The 2021 University of North Texas Rilke Prize, which honors emerging poets, has been awarded to Kiki Petrosino for White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia.
Since 2012, the award has focused on supporting the careers of emerging poets. Past Rilke Prize winners have gone on to achieve further career success with nearly all publishing additional works of poetry and receiving other accolades in the field.
With White Blood, Kiki Petrosino explores what it means to be Black in America and to search for one’s ancestors.
Kiki Petrosino turns her gaze to Virginia, where she digs into her genealogical and intellectual roots, while contemplating the knotty legacies of slavery and discrimination in the Upper South. From a stunning double crown sonnet, to erasure poetry contained within DNA testing results, the poems in this collection are as wide-ranging in form as they are bountiful in wordplay and truth. In her poem “The Shop at Monticello,” she writes: “I’m a black body in this Commonwealth, which turned black bodies/ into money. Now, I have money to spend on little trinkets to remind me/ of this fact. I’m a money machine & my body constitutes the common wealth.”
Speaking to history, loss, and injustice with wisdom, innovation, and a scientific determination to find the poetic truth, White Blood plants Petrosino’s name ever more firmly in the contemporary canon.