Paisley Rekdal Wins 2018 Narrative Prize


SAN FRANCISCO (September 26, 2018)—The editors of Narrative have awarded Paisley Rekdal the Narrative Prize, given annually for the best work by an emerging writer published in Narrative. Rekdal, who grew up in Seattle and now teaches at the University of Utah, receives the award for a trilogy of recent poems—“Quiver,” “Telling the Wasps,” and “The Olive Tree at Vouves,” which combine Keatsian lyricism with a mortal questioning of the nature of memory in the modern age.

What do we do
             with memory, do we burn
or do we embellish it . . .

Does the image,
             over time, brighten

so feverishly inside us,
             tearing through
the eye, the mind, the body: is it we
             who wander out, tentative,

into late morning light?
             What does it mean
to forget so much,
             happily, greedily, if not

that we are nourished most
             on loss?

In giving the award to Rekdal, Narrative’s poetry editor Michael Wiegers noted, “Rekdal revivifies the possibility of the public intellectual. Her poems are groundbreaking investigations—and reinterpretations—of long-treasured Western myths that she infuses with personal urgency and meaning. Already a force in American literature, Rekdal will delight and engage readers’ minds and hearts for decades to come.”

Rekdal, the daughter of a Chinese American mother and a Norwegian father, has lived in many countries, including France, South Korea, Ireland, and Vietnam, and her work embraces a diverse, multicultural view. She earned a BA from the University of Washington, an MA from the University of Toronto, and an MFA from the University of Michigan. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Six Girls without Pants and A Crash of Rhinos, as well as a collection of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee. She is Utah’s Poet Laureate.

The $4,000 Narrative Prize recognizes Rekdal as a remarkable writer whose talent and accomplishments signal her staying power. Previous Narrative Prize winners include Anthony Marra, Min Jin Lee, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Ocean Vuong, Javier Zamora, and many other notable authors early in their careers.


Founded in 2003, Narrative, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization headquartered in San Francisco, is the premier digital publisher of outstanding fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Narrative publishes hundreds of well-known and emerging writers each year and provides an extensive, free digital library of works used worldwide by students and teachers. Narrative’s established authors include Tobias Wolff, Alice Munro, Jennifer Egan, Jhumpa Lahiri, W. S. Merwin, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharon Olds, and many others. Narrative is dedicated to advancing literature in the digital age by supporting the finest writing talent and encouraging reading across generations, in schools, and around the globe. Narrative is donor-supported and offered to the reading public for free.