Paisley Rekdal is a Seattle-born poet whose latest work radically rewrites and contemporizes many of the myths central to Ovid’s epic, The Metamorphoses, examining personal transformation with intensity and a lyric sensibility.
Paisley Rekdal is the author of six poetry collections: A Crash of Rhinos (2000), Six Girls Without Pants (2002), The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (2007), Animal Eye (2013), Imaginary Vessels (2016), and her latest, Nightingale (2019). Retelling the myths of Ovid, Nightingale meditates on change and trauma. A starred review from Publishers Weekly praises: “Rekdal’s [work] is relentlessly heartbreaking and intense, but also full of the pleasures of closely observed detail and imagination given free rein.”
Beyond her poetry, Rekdal is also the author of a collection of cross-genre essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee (2000) and the hybrid photo-text memoir, Intimate (2011). Her book-length essay, The Broken Country: On Trauma, A Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam (2016), won the prestigious Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Creative Nonfiction award. As a family member of surviving war veterans, much of her work, like The Broken Country, turns towards the subject of inherited trauma and the intergenerational legacy of war.
Rekdal is the only daughter of a Chinese American mother and Norwegian father. She grew up in what she called “pre-Yuppie, Stoner Seattle” in an interview about her unusual first name with Matthew Batt. She went on to earn a B.A. from the University of Washington. Next, she received a MA from the University of Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies, and an M.F.A from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Rekdal currently teaches at the University of Utah; she was named the Poet Laureate of Utah in 2017. She is the creator and editor of the community web project Mapping Salt Lake City, a community-created archive of Salt Lake City’s neighborhoods and people that documents the city’s changes through art, critical and creative literature, personal maps, and multi-media projects. In April 2019, Rekdal won a $100,000 grant from the Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship to continue her work with this project.
She is the recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship to South Korea, National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes (2009, 2013), a Village Voice Writers on the Verge Award, Narrative’s Poetry Prize, the AWP Creative Nonfiction Prize, and various state arts council awards. Rekdal is the guest editor for Best American Poetry 2020.