily plays a role. Like Rankine, I see your work as concerned with negotiating space. In your last book, Hymn for the Black Terrific, it seems to be negotiated, implicitly & explicitly, on different registers (personal space, familial lineage, historical narrative, space in the racial imagination of America, etc.). When I read that book, I get a sense that the boundaries are not set in stone. Can you talk about moving between these various spaces?