New Poet Laureate Celebrates Literary Voices Throughout Utah
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert has named University of Utah English professor Paisley Rekdal as the state’s new Poet Laureate.
“The literary arts are an essential part of our state’s rich cultural heritage,” Herbert said. “Ms. Rekdal’s artistic accomplishments and teaching service make her ideally suited to continue the tradition of bringing poetry and literature to the people of Utah.”
During her four-year term, Rekdal will serve as the governor-appointed advocate for literature and the arts. She is also available to conduct readings and lead workshops for community groups, arts organizations, and educators.
Along with her official responsibilities, Rekdal plans to create a website mapping Utah writers, literary presses, and journals that includes voices from around the state as well as underrepresented communities. The project is modeled on “Mapping Salt Lake City,” a web archive of art and literature that she launched with students in a 2013 nonfiction writing course.
“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,” she said.
Rekdal is the author of a book of essays called “The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee,” a memoir entitled “Intimate,” and five books of poetry, including “Animal Eye,” which won the UNT Rilke Prize. Her book “The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam” is forthcoming later this year. Her work has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, the 2016 AWP Nonfiction Prize, and various state arts council awards. Her poems and essays have appeared in 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.
“Whether Paisley is writing about Mae West or bats, Bruce Lee or Vietnam, she brings to her observations a kindly inquisitiveness, a fierce generosity,” outgoing Utah Poet Laureate Lance Larsen said. “I think of her not just as an advocate for the arts but as an advocate for life, in all its rich complexity.”
The Utah Poet Laureate program was established in 1997. For more information about the program and to request a reading or workshop, contact Alyssa Hickman Grove, literary arts manager for the Utah Division of Arts & Museums, at [email protected] or 801.236.7548.