Emily Van Kley is a queer poet and circus artist currently based in Olympia, Washington. Her poetry collections are The Cold and the Rust, winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, and Arrhythmia, both from Persea Books. Her work has received the Loraine Williams Prize for Poetry, the Iowa Review Award, the Florida Review Editor’s Award, and has been featured in editions of Best American Poetry and Best New Poets. Originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Emily holds an MFA from Eastern Washington University and has been awarded fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation and the Vermont Studio Center, among other honors. When not writing, she can often be found teaching or performing aerial acrobatics.

Selected Interviews

10 Questions with The Massachusettes Review.

Olympia Pop Rocks  (segment at 14:12).


Arrhythmia (Persea Books, 2022)

Written in the years following the sudden death of a cherished friend, Arrhythmia traces the shock doctrine of grief as it electrifies the lives of those left behind. Alliances shift. Loss multiplies. Poems call out from the body, wrestling the twin impossibilities of memory and meaning in language that is by turns starkly simple and twistingly inventive. A tribute to queer friendship, these poems weave chronic grief (a damaged planet, social injustice) with the stab of a loved one’s sudden absence–of what happens to the vibrant particulars of a life when it ends.


“These poems are shimmering and musical and gorgeous on the page, where they maneuver like a woman suspended in silk, or made of it.”

Maya Jewell Zeller

The Cold and the Rust (Persea Books, 2018) Winner of the 2017 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize

The Cold and the Rust is a tender portrait of a queer girlhood on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In this lyrical and unflinching debut, a landscape of staggering beauty abuts industrial towns in the throes of economic decay. Emily Van Kley explores notions of home, estrangement, isolation, and longing against a backdrop of crystalline winters, Lake Superior’s mythic tempers, and forests as vast as they are close.


“…listen to this poet tell so beautifully the cold and brutal truth. An astonishing and brilliant debut.”

Brenda Shaughnessy


Publishers Weekly

THE Magazine

The Harvard Review


Selected Poems

You Aren’t Sure & I May Not

Dear Skull

My Dead Grandfather

Physical Education

Introduction & other poems

Last of the Month, read by Kathryn Smith



Aerial + Poetry



  • “Dear,” American Literary Review,” spring 2023.
  • Affidavit for Self-Care…”, “Spring,” “Bouquet,” Nimrod, fall 2020.
  • “Effluvium,” Massachusetts Review, 2019.
  • “Bloom,” Colorado Review, 2019.
  • “Relativity,” Cortland Review, 2019.
  • “Leap/Bound,” “Savvy (Elegy for Google Glass)” Gertrude Press, september 2019.
  • “Erotica,” “The Great Smoke Pall, 1950,” The Gettysburg Review, spring, 2019.
  • “Tonight, Unkempt,” “Grief, a Grammar,” december, 2018.
  • “Chastened,” “House Show,” NECK, 2018.
  • “Waste Recovery,”  Gulf Coast, 2018.
  • “Houseboat”, Poetry Northwest, 2018.
  • “Nonsomnolent,” “Lodgepole,”  SpoKe Poetry Annual, 2018.
  • “Vital Signs,” Poetry Daily, 2018.
  • “Hunting Season,” Poem of the Week, Narrative Magazine, Feb 19, 2018.
  • “Introduction (At least once…),” “Dusk,” “Introduction (At first I thought…)”, “Dénouement,”  RADAR,  2017/18.
  • “Electromagnetic,”  Barrow Street, Winter 2017.
  • “The Scientist Who Reveals…”  32 Poems, Summer 2017.
  • “Dear Skull,” Best American Poetry, Natasha Trethewey, ed., 2017.
  • “Semen,” “Spitshine,” Prairie Schooner, Summer 2017.
  • “bitches,” And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, Ron Reikki, ed., Michigan State UP, 2017.
  • “Memorial,” Washington 129. Tod Marshall, ed. Sage Hill Press, 2017.
  • “Cover Stories” “Introduction,” “Span” Nimrod, Fall/Winter 2016
  • Bodies,” “Vector,” “Break In,” “The Violence,” “Knock Knock,” “It’s Winter,” “Proposal,” in Not A Single Cell Stand Still, poetry/visual art collaboration with Sonja Dahl, 7×7.la, March 2016.
  • Dear Skull,” Georgia Review, spring 2016.
  • Surface, Collembola Vernacular, Nomeclatural Acts, Animal Mineral Vegetable,” Soil Dwellers, Artist Book collaboration with Emilie Bess, Catherine Alice, & Melanie Valera, August 2015.
  • Superior, Varsity Athletics, Until the Heavens Ring,”  Nimrod, Fall/Winter 2015.
  • “Rules of the Game” Knockout Literary Magazine, 2015.
  • “Vital Signs, Not in the Same Way Again,” Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ron Riekki, ed. Michigan State UP, spring 2015.
  • “Lacustrine,” Crab Orchard Review, fall/winter 2015.
  • Not in the Same Way Again,”  Floating Bridge Review, summer 2014.
  • “Take Care, I Love You,” Rock & Sling, spring 2014.
  • “Physical Education,” Best New Poets, 2014.
  • Ways to Hunt Deer,” “My Father’s Datebook,” in The Way North: Collected Upper Michigan New Works, Ron Reikki, ed. Wayne State UP, 2013.
  • My Dead Grandfather,” The Far Field, Kathleen Flenniken, ed, 2013.
  • “ After Winter,” Discoveries: New Writing from the Iowa Review, Russell Scott Valentino, ed. Iowa UP , 2012.
  • “Not in the Same Way Again,” Mississippi Review, summer 2012.
  • “You Aren’t Sure & I May Not,” “After Winter, “My Dead Grandfather,” “Weight Training,” “Menstrual,” “Premises,” The Iowa Review, winter 2011.
  • “Before Ghosts,” “Last of the Month,” “Vital Signs,” in The Florida Review, winter 2009.
  • “Parsimony,” in Oberon, 2009.
  • Red and Rojo,” in Cutthroat, spring 2009.


  • “Emily Van Kley Recommends…” Poets & Writers, 2022.
  • “Lines for ‘Obit (The Doctors'” 32 Poems, 2017.
  • On Distance,” Essay Daily, Ander Monson, ed., Oct 2015.
  • Old Machines,” in Salamander, winter 2010.
  • “Scrap Metal,” in The Republic of Letters, spring 2007 .
  • “Wheat Dust,” in Faultline, Spring 2005.


  • Artist Trust GAP Award, 2022.
  • Runner-up, American Literary Review Awards, 2022.
  • James Merrill Poetry Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center, 2022.
  • Civitella Ranieri Fellow, 2018.
  • Tucson Book Festival Literary Awards, (Second Place) 2017.
  • Coniston Prize, (Finalist) 2017.
  • Narrative Poetry Prize, (Finalist) 2017.
  • Poem chosen for inclusion in Best American Poetry 2017.
  • Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, 2017.
  • Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, (Finalist) 2016.
  • Backwaters Prize, (Finalist) 2016.
  • Loraine Williams Poetry Prize (The Georgia Review), 2015.
  • Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize, (Honorable Mention) 2015.
  • Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Poetry Prize, (Semi-finalist) 2015.
  • Poem chosen for inclusion in Best New Poets 2013.
  • Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize, (Runner-up) 2013.
  • Iowa Review Award, 2011.
  • Florida Review Editor’s Prize, 2009 .
  • River Styx International Poetry Contest, (Semi-finalist) 2013.
  • Mississippi Review Award, (Finalist) 2012.
  • Salamander Fiction Prize, (Honorable Mention) 2010.
  • Rita Dove Poetry Prize, (Finalist) 2011.
  • Narrative Magazine Below 30 Award, (Finalist) 2009.
  • Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, (Honorable Mention) 2009.
  • Oberon Poetry Prize, (Honorable Mention) 2009.


Upcoming Readings

Reading with Kat Smith. Kitchen Sessions, Bellingham, WA. May 20, 2023. Featured reader, Eastern Washington University Visiting Writer’s Series, Spokane, WA, May 26, 2023.

Upcoming Readings

Featured Reader, Olympia Poetry Network (online). 6:30-8:30 (6 p.m. open mic signup) Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Reading with Kathryn Smith, Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, WA. 7 p.m. Friday, Sept 23, 2022.


Photos courtesy of Allison Eby, photodogg, Jo Arlow, and Sonja Dahl


emilyjvankley (at) gmail (dot) com


publicity (at) perseabooks (dot) com