Hope College’s Jack Ridl Visting Writers Series presented best-selling writer, Paisley Rekdal. Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, “The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee” and four books of poetry: “A Crash of Rhinos,” “Six Girls Without Pants,” “The Invention of the Kaledidoscope” and “Animal Eyes.”
She was part of a Q&A with the Hope community and then gave a reading from her memoir, “Intimate.” Her multi-genre work includes an assortment and blend of photos, poems, historical documentary and personal essays inspired by Native American photographer Edward Curtis. The result is an innovative literary encounter with intimacy, family relations and race.
The process of writing “Intimate” took five years. Rekdal shared that getting hybrid pieces published can be difficult, and wouldn’t even show the work to her agent. She said she’d aimed for smaller publishing companies, sharing she knew of only five that were interested. “Publishing houses are not sure how to market hybrid works,” Rekdal shared with a laugh. “Look at mine. They didn’t know what to put on the back!”
Rekdal touched on her creative process, sharing she had an entirely different character planned for “Intimate” before scrapping it and rewriting.
It was a long process and Rekdal never planned to have her work published since getting the copyrights to Curtis’ photos was costly.
She stated it became like an obsession to research Edward Curtis’ work. Rekdal viewed Curtis differently than most, praising his work instead of condemning the controversy of it.
Rekdal grew up in Seattle and graduated from the Universities of Washington, Toronto and Michigan. She currently teaches at the University of Utah. She was recently named Utah’s Poet Laureate.
She has received numerous recognition for her works. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Residency, an NEA Fellowship, Pushcart Prizes, the 2016 AWP Nonfiction Prize and various state art council awards.
Besides awards, Rekdal has had her works featured in The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, Tin Hourse and the Best American Poetry series. She had a lot to share on her experience as a writer and what she has done to become successful.
She tells inspiring writers that twenty minutes should be set aside a day to practice one’s craft. She writes a little every day and tells that writing can start with talent, but dedication and hardwork are needed to bring it to a career.
Travel is a big part of Rekdal’s inspiration and she believes a writer needs to explore the world. She shared that she likes to travel alone and that it helps with “taking it all in.”
She has lived abroad in many locations, including Ireland and Korea.
Rekdal also attested to the editing process. She is in a poet revision group where she shares her work with other colleagues. Rekdal loves when others edit her work. “I wish more people would edit my poetry,” she states.
Her newest book of poems is “Imaginary Vessels.” A book- length essay, “The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam,” is forthcoming in 2017. Keep an eye out for her upcoming work and take a look into her current creative pieces.