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Rekdal discusses latest book in virtual reading series

By Emily Colucci
On March 15, 2023

The second of three readings as part of the University of Detroit Mercy’s virtual reading series, Triptych, focused on the history and impact of Chinese people on the transcontinental railroad.

Paisley Rekdal, a Chinese-American poet, showcased her work for staff and students last month via Zoom. Her latest book, “West: A Translation,” will be available for purchase in May, but Rekhal has designed an interactive website that organizes and shares the book’s contents.

The author was chosen to showcase her work for its profound and detailed imagery; Rekdal has a true talent for painting a vivid picture for readers through her poetry.

“As a poet myself, I marvel at their designs,” said Stacy Gnall, a poet-in-residence at Detroit Mercy.

Rekdal’s ladder of success includes several publish books of poetry, including “The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee” and “Intimate.” Rekdal is also a professor at the University of Utah and has won the UNT Rilke Prize as well as the 2020 Washington State Book Award for Poetry.

During her reading, she shared several videos to demonstrate themes highlighted throughout her book to give the audience a visual on what was being read. Additionally, the audience was able to interact with Rekdal’s presentation by choosing Chinese symbols that represented aspects of her book, similar to a “Table of Contents.”

These themes derived from her experience learning about the Angel Island Immigration Station, where Chinese mi-grants were held captive and endured an uncivilized way of life.

They included: Chinese death rit- uals, prostitution, gender roles on the train, and several other topics that Rekdal explored during the reading.

While conceptualizing “West: A Translation,” Rekdal shared with the audience that she wanted to be ethical and appropriate towards the culture in which she was narrating in a way that honors its history.

“The poem asks you to feel where history asks you to remember,” she said.

Rekdal expressed that a poem which can add a layer of complex- ity to how she sees the world will always engage her.

The collection of stories aimed to illustrate the impact of the railroad on America and relate to struggles we are currently facing today, as the migrants did then.

Rekdal emphasized the impor- tance of sharing this information as it should not be forgotten in time.

“The memory of one culture can survive in another culture,” Rekdal said.

The final installment in the three-part reader series will take place on Thursday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m.

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