In May 2017, I was named Utah's poet laureate. For the length of my four-year term, I will be working on a website that "maps" literary Utah. The site, Mapping Literary Utah, contains poems, prose excerpts and video performances by writers and storytellers that reside or have resided in Utah. Similar to my project Mapping Salt Lake City, these authors are tagged on a map of Utah that a site visitor can peruse, allowing her to imagine the evolving relationship between writing and place. "Mapping Literary Utah" launched April 2020, with help from an Academy of American Poets' Poet Laureate Fellowship.
While the bulk of the map focuses on conventionally published works, it also includes stories from Ute and Goshute tribal members that might not have been widely disseminated. The site also expands our ideas about how place intersects with writing by focusing on the literary works that Japanese Americans interned at Topaz produced about their incarceration experience. The site archives writers on a rolling basis: as more writers are brought to our attention, more writers will be added to the site. I am eager to hear from people in the community who know of archives or of writers that might otherwise be overlooked: any and all help is appreciated.
For the 2018-19 year, I worked on "West: A Translation" about the transcontinental railroad, a book-length poem commissioned by the Utah Arts Council and the Spike 150 committee. "West" was performed for the Smithsonian, the UMFA, as well as at the Salt Lake Acting Company prior to performances of David Henry Hwang's play "The Dance and the Railroad." A short excerpt of the poem and its performance can be seen here, as filmed by City of Asylum in Pittsburgh. It was also featured on the PBS show "The Future of America's Past." "West" is also a book forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press, May 2023.
In April 2019, with several Salt Lake City-based poets, I also helped launch the inaugural Utah Poetry Festival, which took place at Westminster College, and featured readings from poets from every region of the state, as well as poets from the slam scene and the Utah State Poetry Society. The festival included panels on teaching poetry to K-12 students, and also offered interested K-12 teachers certification hours. The Utah Poetry Festival had to be canceled April 18, 2020, but it took place virtually during April 2021, and is now statewide and month-long throughout the month of April 2022. Core festival events, including readings, contests, workshops and craft talks, are alternately in-person and virtual. Interested participants can find out more and register here.
If you are a Utah school, program, or arts institute interested in having me come and speak, please contact the Utah Arts Council here.