Jesse Lee Kercheval

Jesse Lee Kercheval
Zona Gale Professor of English
6195G Helen C. White Hall
(608) 263-3756
E-mail Jesse Lee Kercheval
Creative writing (fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction) and translation.

Degrees and Institutions

M.F.A., University of Iowa

Selected Publications

Jesse Lee Kercheval is the author of 13 books including Torres (Editorial Yaugurú, 2014); Space (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), winner of an Alex Award from the American Library Association; My Life as a Silent Movie (Indiana University Press, 2014; Brazil (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010), winner of the Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Contest; Cinema Muto (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), winner of the Crab Orchard Open Selection Award; The Alice Stories (University of Nebraska Press, 2007), winner of the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize; and The Dogeater (University of Missouri Press, 1987), winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award for Short Fiction. A book of  her Spanish poetry, Extranjera, is forthcoming in Uruguay from Editorial Yaugarú. A book of her translations of the Uruguayan poet Circe Maia, Invisible Bridge/ El puente invisible: Selected Poems, is forthcoming from the University of Pittsburgh Press. She is also the editor of América invertida: a Bilingual Anthology of Younger Uruguayan Poets which is forthcoming from the University of New Mexico Press. Her poems, translations and stories appear regularly in such literary magazines as The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, the Gettysburg Review, Poetry London, and The Georgia Review, among others.

Research Interests

Writing poetry in English and Spanish. Writing fiction, memoir and creative nonfiction. Additional interests include translation and Uruguayan poetry: Circe Maia, Tatiana Oroño, Agustín Lucas among others.

Current Projects

America that island off the coast of France: a collection of poems about being born in France and becoming/being American, some inspired by or in answer to poems by French poets including Robert Desnos, Blaise Cendrars, Andre Breton, Pierre Reverdy, Louis Aragon, André Breton, and Guillaume Apollinaire.


I teach workshops in poetry, fiction and memoir at the undergraduate and graduate levels and serve as a thesis advisor for both poetry and fiction MFA students.


Recent Books

  • Book Cover for "My Life as a Silent Movie"

    My Life as a Silent Movie

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    Indiana University Press


    After losing her husband and daughter in an auto accident, 42-year-old Emma flies to Paris, discovers she has a twin brother whose existence she had not known about, and learns that her birth parents weren't the Americans who raised her, but a White Russian film star of the 1920s and a French Stalinist. A story about identity and the shaping function of art,My Life as a Silent Movie presents a vividly rendered world and poses provocative questions on the relationship of art to life.

  • Book Cover for "Brazil"


    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    Cleveland State University Poetry Center


    Brazil is a quintessential American road trip. Paulo, an 18 year old bell boy in a Miami Beach hotel, and Claudia, a wealthy Hungarian refugee, take off on a night drive that turns into a crosscountry journey, a sleep deprived search for the real America and for missing family, a fast-moving car trip into her past and toward their future.

  • Book Cover for "Cinema Muto"

    Cinema Muto

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    Southern Indiana University Press


    In Cinema Muto, Jesse Lee Kercheval examines the enduring themes of time, mortality, and love as revealed through the power of silent film. Following the ten days of the annual Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy, this collection of ekphrastic poems are love letters to the evocative power of silent cinema.

  • Book Cover for "The Alice Stories"

    The Alice Stories

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    University of Nebraska Press


    Wisconsin is not where Alice, a girl raised in Florida, meant to end up. But when she falls in love with Anders Dahl, a descendant of Norwegian farmers born for generations in the same stone farmhouse, she realizes that to love Anders is to settle into a life in Wisconsin in the small house they buy before their daughter, Maude, is born. Together, Alice and Anders move forward into a life of family, friends, and the occasional troubled student until they face their biggest challenge.

  • Book Cover for "Film History as Train Wreck"

    Film History as Train Wreck

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    Center for Book Arts


    Winner of the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, selected by Albert Goldbarth

    Film History as Train Wreck was published in 2006 by Center for Book Arts as a letterpress chapbook printed by Barbara Henry in an edition of 100.

  • Book Cover for "Dog Angel"

    Dog Angel

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    University of Pittsburgh Press


    Full of wit, vivid language, and devastating honesty, these autobiographical poems trace the timelines of life forward and backward. Ranging from a cross-country drive to bury her mother’s ashes at Arlington National Cemetery, to a family vacation in Spain, to an imagined final exam given by her children, Kercheval explores the vagaries of love, loss, faith, grief, and joy with a calm, convincing wisdom that permeates this resonant and wonderful collection.

  • Book Cover for "Building Fiction"

    Building Fiction

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    University of Wisconsin Press


    Even with the most dynamic language, images, and characters, no piece of fiction will work without a strong infrastructure. Kercheval shows how to build that structure using such tools as point of view, characterization, pacing, and flashbacks. Building Fiction will help you envision the landscape of your fiction and build great stories.

  • Book Cover for "The Museum of Happiness"

    The Museum of Happiness

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    University of Wisconsin Press


    Ginny Gillespie is a young widow who has fled Florida with her husband’s ashes in her suitcase. Roland Keppi is a half-Alsatian, half-German carnival worker in search of a vision. They meet in Paris in 1929 and fall in love under a cloud of sparrows, but are soon separated when Roland is deported.

  • Book Cover for "World as Dictionary"

    World as Dictionary

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    Carnegie Mellon University Press


    From the powerful and unforgettable opening sequence which recounts, with passionate intensity and uncompromising honesty, the death of a dear friend from cancer; through the wonderful middle poems on the complex pleasures of marriage, motherhood, and family life; to the final meditations on the poet’s own intractable childhood; World as Dictionary explores the vagaries of love, loss, desire, and will.

  • Book Cover for "Space: A Memoir"

    Space: A Memoir

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    Algonquin Books


    Winner of the Alex Award from the American Library Association

    Looking back at a time when America was on the brink of all the big changes coming by way of Apollo 11, TheFeminine Mystique, and the Vietnam War, this high-spirited memoir focuses on what it was like back then--for a girl.

  • Book Cover for "The Dogeater"

    The Dogeater

    Jesse Lee Kercheval

    University of Missouri Press


    Winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction

    The stories included in the collection are  “Underground Women,”  “Willy,”  “A Clean House,”  “Tertiary Care,”  “La Mort au Moyen Age,”  “The History of the Church in America,”  “A History of Indiana,” and the title story  “The Dogeater,” about an elderly Igorrote man, living in New Orleans, who was originally brought to the United States as part of an exhibit for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.