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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)

Vessels

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

his knife to make
the incision: one
dull cyst nicked

from the oyster’s
mantle—its thread of red
gland no bigger

than a seed
of trout roe—pressed
inside this mussel’s

tendered flesh.
Both hosts eased
open with a knife

(as if anything
could be said to be eased
with a knife):

so that one pearl
after another can be
harvested, polished,

added to others
until a single rope is strung
on silk. Linked

by what you think
is pain. Nothing
could be so roughly

handled and yet feel
so little, your pity
turned into part of this

production: you
with your small,
four-chambered heart,

shyness, hungers, envy: what
in you could be so precious
you would cleave

another to keep it
close? Imagine
the weeks it takes to wind

nacre over the red
seed placed at another
heart’s mantle. The mussel

become what no one
wants to:
vessel, caisson, wounded

into making us
the thing we want
to call beautiful.

From Imaginary Vessels​. Copyright © 2016 by Paisley Rekdal. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

From Imaginary Vessels​. Copyright © 2016 by Paisley Rekdal. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

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

It is not miraculous. Only a handful of silica, fire,
and then the blower twirls another knob of gold
on his metal pontil, dipping the tip into a pot
inlaid with spikes to make the burning globe
twist in upon itself as the man breathes out
and a thick neck bulges, wreathes into a spiral

poem

A man can cry, all night, your back
shaking against me as your mother
sleeps, hooked to the drip
to clear her kidneys from their muck
of sleeping pills. Each one white
as the snapper’s belly I once watched a man
gut by the ice bins in his truck, its last 
bubbling grunt cleaved in

2
poem
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