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Jesse Lee Kercheval is a poet, fiction writer, memoirist, and translator. She was born in Fontainbleau, France, and raised in Washington, D.C., and Cocoa, Florida. She studied writing at Florida State University and graduated with an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. After a year’s teaching at DePauw in Indiana, she moved to Madison to teach creative writing at the University of Wisconsin. She currently divides her time between Madison and Montevideo, Uruguay.

Kercheval has often set stories in places she has lived. Her novels The Museum of Happiness and My Life as a Silent Movie are mostly set in France, which is also central to her recent poetry collection America that island off the coast of France, winner of the Dorset Prize. From the age of ten, she lived in Cocoa, Florida, and the memoir Space is about her childhood spent close to Cape Kennedy where the Apollo moon missions were local stories. Space won an Alex Award from the American Library Association. Her novel Brazil follows an unlikely couple on an impulsive road trip from Florida to Wisconsin, reflecting her own changes of address, Florida to Indiana to Wisconsin. Since 1987 she has been a professor of creative writing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and that’s the town where her novel-in-stories, The Alice Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize, is set.

Kercheval has an abiding interest in silent film. She has attended the Pordenone Silent Film Festival for twenty-five years and once wrote scenarios for her husband’s Wisconsin Bioscope film company. Silent film is the subject of her chapbook Film History as Train Wreck, winner of the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, and her poetry collection Cinema Muto, winner of the Crab Orchard Prize in Poetry. My Life as a Silent Movie is a novel that reimagines the fate of the Russian silent film star Ivan Mosjoukine. Less exotic than her interests in the space program and silent cinema, family life is another important theme. Her poetry collections World as Dictionary and Dog Angel are the result of being the mother of two children.

Since 2010, Kercheval has regularly spent time in Uruguay, doing her best to learn Rioplatense Spanish. Her first serious attempt to write in Spanish was the poem Torres, published in Uruguay in 2014 in a bilingual edition with her English translation Towers. The next year her poetry collection Extranjera / Stranger was published in bilingual format. She has also translated Uruguayan poetry into English, including work by Idea Vilariño, Tatiana Oroño, and Javier Etchevarren. She was awarded an NEA Fellowship in Translation for The Invisible Bridge: Selected Poems of Circe Maia.

Kercheval enjoys collaborating with other poets and translators. She has worked together with Catherine Jagoe to translate Luis Bravo and Laura Cesarco Eglin, with Laura Cesarco Eglin to translate the Portuñol poet Fabian Severo, and with Jeannine Pitas to translate Mariella Nigro and Silvia Guerra. She is the editor or co-editor of a number of anthologies of Uruguayan poetry and essays, including the bilingual anthologies América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets and Voz feroz: Contemporary Argentinian and Uruguayan Poets, and the Spanish language anthology of Uruguayan women poets, Flores raras [escondido país].

Another interest is environmental writing and eco-poetry. She is on the board of the South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS), based in Bella Vista, Uruguay. She edited the anthology Earth, Sky and Water: An Anthology of Environmental Poetry for SARAS and co-directed its Environmental Humanities in Latin America conference.

She is also a visual artist and author of graphic narratives, illustrated essays, and comics which have appeared in literary magazines such as Image, the Los Angeles Review, Fourth Genre, the New Ohio Review, New Letters, Booth, and the Chicago Quarterly Review. Her graphic memoir, French Girl, is forthcoming from Fieldmouse Press.

Her current projects include a book of illustrated essays, translating more Uruguayan poetry, and finishing a new collection of prose poems.