'Mapping Literary Utah' With Utah's Poet Laureate

Apr 20, 2020

Credit Mapping Literary Utah

Years ago, Paisley Rekdal created a digital community project that mapped the people, places, buildings and events that defined Salt Lake City. When she became Utah’s poet laureate, she decided to build on this idea and create a literary map for the entire state.

“It's a web archive of Utah writers, past and present,” Rekdal said. “We started mostly with the present because they're easier to get a hold of in some respects. And we basically try to map them according to five different regions in Utah. We have all the different types of fiction genres you can imagine. We have poets, we have slam poets, cowboy poets, we have the Utah state poetry society. We also have short essays about different literary aspects that might be unique to Utah, for example, environmental writing, or the young adult literary scene.”

This weekend, Rekdal’s project “Mapping Literary Utah” launched. However, just because the website is public doesn’t mean it’s complete. Rekdal said she is looking for community engagement so more Utah writers can be added to the project. 

Rekdal said she defines Utah writers as people who were born in the state, lived in the state during an important period of their creative life or live in the state now. The writers do not need to have written about the state to be included in the project. 

“I've already gotten some people who've contacted me, who said, ‘do you know about this young adult writer or this children's literature author? Or do you know about this poet?’ And these are really helpful suggestions. We're really actively looking for more names or more leads, especially from history,” Rekdal said.

Rekdal said she hopes the project helps people make connections, not only about how literary works in Utah are related, but also with the people who created those works and who share the same home state as them. She also hopes that while libraries and books stores may be harder to access right now, the website will help people discover new literary works.