T.J. Beitelman's Reviews > Fort Red Border

Fort Red Border by Kiki Petrosino
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's review
Apr 25, 2012

it was amazing
Read on April 25, 2012

This is a great first book, and that's not damning it with faint praise. Great first books don't have to be perfect. What a great first book has to do is this: it has to announce that this is somebody who's got something very important to say, somebody who is likely to have something important to say for a really long time. It also invites and rewards re-reading. (Just like any good book does).

Some great first books: Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions by Maurice Manning. Corinna A-maying the Apocalypse by Darcie Dennigan. Harmonium by Wallace Stevens. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Lucy Corin's Everyday Psychokillers. Zadie Smith's White Teeth. Etc.

Works for movies and albums, too.

The 400 Blows.
sex, lies, and videotape.
Surfer Rosa.


Kiki Petrosino is obviously smarter than just about everybody you're ever going to encounter. But (lucky for us) she's got more than just that going for her. She knows how to be sad and how to savor things with joy and sensuality. Her poems are artifacts of that essential human range.

Count me in the group that loves her Valentines the best. Heart (appropriately enough). Vulnerability. Smarts. Real insight into what it means to want, to love, to lose, to be -- you know -- a verifiable (and very particular) human being on Planet Earth. I'm actually kind of sad that the Redford premise overshadows them (at least from your garden variety reviewer's perspective).

I'm less enamored of the Otolaryngology section in the middle -- not that there's not a great deal of virtuosic manipulation/expression of language (and even human emotion) there. I just sometimes felt a little bit like those were the Generation Next compulsories -- where she's showing she knows how to write poems that can get into Fence and Forklift, Ohio.

Don't get me wrong: I like those kinds of poems a lot of times, whether they're by Petrosino or other folks (and, PS, I'd love to get some of my poems in Fence and Forklift, Ohio); it's just that other poems in Fort Red Border connected with me on a much deeper level -- such that I very much look forward to Petrosino's next collections. Plural. And so should you.

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