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Utah's poet laureate receives $100,000 fellowship from the Academy of American Poets

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's poet laureate Paisley Rekdal has received a national poetry fellowship to the tune of $100,000.

The Academy of American Poets announced on Wednesday that Rekdal, who has served as Utah's poet laureate since 2017, has been named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow in its inaugural class and will receive a $100,000 cash award in recognition of her literary merit and in support of her community project, “Mapping Literary Utah,” according to a press release.

"Paisley Rekdal is a poet whose work exemplifies how poetry can spark conversation and can help us learn about one another’s lives and unique experiences, which promotes greater understanding. We’re honored to help underwrite Rekdal and the other twelve Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellows, all of whom are exceptional leaders," said Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets.

This is the first year the Academy of American Poets has given out fellowships in support of state, city, U.S. territories or tribal nation poet laureates, thanks to a $2.2 million grant from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Academy. The Academy awarded 13 poets grants between $50,000 to $100,000 each.

Utah poet laureate Paisley Rekdal shakes hands with Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert. Rekdal received a $100,000 award from the Academy of American Poets.
Utah poet laureate Paisley Rekdal shakes hands with Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert. Rekdal received a $100,000 award from the Academy of American Poets.
Provided by Utah Governor's Office

Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander told the New York Times that the $2.2 million grant is the largest such grant the Mellon Foundation has ever made to support poetry.

“Philanthropy hasn’t done a lot for poetry,” she told the Times. “But on the other hand, poetry survives no matter what.”

Rekdal is no stranger to fellowships and awards. According to, over the course of her career she has received a Fulbright Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a Civitella Ranieri Residency, along with various prizes that include two Pushcart Prizes (2009 and 2013), the AWP Creative Nonfiction Prize, Narrative Magazine's Poetry Prize and others.

Additionally, Rekdal publishes regularly in national publications and is the author of five books of poetry, a book of essays, a memoir and, most recently, a book-length essay titled "The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam." She has a new collection of poems, "Nightingale," coming out this spring and another book-length essay coming out from W.W. Norton.

Rekdal teaches at the University of Utah, where she is the creator and editor of Mapping Salt Lake City, "a community-created archive of Salt Lake's neighborhoods and people that documents the city’s changes through art, critical and creative literature, personal maps and multi-media projects," according to its website.