Book Awards | Literary Arts

Paisley Rekdal’s Imaginary Vessels wins Book Award for Poetry

Paisley Rekdal, Photo by Austen Diamond

15 Bytes is pleased to announce the winner of the 2017 15 Bytes Book Award for Poetry:  Paisley Rekdal for Imaginary Vessels.

The judges’ citation for the book follows:

In a luminescent language, Paisley Rekdal’s fifth collection of poetry, “Imaginary Vessels,” explores a broad assortment of both the anticipated and most unexpected spaces in life, prying open their containers like oysters, using language as her blade, for our consideration, thought, and pleasure. Less physically grounded than her earlier Animal Eye, the contrasting flashes of beauty and violence found in the poetry collected here remind the reader that the spaces we create, discover, and occupy both invite and defy articulation. They are identifiable, yet resist definition. Rekdal’s efforts to understand these spaces and their containers reach a dark and intimate crescendo in the fourth section of the book, “Shooting the Skulls:  A Wartime Devotional,” in which she offers verse to accompany a series of photographs by Andrea Modica. Modica’s gallery of photographs displays a series of anonymous human skulls discovered buried in the grounds of The Colorado Mental Heath Institute. Where the photography arrestingly captures the broken contours and unavoidable physicality of the skulls, Rekdal’s poetry seems to seek their missing souls, the flash of life that, once present in these housings, has long left. In the verse of the new, just-installed Utah Poet Laureate, the skulls in these images are empty houses, abandoned by their occupants, and narratives of the shocking and violent lives of the patients at the Institute, a microcosmic reflection of the Stygian mysteries of the human condition and, more specifically, of our willingness to inflict violence upon one another.

You can read the 15 Bytes review of the work here.


Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), is one of three collections of poetry that were finalists for the 5th Annual 15 Bytes Book Award, the winning author of which receives a modest cash prize. You can read the citations of the two finalists, Alex Caldiero (Who is the Dancer, What is the Dance? (Saltfront) and Katharine Coles (Flight, Red Hen Press) here.

Congratulations to Paisley Rekdal, winner of the 2017 15 Bytes Book Award in Poetry for her Imaginary Vessels!

In addition to Imaginary Vessels, Paisley Rekdal is the author of the poetry collections A Crash of Rhinos (2000), Six Girls Without Pants (2002), The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (2007) as well as the book of essays The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee: Observations on Not Fitting In (2000) and most recently the nonfiction book The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam. She has been honored with a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, and a Fulbright Fellowship to South Korea. Rekdal teaches at the University of Utah and was named Utah Poet Laureate earlier this year.

Rekdal will appear Oct. 10, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. to read from and discuss her latest work The Broken Country at the Viridian Center, 8030 S. 1825 West in West Jordan as part of the weeks-long, statewide Utah Humanities Book Festival. The event is free and open to the public.

Rekdal will also appear with the two finalists of the 15 Bytes Book Award in Poetry, Katharine Coles and Alex Caldiero, Nov. 9, 2017, at 7:00 p.m. for a celebration and reading at The Printed Garden bookstore, 9945 S. Union Square, Suite A, in Sandy. The event is free and open to the public.

Categories: Book Awards | Literary Arts

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