“Intimate,” the 2012 semi-memoir by poet and essayist Paisley Rekdal, is a jumbled book, a biography spliced with poems, photos and clashing fonts. Like its author, the daughter of a Chinese mother and a Norwegian father, it doesn’t fit neatly into a census check-box. Instead, it tests its footing, both at home, where Rekdal’s father, who taught history, was critical of the Sioux, and from the outlier’s remove: The photos, posed and noble, are not snapshots from Rekdal’s childhood but formal portraits by the Native-American photographer Edward Curtis.
It’s this drift that makes Rekdal a vital read. She writes about love, sex and noodle shops; about sharks, BB guns and a boyfriend who resents her for being seasick; and about Bruce Lee, reflected in all those mirrors near the end of “Enter the Dragon.”
“I knew him,” her mother says, watching the film with her. She worked with him in a restaurant and was not impressed.
Rekdal will read from these and other works when the Creative Writers Reading Series resumes at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, on Sept. 26. Her 6 p.m. reading and the reception that will precede it are free and open to the public. Both events will be held in the Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel.
Rekdal will draw from a book of essays, four poetry collections and individual works that have appeared in the New Republic, the Kenyon Review and the New York Times Magazine.
The Creative Writers Reading Series is produced by Penn State Behrend’s B.F.A. in Creative Writing degree program with support from the Clarence A. and Eugenie Baumann Smith Fund. For additional information call 814-898-6108 or visit Behrend.psu.edu/readings.