Katie Peterson

I like a poem that feels logical but is not—a poem in which thinking takes the shape of a hallucination. I like a poem in which all of my intelligence fails. I am forced to use other tools: desire, anger, recklessness. I pursue beauty and memory not to preserve them but to try, against odds, to preserve that perishable pursuit.

Rilke Prize

New Issues Poetry Prize




The haunting poems that make up Katie Peterson’s Permission move, smoke-like, through landscapes, both interior and those belonging to the natural world, landscapes that interpenetrate in often unexpected, sometimes startling fashion.It is a poetry of search, chiefly for completion or wholeness, amidst the world of forms and various weathers, not least the weather of sexual desire, and, almost as if by happenstance, unearthing all manner of wonders along the way.
— August Kleinzahler
Stark, smart, funereal, terrifying at times. . . . Peterson’s is a careful, serious poetry, difficult in the way that real life is difficult, but clear and chilly as a long-held regret.
Publishers Weekly

Katie Peterson is the author of three collections of poetry, The Accounts (University of Chicago Press, 2013), winner of the 2014 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas; Permission (New Issues, 2013);  and This One Tree (New Issues, 2006), winner of the New Issues Poetry Prize. She is the editor of New Selected Poems of Robert Lowell (FSG, 2017). Her fourth collection of poems, A Piece of Good News, will be published in February 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her poems and criticism have appeared in Poetry, The Boston Review, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.

When asked about the role of elegy and mourning in The Accounts, which deals with the loss of the poet’s mother, Peterson states, “The elegy, as a poetic form, tries to turn the mourner back into a self, reintegrated with reality: the elegy seeks to mourn, but also to find a more permanent way of remembering the dead as a way of living with loss….Losing my mother was not the same as losing a beautiful thing. It was more like losing a beautiful way of understanding, a most fantastic philosophy. And in this way, her loss felt as much the ruin of a civilization as the loss of a person. The charge of elegist is to repair the world; the challenge is that the world cannot be fixed, and must be made new.”

Born in Menlo Park, California, Peterson earned a BA at Stanford University and a PhD at Harvard University. She has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Summer Literary Seminars and received a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. She has taught at Bennington College and Deep Springs College, where she was the Robert B. Aird Chair of Humanities. Peterson is currently on the English faculty at the University of California-Davis, and lives in California with her husband, photographer Young Suh, and their daughter.



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