A black and white photo of a man with a red square and words that read West: A translation by Paisley Rekdal

Wednesday, April 26 | 6 pm | FREE 

Many Wests, UMFA’s latest special exhibition which closes June 11, asks us to explore the perspectives of the original boundary breakers, memory makers, and caretakers of the American West. Join us in the Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium as we explore the West via the poignant and powerful poetry of Paisley Rekdal from her latest book,  West: A Translation. Stay for a book signing with the author and to explore the exhibition.  

About West: A Translation 

Punctuated by historical images and told through multiple voices, West: A Translation explores what unites and divides America by drawing a powerful, necessary connection between the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943). 

Carved into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station, where Chinese migrants to the United States were detained during the Chinese Exclusion Act, is a poem elegizing a detainee who committed suicide. As West translates this anonymous Chinese elegy character by character, what’s left is a haunting narrative distilled through the history and lens of transcontinental railroad workers, and a sweeping exploration of the railroad’s cultural impact on America. Punctuated by historical images and told through multiple voices, languages, literary forms, and documents, West explores how our ideas about American history creep forward, even as the nation itself constantly threatens to spiral back. West is accompanied by a website (www.westtrain.org) that features video poems and encourages self-exploration of the transcontinental railroad’s history through an interactive, non-linear structure. 

About the Author  

headshot of Paisley Rekdal
Paisley Rekdal is the author of four books of nonfiction, and seven books of poetry, including Nightingale, Appropriate: A Provocation, and, most recently, West: A Translation. Her work has received the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, Pushcart Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship, and various state arts council awards. The former Utah poet laureate, she teaches at the University of Utah where she is a distinguished professor.


Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Art Bridges Initiative. 
SAAM Smithsonian American Art Museum

Art Bridges

Local Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor:
Sue & Al Landon
Curatorial Sponsors: 
The George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation
The Wieler Family Private Foundation Trust
Installation Sponsor: 
Stephanie & Tim Harpst
Programming Sponsor:
Art Bridges Foundation

The UMFA and this event is generously sponsored by Zoos, Arts & Parks (ZAP) and the University of Utah