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Meet the poet laureate who plans to map the diversity of Utah's writers, journals, presses

Published May 12, 2017 10:33 pm

Arts • Paisley Rekdal plans to map Utah's diversity in writers and publishing.
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Gov. Gary Herbert has appointed University of Utah English professor Paisley Rekdal as the state's poet laureate.

In that voluntary position, Rekdal plans to create a website mapping Utah writers, literary presses and journals. She hopes to post audio interviews with as many writers as possible, including performance and conceptual poets. "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 in a news release.

She plans the project as a spin-off of Mapping Salt Lake City, a community web archive of art and literature, that she launched with students in a 2013 nonfiction writing course based on Rebecca Solnit's book "Infinite City."



"Utah is neither monolithic or homogeneous, regardless of how others outside our state perceive us," Rekdal said. "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 is the author of nonfiction books, including "The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee"; a photo-text memoir, "Intimate"; and five books of poetry, including "Animal Eye" and "Imaginary Vessels." Her newest book of nonfiction, "The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam," won the 2016 AWP Nonfiction Prize and will be published in 2017.

She has received Guggenheim, Fulbright and NEA fellowships, and her poems have been included in the Best American Poetry series in 2012 and 2013.

In addition, at last week's Mountain West Arts Conference, Herbert announced the Utah Arts & Museums arts leadership awards.

Leadership in the Arts honorees have "made significant contributions to our children's education and the state's economy and demonstrate how the arts can inspire us and elevate our lives," Herbert said in statement.

Southern Utah University received the arts organization award; Noemi Veronica Hernandez-Balcazar, district arts coordinator for Dance and Visual Arts in Granite School District, received the education award; Mary Ann Kirk and the Murray City Cultural Arts received the local arts agency award; and Emma Dugal, director of the Bountiful Davis Art Center, received the individual award.

"I know I am a little idealistic, but I believe with all of my heart that the creative process has the ability to change and heal the world," Dugal said in accepting her award.

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