Kiki Petrosino, a professor of English at the Univerity of Virginia, has been awarded the 2021 Rilke Prize. Since 2012, the University of North Texas’s department of English has awarded the annual Rilke Prize to recognize exceptional artistry and vision by a mid-career poet. The prize is named after the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926), a writer whose work embodies the qualities of ambition, intellectual and imaginative scope, and technical mastery. The award includes a $10,000 cash prize.
Professor Petrosino was honored for her poetry collection White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia (Sarabande Books, 2020). The collection is a culmination of her ancestral research. In it, Petrosino weaves together a variety of poetic forms – villanelles, a heroic crown, and erasure – to explore her Black heritage and larger societal issues with the legacy of slavery and race relations in America.
“I’m thrilled by this recognition,” Professor Petrosino said. “I wrote White Blood for my family, to honor the legacies of my ancestors, and the fact that readers are holding this book close to their hearts means more to me than I can say. I’m filled with wonder and gratitude for this chance to connect.”
Professor Petrosino is a graduate of the University of Virginia. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa.