A review of

Fort Red Border

by Kiki Petrosino

Central question: What does an imaginary love affair with an American icon do to your self-esteem?
Partial list of foods named: coffee, baguette, chèvre, rucola, pommes frites, shrimp, flapjacks, grilled Asiago Mastercrust, chocolate, smoked salt, Lion bar, tamarind, Oreo, mustard, relish, chicken, macaroni, dry noodles, coconut, cod, peanut, madeleines, fried zucchini flowers, tomato salad, salami, ice cream, peanut butter sandwich, Pop-Tarts, duck, gingerbread, white beans, M&Ms, 85 percent lean beef, espresso, rigatoni all’arrabbiata, onions, ham, green beans amandine, trout, sugar; Representative lines: “I bet you can’t speak too well / with a neck full of blades. / I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure. // Once, I saw the moon.”

The first poem in Fort Red Border begins when Robert Redford, cast as the poet’s beloved, is about to shampoo her hard-to-tame Afro with cold well-water he’s tried to warm in the sun. “That’s the point of doing things natural,” she says, wishing the water were warmer: “You get what the sun dishes out, not what you customize. / The sun is not a customizable thing.” The wound at the center of Kiki Petrosino’s remarkable debut is the gap between the dished-out givens of reality and the words and worlds we “customize” out of desire. Each of the book’s three sections dramatizes how even in our high-flying fantasy lives, the ordinariness of the natural reasserts itself as a source of both limitation and, paradoxically, extraordinary beauty.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—David Gorin

David Gorin is an MFA student in poetry at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He holds degrees in English Literature from Yale University, where he was and will be writing a dissertation on irony and sincerity in post-1945 American literature.

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