Poetry News

Kiki Petrosino Discusses Change and People at PBS Newshour

By Harriet Staff


For PBS Newshour's on-going exploration about poetry, Corrine Segal considers Kiki Petrosino and her writing. Petrosino began thinking about poetry while listening to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 Countdown as a child in the backseat of her parents's car. More:

Many nights, the family would drive to and from Catonsville Community College near Baltimore to pick up Petrosino’s father, a public school teacher who taught evening classes on the side. And on those trips, Petrosino’s mother would play Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 Countdown and ask her and her sister: What’s happening in this song? How is the person feeling, and what happened to them to make them write the song?

“I think about that experience when I think about the beginning of my own life as a poet — because poems are songs, the first poems were songs,” she said. “That’s where I’m coming from.”

Now, Petrosino asks those same questions using poetry to deconstruct memory, time and the changes that have taken place in her life.

“I think that I’m always contemplating the key question of, can people change? And I really still don’t know the answer,” she said. “Some days I think yes, it seems very apparent to me that people can change and people do change all the time. But on other days, I think no — people are fundamentally who they are and what we perceive as change is just us discovering new things about ourselves and the people around us. It’s a mystery that my poetry helps me investigate.”

Petrosino grew up in north Baltimore before her family moved 45 minutes away from the city, across the border with Pennsylvania. While working toward a degree from the University of Virginia, she spent a semester in Florence — an experience that she said encouraged her to live in Switzerland after college, teaching English and Italian at The American School in Switzerland.

Her poem “Pastoral” began as a meditation on her time in Europe. “It’s me looking back and thinking, to what extent [am] I the same person that I was at that time and to what extent am I a completely different person?” she said. [...]

Learn more at PBS Newshour.

Originally Published: September 22nd, 2015