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," will contain poems and prose excerpts by writers that reside or have resided in Utah. Similar to my project Mapping Salt Lake City, these literary works will be 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" will launch in April 2020, with help from an Academy of American Poets' Poet Laureate Fellowship.
While the bulk of the map will focus on conventionally published works, I would also like to include any oral histories and poems from First Nation tribes that might not have been widely disseminated. I will also expand our ideas about how place intersects with writing by focusing on the literary works that Japanese Americans interned at Topaz produced about their internment experience. Finally, I would like to include writers and poets that reflect the state's many ethnic, religious, and racial communities that have shaped Utah's cultural life. I am especially 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 was at work 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.
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 will take place again on April 18, 2020, at Brigham Young University. It is free and open to the public, and will include lunch and refreshments.
If you are a Utah school, program, or arts institute interested in having me come and speak, please contact the Utah Arts Council here.