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About this poet

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 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; The Invention of the Kaleidoscope (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007); Six Girls without Pants (Eastern Washington University, 2002); 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. She currently teaches at the University of Utah and lives in Salt Lake City.


Bibliography

Poetry
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)

Prose
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)

Marsyas

We think Marsyas is the only one
who changed, stepping forth
from the forest to challenge Apollo, staring at the god

he could never rival as if
into a harshly lit mirror, each recoiling

at what he found there: the jealousy knifed
inside the mortal talent, the cold perfection
threaded through with rage.

But then the muses stirred behind them.
And Marsyas, out the painful human wish
to be admired, cannot help but play.

And afterwards, the cutting,
the stripped corpuscles, the ruined mouth—

     Only after his victory would Apollo reach out
and clip three small muscles from the satyr’s throat
and shoulders, and dry them on a rock, and string them between
the curved horns of his lyre. Then the god

would pull a song
through that tender sinew, telling himself

it was not the crying of one
who’s lost everything he loves but the god’s
own singing that he heard, and after which
the muses strained, because it was the song

of someone who knew what it was like
to be alive, which the god could not bear
to know, or to stop playing.

And so Apollo, unthinking, binds himself
to Marsyas: the god taking from his rival

fear and desire, the satyr hardened by the god’s
cruel skill, until both songs

writhe inside each other, sung
by one who cannot understand death, and so

never understands what he plays,
knowing only how his hand
trembles over the plucked muscle:

adding, he thinks, something lower to the notes,
something sweeter, and infinitely strange.

Copyright © 2017 Paisley Rekdal. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Paisley Rekdal. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Winter 2017.

Paisley Rekdal

Paisley Rekdal

Paisley Rekdal is the author of Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and Animal Eye (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), among others. She lives in Salt Lake City.

by this poet

poem

Too soon, perhaps, for fruit. And the broad branches,
ice-sheathed early, may bear none. But still the woman
waits, with her ladder and sack, for something to break.
A gold, a lengthening of light. For the greens to burst
into something not unlike flame: the pale fruit
blushing over weeks

2
poem

Shouldn’t it ache, this slit
into the sweet
and salt mix of waters

composing the mussel,
its labial meats
winged open: yellow-

fleshed, black and gray
around the tough
adductor? It hurts

to imagine it, regardless
of the harvester’s
denials, swiveling

poem

In the perfect universe of math it’s said
the world’s eternal aberration.
In fact, we should be less than dead,

math itself disrupted for matter ever to be read
as real. A thought so hard to fathom that The Nation
in its article on math has said

we lack the right imagination