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Paisley Rekdal

Paisley Rekdal was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She received an MA from the University of Toronto and an MFA from the University of Michigan.

Rekdal is the author of six volumes of poetry, including Nightingale (Copper Canyon Press, 2019), Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), winner of the 2013 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas, and A Crash of Rhinos (University of Georgia Press, 2000), winner of the University of Georgia Press’ Contemporary Poetry Series Award.

The poet Major Jackson writes, “With all of their rhetorical pleasures and illustrative rhythms, Rekdal’s poems are deeply marked by a sensate, near terrestrial, relationship to language such that she refreshes and renews debates about beauty, suffering, and art for the twenty-first century reader.”

Rekdal is also the author of a book-length essay, The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam (University of Georgia Press, 2017); an essay collection, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee (Pantheon Books, 2000); and a hybrid-genre memoir, Intimate (Tupelo Press, 2012).

She is the recipient of fellowships from the Amy Lowell Trust, Civitella Ranieri, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. In May 2017, Rekdal was named poet laureate of Utah, and is an inaugural Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She was the Guest Editor for Poem-a-Day in December 2019, and currently teaches at the University of Utah and lives in Salt Lake City. 


Nightingale (Copper Canyon Press, 2019)
Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012)
The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007) 
Six Girls without Pants (Eastern Washington University, 2002)
A Crash of Rhinos (University of Georgia Press, 2000)

The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam (University of Georgia Press, 2017)
The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee
(Pantheon Books, 2000)
Intimate (Tupelo Press, 2012)

By This Poet



unveil themselves in dark.
They hang, each a jagged,

silken sleeve, from moonlit rafters bright
as polished knives. They swim

the muddled air and keen
like supersonic babies, the sound

we imagine empty wombs might make
in women who can’t fill them up.

A clasp, a scratch, a sigh.
They drink fruit dry.

And wheel, against feverish light flung hard
upon their faces,

in circles that nauseate.
Imagine one at breast or neck,

Patterning a name in driblets of iodine
that spatter your skin stars.

They flutter, shake like mystics.
They materialize. Revelatory

as a stranger’s underthings found tossed
upon the marital bed, you tremble

even at the thought. Asleep,
you tear your fingers

and search the sheets all night.


How horrible it is, how horrible
that Cronenberg film where Goldblum's trapped

with a fly inside his Material
Transformer: bits of the man emerging

gooey, many-eyed; bits of the fly
worrying that his agent's screwed him–

I almost flinch to see the body later
that's left its fly in the corner, I mean

the fly that's left its body, recalling too
that medieval nightmare, Resurrection,

in which each soul must scurry
to rejoin the plush interiors of its flesh,

pushing through, marrying indiscriminately
because Heaven won't take what's only half:

one soul blurring forever
into another body.

If we can't know the boundaries between ourselves
in life, what will they be in death,

corrupted steadily by maggot,
rain or superstition, by affection

that depends on memory to survive?
People should keep their hands to themselves

for the remainder of the flight: who needs
some stranger's waistline, joint

problems or insecurities? Darling,
what I love in you I pray will always stay

the hell away from me.

Self-Portrait as Mae West One-Liner

I'm no moaning bluet, mountable
linnet, mumbling nun. I'm
tangible, I'm gin. Able to molt
in toto, to limn. I'm blame and angle, I'm
lumbago, an oblate mug gone notable,
not glum. I'm a tabu tuba mogul, I'm motile,
I'm nimble. No gab ennui, no bagel bun-boat: I'm one
big mega-ton bolt able to bail
men out. Gluten iamb. Male bong unit.
I'm a genial bum, mental obi, genital
montage. I'm Agent Limbo, my blunt bio
an amulet, an enigma. Omit elan. Omit bingo.
Alien mangle, I'm glib lingo. Untangle me,
tangelo. But I'm no angel.