Patricia Traxler

Photo: Patrick Wallerius

Forbidden Words, University of Missouri Press

Reading poetry at Midleton Library in County Cork, Ireland, April 2012; photo by Fergus McCarthy

Blood, published by St. Martins Press, 2002

Photo by William Stafford, 1986


Award-winning poet and fiction writer Patricia Traxler is the author of four poetry collections: Naming the Fires, forthcoming in early 2016 from Hanging Loose Press, Brooklyn, NY; Forbidden Words, (University of Missouri Press); Blood Calendar, (William Morrow); The Glass Woman, (Hanging Loose Press); and a novel, Blood, (St. Martins Press), which has also been published in Spanish, Swedish, and German translations and in an Ireland/​UK edition.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Traxler was much influenced by her maternal grandmother, Nora Dunne, a poet from County Cork, Ireland, who lived with the family for several years during Traxler’s childhood. "When I was a kid," she says, "I often saw Gran working on her poetry in a green clothbound ledger, and heard her around the house reciting poems like Shelley's 'To a Skylark,’ just for the delight she took in them, so I grew up seeing poetry as an ordinary and essential part of everyday life.”

A two-time Bunting Poetry Fellow at Radcliffe, Traxler also served as Hugo Poet at the University of Montana and Thurber Poet at Ohio State. She has lectured, read, or served as visiting writer at many other US universities, including the University of California, San Diego; Emerson College, Boston; Old Dominion University, Virginia; Westminster College, Salt Lake City; San Diego State University; Utah State University; and Kansas University, Lawrence.

"I like the inspiration and challenge of working as a writer in the community," says Traxler, a longtime resident of Kansas. "And although I love teaching aspiring young poets and fiction writers in a university setting, I guess it's not surprising that some of my most rewarding teaching experiences have come outside the world of academe, working in the larger community with people of all ages and backgrounds." She has developed writing programs and projects for at-risk teens, deaf and hearing-impaired children, learning-disabled students, cancer patients, homeless women and survivors of domestic violence, as well as for mental-health patients and stroke patients in a hospital setting. “These experiences have all enriched me,” she says, "in what they've revealed about the endless possibilities and complexities of human connection." Traxler founded Salina's Spring Poetry Reading Series, which brings poets into Kansas from across the United States, and she has edited two personal history anthologies, Vintage and In Our Time, which collect the memories of people who came of age on the Great Plains between the years 1910 and 1975 (both published by Smoky Hill River Press).

Traxler is a past recipient of Ploughshares' Cohen Award; Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Award; The Writer's Voice of New York City Open Voice Award for Short Fiction; the Hackney Literary Award for Short Fiction; Radcliffe’s Presidential Discretionary Award; a Kansas Literary Fellowship; 1994 and '99 Poetry Society of America Writers Magazine/​Emily Dickinson Award honors; the Alice Carter Award for Poetry from Kansas University; and the Georgia State University Award for Short Fiction. She is also a past Grand Prize winner of the International Imitation Hemingway Competition.

Her poetry and fiction have appeared widely, including in The Nation, Slate, Agni, Ploughshares, The Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, Ms. Magazine, Hanging Loose, Tikkun, Glimmer Train, The American Voice, The Los Angeles Times Literary Supplement, The San Francisco Chronicle, New Letters, and Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry newspaper column, as well as in a number of anthologies, including Best American Poetry (A.R. Ammons, ed.); A Handbook of Heartbreak (Robert Pinsky, ed.); A Ring of Words (Andrew Motion, ed.); Tangled Vines (L.Lifshin, ed.); e: the Emily Dickinson Award Anthology (Universities West); The Best of Bad Hemingway: Award Anthology (G. Piepenbrink, ed.); and special mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology for her 7-poem sequence, "Finitudes," which originally appeared in New Letters.

Traxler’s essays have appeared in Newsweek, The Daily Beast, and the anthologies Night Errands: How Poets Use Dreams (University of Pittsburgh Press), and Grandmothers: Granddaughters Remember (Syracuse University Press). Currently, she is completing work on a collection of short stories, I'll Always Love You (unless you love me, too).

Literary Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt and Hochman Literary Agents, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036

Selected Works

“Bloody good—a compelling and beautifully written novel.”
Toronto Sun
“With her stunning first novel, Blood, Patricia Traxler plunges the reader into a world both familiar and eerie. Seldom have the twin obsessions of love and art been more vividly or intelligently portrayed...More than almost any other novel I've read, Blood captures the relationship between an artist and her work, a relationship that is also susceptible to jealousy and revision and love...What an elegant, suspenseful debut.”
--Margot Livesey,
author of The Missing World, The House on Fortune Street, and The Flight of Gemma Hardy.
“These poems strike a thrilling balance between personal disclosure and the rigors of writing.”
Publishers Weekly
"Brings to mind Walt Whitman at his best, for Traxler has written an absorbing, haunting, feminine 'Song of Myself,'" --Victor Contoski, Abraxas
"A fierce and passionate collection!" --Publishers Weekly
Selected Short Stories
Now available on Amazon's Kindle as singles, these award-winning short stories are from Traxler's collection in process, which looks with an ironic and darkly humorous eye at romantic love, fidelity and infidelity, the politics of sex, the single life and marriage, and the question of when, if ever, it all begins to make sense.
Author interview
Traxler talks about dividing her writing life between poetry and fiction; about the challenges a writer faces when living in a region so far "outside the glittering current"; and about the literary influences and life experiences that have shaped her perspective as a woman and a writer.