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Kiki Petrosino, Winner of the 2021 Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice

by Kathleen Driskell, Chair of the School of Creative & Professional Writing at Spalding University

I am pleased to announce that the 2021 Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice is awarded to Kiki Petrosino for her newest poetry collection White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia published by Sarabande Books in 2020.

The Spalding Prize was established by the School of Writing to honor a work of literature that exemplifies the mission of Spalding University and our community’s core commitment to compassion and includes a cash award of $7,500.

RESIDENCY BOOK IN COMMON As our cross-genre area of study in the fall is poetry, White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia (Sarabande 2020) will also be our Residency Book in Common. The poems in White Blood focus on Kiki’s ancestral roots, along with the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination in Virginia. Sarabande says “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.” White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia was also recently awarded the 2021 UNT Rilke Prize and has been cited on many notable book lists, including Publishers Weekly’s “An Anti-Racist Poetry Reading List,”’s “National Poetry Month Books for 2020,” and the “New and Noteworthy” list at the New York Times Book Review.

Kiki’s book features several erasure poems that I think will be particularly thought-provoking for all students. I look forward to discussing that poetic strategy, as well as other beautiful poems in White Blood, with students when we convene for fall residency, November 13-20.

The first evening of residency, Saturday, November 13, we will come together for a community discussion on White Blood. To prepare for this conversation, students and faculty should read White Blood before arriving residency, taking care to make notes about things they wish to contribute during our community conversation.

On Wednesday evening, November 17 at 6 pm, Kiki visits residency as our distinguished visiting writer to receive her award and read from and talk about her work. This residency presentation is open to the greater Louisville community as well as School of Writing students, faculty, and alumni. A reception and book-signing by Kiki will take place immediately after her presentation.

The next morning, Thursday, November 18, the School of Writing residency will feature a 45-minute Q & A session with Kiki and our students, alumni, and faculty members.

Kiki is the author of three other 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. Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, The Nation, The New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, Jubilat, Tin House, and online at Ploughshares. Previously director of creative writing at the University of Louisville and faculty member at Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing, she now teaches at the University of Virginia as a professor of poetry. Petrosino is 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. She lives in Charlottesville.


The residency book in common is always selected from the cross-genre area that is featured, on a rotating basis, at our upcoming residency. In addition to reading and discussing White Blood and having Kiki as a distinguished visiting writer at Fall residency, I will present a plenary lecture that explores the craft of poetry, especially focusing on how those poetic techniques can be useful to writers working in other genres. During the residency, all students are assigned cross-genre exercises to provide opportunities for guided practice in a genre that may be unfamiliar to them.

As part of our cross-genre focus in poetry this fall 2021, students should bring a passage of text that holds some personal connection for them to residency to be used in a cross-genre assignment. These texts may be letters or emails addressed to students, junk mail addressed to the student, advertising copy, passages from textbooks, newspaper articles, scholarly essays, book reviews or blog posts. Other ideas may occur to students, but it's not advisable to bring in text from contemporary writers. Texts should be no shorter than 150 words.


Kathleen Driskell is chair of the School of Creative and Professional Writing at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky and the editor in chief of Good River Review. She’s the author of four collections of poetry including Blue Etiquette, a finalist for the Weatherford Award; Next Door to the Dead, winner of the 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award, eed Across Snow, a Poetry Foundation national bestseller. Her poems and essays have appeared in many magazines including Shenandoah, Southern Review, and Appalachian Review and have been featured in anthologies and online at Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and American Life in Poetry. She is currently Chair of the Board of Directors of AWP.


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