Utah Poet Laureate

Friday, September 8th at 7:00 pm

Utah Poet Laureate Paisley Rekdal

Canyon Community Center

126 Lion Boulevard, Springdale

Admission Free


(Stay tuned for details of Paisley’s poetry workshop coming to Springdale in March of next year.)  


Imaginary Vessels:  Bringing Life and History to Poetry”


Paisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee,  a hybrid-genre photo-text memoir entitled Intimate, and four books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls Without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope and Animal Eye, which was a finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Prize, the Balcones Prize and winner of the UNT Rilke Prize. Her newest book of poems is Imaginary Vessels, and a book-length essay, The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam is forthcoming in 2017. Her work has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Residency, an NEA Fellowship, Pushcart Prizes, the 2016 AWP Nonfiction Prize, and various state arts council awards. 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, Tin House, the Best American Poetry series, and on National Public Radio, among others. She is an English Professor at the University of Utah, where she is also the creator and editor of the community web project Mapping Salt Lake City.

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.  The Utah Poet Laureate gives a number of readings per year around the state, and is also involved in a project that focuses on the literary arts in Utah. Rekdal’s project is “Mapping Literary Utah”: a spin-off of her Mapping Salt Lake City project. Like Mapping SLC, it will be a website that maps the writers and poets (past and present) of Utah, along with all of the various literary presses and journals in the state (also past and present). Rekdal plans to conduct audio interviews with as many Utah poets, writers, and publishers as possible. Those interviews will be on the website, alongside the writers’ work, and audio and/or video clips of Utah writers performing.

“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 here as well, and make sure that their contemporary poets and writers, as well as their literary forbears from Utah, are represented,” Rekdal said. “I want to include conceptual poets as well as performance poets of all stripes, too.”

This project will be research and travel intensive to make connections with people who can introduce Rekdal to all the writers and poets she doesn’t already know. In the past, the laureate work has tended to be Wasatch-heavy, because there are so many more people here, but Rekdal plans to expand the reach and vision, to make sure as much of the state as possible is represented.

“Being chosen Poet Laureate is a real honor and, frankly, a surprise: I’m not from Utah originally, I’m not LDS, and I’m mixed race—all things that don’t make me the most obviously ‘representative’ choice for this position,” said Rekdal. “But of course, Utah is itself 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.”

Rekdal grew up in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of a Chinese American mother and a Norwegian father. She earned a BA from the University of Washington, an MA from the University of Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies, and an MFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

In reviewing The Invention of the Kaleidoscope for Barn Owl Review, Jay Robinson observed that it’s “the razor’s edge that always accompanies eros that makes the poems of Paisley Rekdal fresh, intense and ultimately irresistible.” Rekdal’s work grapples with issues of race, sexuality, myth, and identity while often referencing contemporary culture.


Z-Arts is grateful for the support of Utah Humanities, the Canyon Community Center, and the Town of Springdale.