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In Memory of a Banyan Tree: Poems of the Outside World: 1985 to 2022
Three Wooden Trunks
The Country Where Everyone’s Name Is Fear: Selected Poems
Friendly Fire  
  Katrina Roberts

ISBN 978-0-9800289-1-1     $16.95  /  $18.95 (Canada)     6 x 9       

60 pp      
PUB DATE: Spring 2008       Poetry


Friendly Fire, Katrina Roberts’ cycle of fifty-two sonnets, proves the durability and flexibility of the lyric today. A taut narrative scaffolding supports Roberts’ brief, searing meditations on family, farm labor, friendship, illness, parenting. Colloquial language lends verve. Literal images evoke the texture of farm life. Roberts explores abstraction (“Forgiveness”) with apt metaphor: “I shelter the grudge, build / a rustic cabin for it in my chest, pound rusty nails / in to anchor a porch where I sit glaring./ At the close of “Malignant,” the narrator asks a timeless question: “what lies in wait for us?” Read Friendly Fire for Roberts’ sensual and wise rendering of the here and now.”

—Robin Becker, 2007 Judge for the Idaho Prize for Poetry and author of Domain of Perfect Affection


Katrina Roberts’ poems do not admit easy phrasings; instead, they are assembled word by word, each chosen with informed deliberation and a sense of pace. I have followed the track of her lines with heightened attention, eager for her next surprise.

—Billy Collins


This is a gorgeous, amazing book. I’ve been an admirer of Katrina Roberts’ poems for years and these poems confirm my long-standing affection. Buy this book now.

—Sherman Alexie, winner of the National Book Award 2007


Katrina Roberts’ Friendly Fire is a fresh, elegant, and serious poetic triumph. These poems, while introspective, speak of the world, and the reader develops a deep connection with the sensibility and mystery behind them. Katrina Roberts is the kind of poet who knows how to nurture the energies of pleasure and grief, ecstasy and despair, and bring them fully formed to the page. She explores the hidden places, discovers them and invents them. What she asks of birds might be asked of her poems: “. . . Where did the birds find this filament? Such / active circling and weaving; the dervish love calls / into being . . .” These poems are convincing and ample testimony to the truths of time and mortality, and Katrina Roberts is a poet of remarkable gifts.

—Laura Kasischke


Katrina Roberts’ new poems are wonderfully readable and engrossing, because they are so true to our conscious experience, making swift and credible transitions between perception, memory, reflection, worry, and well-being. Life is both sweet and anxious in these poems, which makes them the more real, and the pervading theme of fire has the ambiguity of Shakespeare’s ‘Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.’

—Richard Wilbur

About the Author

Katrina Roberts

Katrina Roberts has published four books of poems: Underdog, Friendly Fire, The Quick, and How Late Desire Looks. She is the Mina Schwabacher Professor in English and the Humanities at Whitman College, where she directs the Visiting Writers Reading Series. Her work appears in places such as The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Poetry, and The Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets. She and her husband, Jeremy Barker, founded Tytonidae Cellars and the Walla Walla Distilling Company in southeast Washington State, where they live on a small farm with their three young children.

Katrina's web page can be found at


Winner of the Idaho Prize for Poetry 2007 selected by Robin Becker

Finalist For the 2009 Washington State Book Award for Poetry


I stand there under the high limbs of locust
watching my father point a black gun into the air

his arms steepled for the stillness
required to split the proverbial hair

with a BB. I would like to throw a red hat
to catch what will smack from the barrel

but instead the songbird drops fast—a warm
stone through liquid swimming between us.

The stink of yellow sulfur thick. And the twist
of his mouth, like tangled purple boughs

or crossed legs of what he never dreamed he’d hit.
Years after, I will admit only to so much. Blue

moon tomorrow. Do we ever get a second
chance? It’s what I don’t say that speaks loudest.



Something about a house feels sound: walls and panes
to keep what’s in in place; what’s out, remote. It’s like that

on a boat, too, or can be, though years ago I sailed offshore
all night through gales ravaging waters off Massachusetts’

coast, expecting any moment to feel the wet, black brine
on skin. I saw the sloop splinter in surf, debated what I’d flail

to grasp, counted green lights flashing where there were
none. Rain whipped the rigging ragged, drenched our galley,

pricked the backs of necks where slickers met hats almost.
So when this storm kicks up at 4 am, wakes my boys with

hail shattering glass the living room’s length, I run through
rooms to hold them close; the elder quakes as needles rend

sky, igniting Lynch’s field like old flashbulb black & whites.
The cold floods in around us; I cannot say: we’re safe.