The 2021 Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature is awarded to Kiki Petrosino for her newest poetry collection, White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia. The Spalding Prize was established by the School of Creative and Professional Writing at Spalding University to honor a work of literature that exemplifies the University’s mission and the School’s core commitment to compassion. The $7,500 prize will be awarded in November during Petrosino’s visit to the School of Writing, home of the nationally distinguished low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program.

In a public presentation, Petrosino will speak about White Blood, which also won the 2021 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas. Published by Sarabande Books in 2020, White Blood takes on the subject of Petrosino’s ancestral roots, along with the legacy of slavery and racial discrimination in Virginia.

The public is invited to attend Petrosino’s reading and presentation at 5:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, Nov. 17, in the Egan Leadership Center’s Troutman Lectorium, 901 S. Fourth St. A book-signing will follow the presentation. The event is free and ticketless, and ample free parking is available on Spalding’s campus.

School of Writing chair Kathleen Driskell says, “We’ve admired Kiki Petrosino’s work since her debut collection, Fort Red Border, was published in 2009, and her newest poetry collection, White Blood, is a timely marvel, resonant and inventive. We’re happy to honor Kiki and her beautiful work, and we look forward to her visit to our Spalding residency this November to accept the Spalding Prize.”

A review by Katie Berta in Harvard Review Online notes that the book “blends the techniques of documentary poetics, erasure, persona, and traditional lyric to document and personalize the ways that descendants of enslaved people attempt to reconnect with their family histories—only to be thwarted by the persistent effects of racist policy and violence. The collection has a searching, yearning momentum that is cut by the wry intellect of a speaker who knows her pursuit of historical meaning remains subject to the same colonial forces that influenced the lives of her ancestors.”

Petrosino holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her poems and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Best American Poetry, The Nation, The New York Times, FENCE, Gulf Coast, jubilat, Tin House and online at Ploughshares. She teaches at the University of Virginia as a Professor of Poetry. She 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, as well as the UNT Rilke Prize.

Her appearance headlines Spalding University’s Festival of Contemporary Writing, the state’s largest fall-spring reading series. The festival features readings Nov. 9-17 by faculty and alumni of Spalding’s low-residency graduate writing programs.

Presented annually to a book, play, screenplay, or body of work, the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature awards $7,500 to the author of the honored work. Spalding School of Writing faculty members nominate literary works to be considered for the award, but members of the reading community may also make nominations by sending a copy of the book, playscript, or screenplay no later than October 1 of each year to:

The Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature
School of Creative and Professional Writing
Spalding University
851 S. Fourth St.
Louisville, KY 40203

Playscripts and screenplays do not need to be published but must have been produced on stage or in film. There is no requirement for the work to have been published recently. The School Chair and Directors make the final decisions on the awardee.

Building on the success of the university’s nationally distinguished MFA in Writing program, the School of Creative and Professional Writing incorporates the MFA program, which focuses exclusively on creative writing, as well as a Master of Arts in Writing program and a graduate certificate in writing, both of which offer tracks in creative and professional writing. Together, the three low-residency programs create a multi-tiered offering for writers seeking graduate education in one, two, or four semesters. More information can be found at