Kiki Petrosino’s second poetry collection will be available this August, she’s responded to “The Next Big Thing” questionnaire–a self-interview project for poets about recent or upcoming work. We’ve posted her answers along with some tags for other poets also participating in the world wide web venture.
SB: Where did you begin generating ideas for Hymn for the Black Terrific?
KP: Re-reading Moby Dick, I encountered Melville’s description of “the black terrific Ahab,” and started thinking of the ways obsession can warp the mind. This book is about dysmorphia–the bodily kind, in which the sufferer sees his or her body as ugly or deformed, and the special poet’s variety, in which the poet disdains her own creative output no matter how promising it may be.
What genre does your book fall under?
Poetry. Also: Suffering. Also: Not Suffering.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The final section of the book features a recurring female figure whom I call “The Eater.” She should be played by a Venus Fly Trap.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
“Let’s all freak out about beauty.”
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published and represented by the talented people at Sarabande.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About two years.
What other books would you compare this collection to within your genre?
Better yet, here are the books that my book would like to invite on a date: Tracy K. Smith’s Life on Mars, Sabrina Orah Mark’s The Babies, Darcie Dennigan’s Madame X.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Food and eating; body image and American womanhood; Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia; two recent trips to China; one recent marriage (mine); darkness and its varieties.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The titles of the poems in one section of the book are taken from the English translations of dishes that were served to me on my trips to China. In English, the titles became whimsical and inspiring, though they had little to do with food. Examples: “Tun Back Your Head and There is the Shore,” “I Love You. No Discussion.,” and “Linked to Blood.”
Petrosino offers us wildly inventive lyrics that take as launch pad allergenesis, the contents and significance of swamps, a revised notion of marriage, and ancestors—both actual and dreamed. The eponymous second section storms through Chinese delicacies, doubts, and confident proclamations from regions of an exploratory self. Hymn for the Black Terrific is a book of pure astonishment.