Portland, Oregon

Look Closer: Poetry & Myth Remaking

Sally Wen Mao, Paisley Rekdal, and Jake Skeets discuss reimagining myths and history through their poetry, from the 2019 Portland Book Festival.

The 2020 Portland Book Festival, presented by bank of america, will take place November 5-21, and will be presented virtually with most events available to view for free. For more information, including our lineup of authors & presenters, visit: literary-arts.org/pdxbookfest

In this episode of The Archive Project we revisit an event that took place at the 2019 Portland Book Festival. The panel, titled Look Closer: Poetry & Myth Remaking, features poets Sally Wen Mao, Paisley Rekdal, and Jake Skeets, with moderator Dao Strom.

Myths come in many forms. There are the formal myths of different cultures such as gods and heroes, the creation of the world; there are national myths that define countries; and also childhood myths, family myths and personal myths. All are stories that attempt to explain some aspect of the world, and can come to guide our beliefs about who we are.

In this conversation, these three poets question who is given voice in our myths and why. What has been left out? Their work questions the received interpretation, and wisdom, of these stories. In some case re-writes them from a different perspective to reveal new meanings. And in this way, these poets are doing the important work of re-interpreting our assumptions about our past, to help us understand the present.

For more information about the books discussed in this episode:
Oculus by Sally Wen Mao
Nightingale by Paisley Rekdal
Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets


Sally Wen Mao is the author of a previous poetry collection, Mad Honey Symposium. Her work has won a Pushcart Prize and fellowships at Kundiman, George Washington University, and the New York Public Library Cullman Center.

Paisley Rekdal is the author of six collections of poetry, in addition to three nonfiction and hybrid-genre books. Her honors include being named Utah’s Poet Laureate.

Jake Skeets is Black Streak Wood, born for Water’s Edge. He is Diné from Vanderwagen, New Mexico. He holds an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Skeets is a winner of the 2018 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Skeets edits an online publication called Cloudthroat and organizes a poetry salon and reading series called Pollentongue, based in the Southwest. He is a member of Saad Bee Hózhǫ́: A Diné Writers’ Collective and currently teaches at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona.

Dao Strom is the author/musician of two books of fiction and the hybrid-forms memoir We Were Meant to Be a Gentle People plus music album East/West. She is also the author of a bilingual poetry book You Will Always Be Someone From Somewhere Else. Dao’s work has received support from RACC, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Precipice Fund, and the Creative Capital Foundation. She is the editor of diaCRITICS and co-founder of the collective She Who Has No Master(s).

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