Literary Arts: Book Review
Violence and Warmth
Paisley Redkal's Animal Eye, winner of the 2013 15 Bytes Book Award for Poetry
Paisley Rekdal’s Animal Eye is one of the only books of poetry I devour compulsively in one sitting. After three poems, I nod: So that’s why she won the Rilke. (The Rilke is one of the most coveted poetry prizes around; only two years old, it comes with a $10,000 pat on the back.) I turn the page and have the same experience: it’s another unexpected ending, another graceful collusion of violence and warmth.
Rekdal doesn’t have her nose in the air. She spins the colloquial and the elegant, the “shit and the satin,” and I revel in the fierce pleasure her speaker feels being outwitted by a horse and turned to by a lover.
Her poems are powerful for their juxtaposition. In Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum we rubber-neck the living dead and grin at an epitaph, “Passenger, . . . lament not his fate, / for were he living, / thou would’st be dead.” But sprinkled throughout the wax images, Rekdal leads us into an exam room where her mother is undressed, and nobody is joking anymore “about the pesticides her father used, little silver canister / swinging at his hip.” The surgery goes poorly. Cancer blossoms on the x-ray “like a Japanese lotus in a dish of water,” and we’re wrought by the return of the earlier address: “Passenger: / I had no idea what it meant, / lingering alone, black-eyed in doorways—”
In one of my favorite poems, her oft-silent grandfather returns in a dream. After his passing, Rekdal was stunned to discover his journals of fluent Chinese and English. But even in her dream he’s voiceless, instead pressing to her “a box / filled with stamps torn off missives from Taiwan / and Russia, Denmark, Sweden, each one faded / yet folded carefully up, some in onionskin,” as though the remnant of communication could ever stand in for the real thing. “Why did he believe such minutiae needed preserving?” she asks, and in her dream the loss echoes.
Despite these griefs, despite the dying salmon and gutted caribou, her poetry is vibrant, exciting, and full of pleasure. And not in a bleeding heart way. There’s true ambivalence here. To Levi Rubeck of BOMBLOG she said, “I’m as attracted to the discomfiting as I am to the beautiful, which is part of our experience of the sublime anyway, isn’t it?”
In “Arctic Scale,” “oil rigs dip their certain needles / and the Inuit women’s breast milk has been declared / hazardous waste.” Yet in the very next stanza Rekdal declares, “It’s so beautiful here. Here is a wall-sized field of green / with patches of corn silk. Here is a miraculous range / seamed with what I have to be told is coal, / the enormous, glassy sea chattering its blue / to the sky, the glacier clasped between them / quietly disappearing.”
In her email exchange with Rubeck she says romanticizing landscape doesn’t serve us. “There was a wonderful piece in the New York Times recently about the BLM in Utah, and the fact that the community of Vernal wanted to rake in all this oil money from drilling but, to their great surprise, realized that they now had the second worst air quality in the U.S. from its effects on the ozone. It’s not enough to see the natural world as simply beautiful, or simply damaged, or simply an economic opportunity. The sad thing is, the natural world is all these things to us now, and advocating for it means we have to discuss—and see—the uglier 'meanings' it has for us.”
While the complexity of her voice falters in a few of the last poems, Rekdal’s collection is a stunning and hungry portal into intimacy. We are the animal in Animal Eye, trying to see, attempting to understand, and turning to the physical for comfort.
Artists of Utah News
2013 15 Bytes Book Awards
2013 saw the introduction of a number of new programs at Artists of Utah, including the 15 Bytes Book Awards. This competition is open to Utah authors and authors of literary or visual arts books with a Utah theme or setting.
Paisley Rekdal, reviewed above, is the recipient of the 2013 15 Bytes Book Award in Poetry.
In the November edition of 15 Bytes we announced and reviewed the recipient of the prize in Fiction, Barbara K. Richardson's Tributary, published by Torrey House Press.
The recipient of the award in Art is LeConte Stewart Masterworks, by Mary Muir, Donna L. Poulton, Vern G. Swanson and Robert Davis, published by Gibbs Smith, which was reviewed in the December 2012 edition of 15 Bytes.
In January we will begin accepting nominations for the 2014 15 Bytes Book Awards, which will recognize books published in 2013, and announce the winners in the spring of 2014.
Up and Upcoming: To The North
Exhibition Listings in Northern Utah
GALLERY MAR UP: Yonder, an exhibition featuring Bridgette Meinhold, Andrzej Skorut, and Warren Neary. UPCOMING: Surface+Strata, featuring the work of Maura Allen and Nina Tichava.|1|
Kimball Art Center UP: Park City Collects features pieces from 12 diverse private collections from around Park City. Unique pieces from such notable artists as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alvin Gittins, Jeremy Lipking, Javier Pinon, Donald Morris, Henri Matisse and Annie Leibovitz to name just a few, will be exceptionally on loan. AND: Spiral Bound by Adam Greener. In his large-scale loose-leafs, seemingly torn from the notebook of a distracted grade-schooler, Adam Greener explores the ways in which the youthful imagination processes the chaotic swirl of social and cultural imagery that seeks to shape, stimulate, and confine it all at once.
MEYER GALLERY UP: A Utah native and University of Utah graduate, Adam Hansen creates work of painterly realism including still lifes and portraits.|2|UPCOMING: New work by Santiago Michalek.
DISTRICT GALLERY UP: Presenting a solo show featuring Uruguayan artist Santiago Garcia.|3|
J-GO GALLERY UPCOMING: Winter Sol celebrates the upcoming winter season with the unveiling of our 2014 collection which includes new work from each of the gallery's 20+ artists. AND: Sparkle, annual art jewelry exhibit.
TERZIAN GALERIES UP: Henry Stinson. Henry's love of painting the unique stems from his inability to resist capturing those unusual moments in life that make each of us step back and think. Whatever the origin, Henry has the singular ability to translate moments into paintings, making his work popular with corporate and private collectors both in the US and abroad.
BOUNTIFUL/DAVIS ART CENTER UP: 2013 Holiday Show and Sale.
Eccles Community Art Center UP: Works by father and son Steve and Jake Songer. AND: Works by husband and wife Bonnie and Jack Wahlen.
Gallery at the Station UP: New work by Robert Call, Mac Stevenson, Keith Dabb, Keith Dagley, Carol Fulton and Paul Trentelman.
WHITESPACE UP: Patrajdas Contemporary, a Utah-based contemporary art project, presents Corpo/ Ethereal, featuring blood paintings and 3D immersive environment by Jordan Eagles,|4| sculpture by Emil Alzamora|5|and glass drawings by Jeff Wallin.|6| Exhibition focuses on the metaphysical intersections of body and spirit (see our review in the November 2013 edition). Shaw Gallery (at Weber State) UP: Fall 2013 BFA Thesis Exhibition.
Brigham City Museum UP: Brigham City artists G. Russell Case and his father Garry Case have used thousands of tubes of paint and acres of canvases depicting a world of mountainous horizons, towering skies and meandering rivers. The painters’ depictions of these western vistas are mostly from local subjects.
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art UP: Female + Form, a selection of works from the museum's permanent collection embracing a diverse range of forms and showcasing work by important women artists. AND: New Acquisitions 2013 features nine works of art recently donated to the museum by the late Joe Austin. AND: LUX, exploring how artists have used light as a medium or subject, including several large pieces by artists featured in the Pacific Standard Time exhibition from Los Angeles who are considered to be leaders of the light and space art movement of the 1970s.