Poetry review at London Grip THE MINISTRY OF FLOWERS: Emma Storr is pleased to have encountered this new collection by Andrea Witzke Slot The Ministry of Flowers Andrea Witzke Slot Valley Press 2020 ISBN 9781912436439 pp.116 £12.00 I hadn’t read Andrea Witzke Slot’s writing before and am delighted to discover her now. She is a multi-talented poet, artist and photographer who has not only produced a highly original collection, but also illustrated it with delicate pen and ink drawings. The Ministry of Flowers was many years in the making, and this reflected in the variety and quantity of the work. There are sonnets, concrete and prose poems, poems that rhyme and those that sing with assonance or half-rhyme. The book is prefaced by two quotes. The first is a four-line poem from an Emily Dickinson manuscript that evokes many themes in a few words – separation, oceans, flowers and ministry. The other quote is from the Dalai Lama who said ‘My religion is kindness’. These ideas of self and other, distance and closeness, giving and receiving kindness, permeate the collection.
Slot has taken the lines of the Dickinson poem as inspiration for “Between my country and the others – a sea”. Separation, time and regret resonate. The second half of the first stanza reads: If I cannot see your distant lands, blame it on arcs of salt-strewn mistakes, time’s water-logged pastures and roads, my sad country of sand-packed pitch. The spacing and rhythm of these lines recall the lap of waves on a beach and the ‘arcs of salt-strewn / mistakes’ suggest tears as well as the flotsam and jetsam left behind at high tide. The poem moves on to offer hope in the form of flowers, renewal and travel:
Spring arrives. Seedlings sickle upward along drying roads, ‘Sickle’ is an unusual and effective word to use for the crescent shape of these growing plants. The poem ends:
Love, I’m on my way, flowers in hand. Please beg me to come, to travel well. I’m not usually a fan of prose poetry but the thirteen included in this collection were a pleasure to read. Each one explores the fabric of life from a different perspective, several describing the anatomy and physiology of the human body in gorgeous language. In “Panoply”, the speaker considers the skeleton and the inevitable disappearance of bone cells as we age. She writes: We are all unrehearsed vanishing acts, a case of self thinning out until, one day, we too are hunched over sidewalks, only able to see our own feet moving in front of us. Perhaps surprisingly, she claims this is a cause for celebration and urges us not to ‘miss the fanfare. Look up and see. All around you, people are slowly waving goodbye’.
Many of the poems in this collection explore the transience of human life, what remains when we die and our relationship to the natural world. The writing is contemplative and appreciative, encouraging us to be more mindful of our environment and of our brief role within it. One prose poem explores the concept of transgenerational trauma and reinterprets it in a positive light. Slot conceives the brain cells, the neurones and dendrites as communicating excitedly and providing a ‘dreamtime narrative’ to ‘keep you company’ even if they whisper ‘Do not forget. Please do not forget.’ An original way of remembering is also explored in the poem “An autobiography called skin”. Each couplet ends with a half or full rhyme, which emphasises the durability of skin and our connection to others through skin contact. It starts: Small, red, rinsed, held. Fleshy folds in tiny fists shaken. Something like blessings dress the pleats of infant skin. The poem moves swiftly into adulthood, a failed relationship and children. There is a reference to addiction, poverty and loneliness. Regrowth and redemption arrive with a new relationship and the poem ends with a link back to the passing of time and the way our lives move along in parallel with different times of the year:
A hand rests on my back in the night as trees shiver in autumn’s wind. We are all seasons, dear Andrea. Just rings of skin upon skin upon skin. Preceding this poem in the book is “Addiction: a definition”, written in broken lines of free verse, reflecting the fragmented self, the desperation of the addict:
do- whatever-it- takes- gotta-have-it- at- any— cost now. The poem ends with a terrifying metaphor for the destructive nature of addiction – termites silently eating away at the ‘foundation / of everything you are’.
The joy of relationships with others, family and friends, features often in this collection. I particularly liked the tenderness of “One Night in September, Love” and the poem facing it “When the man I love asks me to dance”. The first is a busy, glorious concrete poem in the shape of a bee in which love is overpowering and irresistible. The speaker concludes: ….and what choice did we have but to tick ourselves into the thriving evening thrum of a million honeyed a cappella heart- songs ? The accompanying poem on the opposite page is self-deprecating and humorous. The speaker is the subject of adoration, a state she slowly and gracefully accepts:and if love is blind. I adore its excusable delight – for even if I rise with a roar this one is hard to scare – The rhyme and rhythm of the lines add to the praise song quality of this poem.
I can’t do justice in such a short review to this rich and varied poetry collection that speaks of our shared humanity, vulnerability and connection to others in beautifully crafted poems of great depth and resonance. I keep returning to the book to read them again. I can only recommend that you get yourself a copy and enjoy them for yourself. London Grip Poetry Review
note: publications prior to 2011 are in the name Andrea Witzke Leavey
education. • PhD, Focus on Contemporary Women's Poetry and multiple ideologies and voices in lyric poetry. University of Texas at Dallas, May 2008. Dissertation: “Reclaiming the Dialogic, Reframing the Topics: Culture, Violence, and Eros in Contemporary American Women’s Lyric Poetry.” Director: Robert S. Nelsen. Qualifying exams in African American literature, American women’s literature, and 20th century international poetry • M.A., Studies in Literature, Focus on Poetry. University of Texas at Dallas, May 2002. Thesis: “The Poetry of Ambivalence: Searching for Questions in the Work of Marianne Moore, Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said), and Paula Gunn Allen.” Poetry manuscript: Sea Gardens. Director: Rainer Schulte • Post Graduate Certificate of Education, 1992, University of Hertfordshire, U.K. Qualified to teach primary school (ages 3-11) in England and Wales • B.A. in English Literature, Minor in Business Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1988 • International Exchange Program of Study, English Literature, University of Swansea, Wales, 1987-88
awards. • Winner, Able Muse Prize in Fiction for the short story "After Reading the News Story of a Woman Who Attempted to Carry Her Dead Baby onto an Airplane," selected by Eugenia Kim, 2015 • Winner, Fiction International Short Short Story Contest for the flash fiction piece 'Talking Trojans," selected by Harold Jaffe, 2015. • Finalist, A Room of Her Own (AROHO)'s Clarissa Dalloway Book Prize for the novel The Cartography of Flesh: in the silence of Ella Mendelssohn, selected by Kate Gale, 2014 • Finalist, The University of Louisville's Calvino Prize for the short story "Where Our Hands Rest in the Night," selected by Robert Coover, 2014 • Finalist, Black Lawrence Press's Hudson Prize for the poetry collection Between My Country and the Others, 2014• Runner-up, Meridian's Flash Fiction Contest for the flash fiction piece "Lymphatic," 2015 • Shortlisted for Eyewear Press's Beverly Prize for the poetry collection Between My Country and the Others [in search of a kinder world], December 2016 • Semi-finalist, 2016 Orison Anthology Awards for a group of poems, Sept 2016 • Finalist in the 2016 ILA Reynolds Price Award in Fiction for the short story "Proximity," spring 2016 • Finalist, Arts & Letters Unclassifiables Contest for the short story/lyric piece "The Wall," 2015 • Pushcart Prize Nomination for the poem "At a Truck Stop on Highway 124," nominated by The Lascaux Review, 2015 • Pushcart Prize Nomination for the poem "Time Zones and the Art of Healing," nominated by The Inflectionist Review, 2015 • GOSS183's Independent Best American Poetry Anthology nomination for the poem "Time Zones and the Art of Healing," nominated by The Inflectionist Review, 2015 • Finalist, 2015 River Styx Schlafly Beer Micro-Brew Micro-Fiction Contest for a group of three stories • Honorable Mention, Able Muse Write Prize for the short story "Penelope thinks she remembers her father" (an excerpt from novel), selected by Amit Majmudar, 2014 • Finalist, Mid-American Review's Fineline Contest for for the flash fiction piece "Panoply," 2014 • Finalist, Tupelo Quarterly's Open Prose Contest for the prose poem "Ode to the Stairs," selected by E.J. Levy, 2014 • Finalist, Southeast Review's Gearhart Poetry Prize for the long poem "Ring Out, Wild Bells, the Voices of our Nation's Streets" selected by Barbara Hamby, 2014 • Runner-up, Tupelo Quarterly's Open Prose Contest for "The Unreliable Patient," selected by Matt Bell, 2014 • Semi-finalist, Tupelo Quarterly Open Poetry Contest for the poem "Qumran," 2013 • Pushcart Prize Nomination for the poem "Terra Incognita," nominated by Gold Wake Press, 2013 • Excellence in the Creative/Performing Arts Award for poems published in Illyria, Fjala, and PENA International (in both English and Albanian translations), University of Texas at Dallas, 2005 • Second Place, Sean Christopher Britton Memorial Award in Poetry, Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers, for a series of poems nominated by Dr. Robert Nelsen, head of Creative Writing, UTD, 2002
publications. books. • The Ministry of Flowers, poetry collection, Scarborough: Valley press, Forthcoming, 2020 • To find a new beauty, poetry collection, Boston: Gold Wake Press, 2012
scholarly contributions to books. • Counterclaims, (Ed. Harvey Hix), Dalkey Archives, 2020. Scholarly contribution from my academic work on Harryette Mullen. • Dialogism and Poetry: Hearing Over (ed. Chad Engbers and Mara Scanlon), Palgrave Macmillon, 2014. Scholarly essay: "Dialogic Poetry as Emancipatory Technology: Ventriloquy and Voiceovers in the Social Junctures of Harryette Mullen’s Muse & Drudge" • Inhabiting La Patria: Identity, Agency, and Antojo in the work of Julia Alvarez (ed. Rebecca Harrison and Emily Hipchen), NY: SUNY Press, 2013. Scholarly essay: “‘Between the Scylla and the Charybdis’: Navigating the Dialogic Waters of Julia Alvarez’s ‘The Other Side/El Otro Lado.’”
journal publications. • Poetry Health Service (created by Hafsah Aneela Bashir), "To Finding" (poem), July 2020 • Stand Magazine, 'Where our hands, like memories, rest in the night" (short story), April 2020 • Litro (UK) Friday Shorts, 'The Family Friend' March 2020 • Fictive Dream, 'Proximity" (short story), March, 2020 • London Grip, "Monuments of Home," (poem) August 2019 • Compass Magazine, "The Daffodils" and "The Time-Being of Oak" (poems), spring 2019 •Queen Mob's Teahouse, "Grainspiracy [a rockumentary]" • Amaryllis, "What I Saw on the Heath Today, June Fourteenth, Two Thousand Seventeen" (Lines composed the morning of the Grenfell Tower fire, 11 days after the London Bridge attack, 23 days after the Manchester Arena bombing), June 14 2018 • Acumen, "Standing near my father's work" (poem), Jan 2018 • Under the Radar, "Open" (poem), Winter 2018 • Kettle Blue Review: "Minister of Milk" (prose poem), Oct 2017 • Perine's Fountain: "Imagining the Artist’s Place in the World: The Philosophical Meditations in the poems of Shanta Acharya’s Imagine: New and Selected Poems (Book Review), 2017 • Acumen, "Bookends" (poem), Feb 2017 • Kudzu House Quarterly - "The Slug" (poem), Dec 2016 • Pirene's Fountain, "That which once was" and "Between my country and the others--a sea" (poems), Nov 2016 •Sage Hill Press (online), from All We Can Hold: poems of motherhood, "That which once was" (poem), Oct 2016 • Ambit - "Between my country and the others, as ministry" (poem), Oct 2016 • Litro Online (#SundayStories) - "The Wall" (fiction), Oct 2016 • The Rappahannock Review, "The Palm of Proprioception" (prose poem) and "Last Day to Save on Sarah Jaeger’s 'Throwing and Alternative Video'" (poem), Sept 2016 • The American Literary Review, "Homeostasis," (poem), spring 2016 • Under the Radar, "Sacrum," (poem), spring 2016 • Fiction Southeast, "Caterpillar" (fiction), Feb 2016 • Meridian, "Lymphatic" Runner-up in Meridian's 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, (flash fiction) Jan 2016 • Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry, "My Last Mechanic" (poem), spring 2015 • Able Muse Review - "After Reading the News Story of a Woman Who Attempted to Carry Her Dead Baby onto an Airplane," Winner of the 2015 Able Muse Prize, (fiction) Dec 2015 • Lunch Ticket's Amuse-Bouche "I want to die the way my dog sleeps," "In Gratitude of the Strange Phenomenon of Reynaud's," "It doesn't spell disaster" (poems), Spring/Summer Issue, Nov 2015 • Lascaux Review, "At a Truck Stop on Highway 124" (poem), Sept 2015 • Crab Orchard Review, "The Incubator" (poem), Vol 20, No 1, Winter/Spring 2015 • Poetry East, "Llama: lama glama" (poem), No 84 & 85, Summer 2015 • Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, "Geometric" (poem),Vol 58, No 2, Spring/ Summer 2015 • The Adirondack Review, "The Psychologists' Room" (flash fiction/prose poem), Summer 2015 • The Inflectionist Review, "Time Zones and the Art of Healing" and "Disguises" (poems) May 2015 • Fiction International, "Talking Trojans" (fiction), winner of FI's 2015 Short Short Fiction Contest, May 2015 • Litro Magazine (NY), "Penelope thinks she remembers her father" (fiction), April 2015 • Southeast Review, "Ring Out, Wild Bells, Voices of our Nation's Streets" (long poem), finalist, Gearhart Poetry Prize, 2015 • Mezzo Cammin, "Book Burning" and "Spindles, Time, Cancer" (poems), Vol. 9, Issue 2, Dec 2014 • Mid-American Review, "Panoply" (flash fiction/prose poem), a finalist, MAR's Fineline Competition, Fall 2014 • Segue, "Regret" (poem), Vol 12, Fall 2014 • Bellevue Literary Review, "Inscriptions" (poem). Vol. 14, No. 2, Sept 2014 • Spoon River Poetry Review, "Blood Ties" (poem), Vol. 39.1, July 2014 • Tupelo Quarterly, "Ode to the Stairs," (flash fiction/prose poem), finalist, TQ's Open Prose Contest, July 2014 • Tupelo Quarterly, "The Unreliable Patient," (flash fiction/prose poem), runner-up, TQ's Open Prose Contest, Jan 2014 • Jet Fuel Review, "Root Position" and "Lexiphilia" (poems), Nov 2013 • Tupelo Quarterly, "Qumran" (poem), Oct 2013 • Ginosko Literary Journal: “Appellations,” “Self-Portrait, Desk,” “Self-Portrait, Tree,” “Self-Portrait, Oceans,” “Eye Witnesses” (poems), 2012 • Verse Daily: “Terra Incognita” (poem), June 2012 • THIS Literary Magazine: “This Silent Night” and “May Irwin’s Entertainments” (poems), Issue 14, March/April 2012 • Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics (Hiraeth Press), “The Ataxic Queen of the Lasius Niger,” “Terra Incognita,” “Rara Avis” (poems), Vol. 2, Issue 2, 2011 • Chiron Review: “The Nymph on the Urn” (poem), Issue 96: 1046-8898, Autumn 2011 • Alba: A Journal of Short Poetry: “Seeds” and “Spring Gentian” (poems), Issue #22, Sept 2011 • Connotation Press: John Hoppethaller's Congeries: “The Cartography of Flesh” and “L’eta D’oro: The Golden Age” (prose poem/poem), May 2011 • Sea Stories (ed. Casey Schulke and K.R. Copeland): “The Night Light: A Lullaby,” “Lyonesse,” “Hawks Nest, St. John, USVI” (poems), Apr 2011 • The Houston Literary Review: “The Hotel Bed” (poem), Feb 2011 • Southern Women’s Review: “Ode to a Bear: Part II” (poem) Vol. 2, Issue 2, Jan 2010 • Nacional (Poems in Translation): “Shadows” (Hijet), “Mmii” (MMII), “The forgotten City” (Qyteti i harruar), “Ode to a bear: Part I” (Ode për një ari), “Penance” (Pendesë), “A dog, like fiction” (Një qen, si letërsia artistike), “A cat, like poetry” (Një mace, si poezia), “Hawks nest, St. Johns, USVI” (Hauks nest, St. john, USVI) and “The new bed” (Krevati i ri), Vol 1. No. 5, March 2009 • PENA International, same series of poems as above, N.R. 2, 2005 • A&R Traductores (in translation): “the mechanics” (poem), Editor and translator Tomás Ayala-Torres, 2006 • Illyria: Reprint of poems in PENA International, Vol. 14, No. 1344, May 2004 • Fjala (The Word): same series of poems in PENA International, March 2004 • The Pacific Review: “The new bed,” (poem), Vol. 22, Fall 2004 • Valdosta Voice, “Ordinary Sunday IV” (short story), Spring 2003 • Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review: “A dog, like fiction” and “A cat, like poetry” (poems), No. 19, Fall/Winter 2002 • Bogg: Delaware Poetry Review: “The pub on saturday night” (poem), No. 71, Spring 2001
anthologies. • Red Sky /poetry on the global epidemic of violence against women (Sable Books, 2016) - "Dear Police Officer" (prose poem) • All We Can Hold: A Collection of Poetry on Motherhood (Sage Hill Press, 2016), "To my daughter who came into my bedroom last night” and “What recovery looks like" • The Femmes Folles Anthology: Bared (mico-feminist Press, 2016), ed. Laura Madeline Wiseman, "Just Another Breast Poem" • The Inflectionist Review Print Anthology. ed. John Sibley Williams and A. Molotkov, reprint of poems "Time Zones and the Art of Healing" and "Disguises" • The Ginosko Anthology #3, (Mad Press, 2016), ed. Robert Cesaretti, reprint of poem "Appellations" • Contemporary American Poetry / Poezia bashkëkohore amerikane (ed. and trans. by Gjeke Marinaj). Tirana: The International Centre of Culture / Qendra ndërkombëtare e cultures, 2006. Poems (in translation) selected for inclusion: “Shadows” (Hijet), “Mmii” (MMII), “The forgotten City” (Qyteti i harruar), “Ode to a bear: Part I” (Ode për një ari), “Penance” (Pendesë), “A dog, like fiction” (Një qen, si letërsia artistike), “A cat, like poetry” (Një mace, si poezia), “Hawks nest, St. Johns, USVI” (Hauks nest, St. john, USVI) & “The New bed” (Krevati iri)
essays. • Perine's Fountain: "Imagining the Artist’s Place in the World: The Philosophical Meditations in the poems of Shanta Acharya’s Imagine: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins, India, 2017) • The Chronicle of Higher Education: "The View from both Sides of the Track (and how the Tenure Track can better help the Non-tenure Track Cause," June 2014 • The Chronicle of Higher Education: "It's About More than Money: the contingent labor force need careers, not just jobs," February 2014 • Fifth Wednesday Journal: “Whom do you trust?” Spring 2013 • Fifth Wednesday Journal: “Why we need book reviews,” Fall 2012 • Translation Review: “The Pages of Day and Night by Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said),” No. 61, 2001. Published under Andrea Witzke Leavey; available from from Talyor & Francis/Routledge online.• Translation Review: “The Pages of Day and Night by Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said),” No. 61, 2001. Published under Andrea Witzke Leavey; available from from Talyor & Francis/Routledge online. • Translation Review: “The Pages of Day and Night by Adonis (Ali Ahmad Said),” No. 61, 2001. Published under Andrea Witzke Leavey; available from from Talyor & Francis/Routledge online.Fic
editorships. Associate Poetry Editor, RHINO Poetry, 2011-2015 Book Review Editor, Fifth Wednesday Journal, 2012-2015 Editor, Afghan Women’s Writing Project, National Poetry Month Project, 2012 Editor-in-Chief, Sojourn: A Journal of the Arts, 2003-2005 Poetry Editor, Sojourn: A Journal of the Arts, 2002 Associate Editor, Sojourn: A Journal of the Arts, 2001
teaching. University of Illinois at Chicago, Full-time Lecturer, Department of English, 2009-2015 Collin College, Full-time Core Professor, Department of English, 2005-2008 University of Texas at Dallas, Teaching Fellow, 2000-2005 Primary School Classroom Teacher, London Borough of Barnet, UK, 1992-1999