Literary Arts

15 Bytes Book Award Winner Paisley Rekdal is Utah’s New Poet Laureate

Paisley Rekdal, Photo by Austen Diamond

Paisley Rekdal, winner of the inaugural 15 Bytes Book Award in poetry (2013), and professor of English at the University of Utah, has been named the new Utah Poet Laureate by the Utah Division of Arts & Museums. The Utah Poet Laureate, established in 1997, is a governor-appointed advocate for literature and the arts throughout the state who presents in communities, schools, libraries and public events.

As the Utah Poet Laureate, Rekdal will create a website that maps the writers and poets of Utah, along with all of the various literary presses and journals in the state. She plans to conduct audio interviews with as many Utah poets, writers and publishers as possible and post them on the website. The project is a spin-off of Mapping Salt Lake City, a community-created archive of art and literature, which she created and manages.

In an article posted by the University of Utah’s UNews, she is quoted as saying: “Ultimately what I’m hoping to do is make this site as inclusive as possible; I want to get poets and writers whose first language isn’t English on this site, and I want to reach out to the indigenous communities and make sure their contemporary poets and writers, as well as their literary forebears are represented. I want to include conceptual poets as well as performance poets of all stripes, too.”

Rekdal plans to expand the reach and vision to represent as much of the state as possible.

“Utah is neither monolithic or homogenous, regardless of how others outside our state perceive us. The state is composed of communities that are constantly changing, and for me the role of Poet Laureate is to respect and reflect those changes, however I can,” added Rekdal.

Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee; the hybrid genre, photo-text memoir, Intimate and five books of poetry, A Crash of RhinosSix Girls Without PantsThe Invention of the KaleidoscopeAnimal Eye and Imaginary Vessels. Her work has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, an NEA Fellowship, Pushcart Prizes, the University of Georgia Press’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, inclusion in the Best American Poetry series (2012 and 2013) and various state arts council awards.

Her poetry collection, Animal Eye was a finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Prize, the Balcones Poetry Prize and was the winner of the inaugural 15 Bytes Book Award in 2013 and the UNT Rilke Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New Republic, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House and on National Public Radio among many others. Her newest book of nonfiction, The Broken Country: On Trauma, A Crime, And The Continuing Legacy of Vietnam, won the 2016 AWP Nonfiction Prize and will be published in September. It is available now for pre-order.

Past Utah Poets Laureate:

The first Poet Laureate of Utah was David Lee, St. George, appointed by Gov. Michael Leavitt
(January 1997 to January 2003); followed by Kenneth W. Brewer, Logan, appointed by Gov. Michael Leavitt
(January 2003 to March 2006); Katharine Coles, Salt Lake City, appointed by Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr.
(March 2006 to April 2012); and Lance Larsen, Springville, appointed by Gov. Gary R. Herbert (April 2012 to April 2017).

Larsen, a professor of English and Creative Writing at Brigham Young University said of his replacement:

“I’m thrilled to have Paisley as our new Poet Laureate, one of the finest writers in the country.  Whether she’s writing about Mae West or bats, Bruce Lee or Vietnam, she brings to her observations a kindly inquisitiveness, a fierce generosity. She’s equally at home in prose as poetry, equally at home in the academy talking theory or in the classroom translating theory into words on the page.  I think of Paisley not just as an advocate for the arts but as an advocate for life, in all its rich complexity.  Paisley, I wish you a fabulous four years, as you encourage us to tell our stories, whatever they might be.”

While Rekdal is currently on leave from the University, and out of town, she can be booked for future readings and workshops through the Utah Division of Arts & Museums.

Categories: Literary Arts

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