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Andrea Witzke Slot

Andrea Witzke Slot writes poetry, fiction, essays, and academic work, and is particularly fascinated by the spaces in which these genres intersect. She is author of the poetry collection, To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press) and a recently-finished novel manuscript, The Cartography of Flesh: in the silence of Ella Mendelssohn.

Blurbs

"Andrea Witzke Slot’s To Find A New Beauty Is rich with cool, intelligent and carefully crafted poems that often have a subtext of terror and darkness. She uses a variety of personae -- including Penelope, Eurydice, Io, the nymph on Keat’s Grecian Urn, a woman who marries her sister’s widower and others -- in land- [and sea-] scapes that are powerful personae too in these poems."

– Marge Piercy

"How have you been haunted? To find a new beauty, Andrea Witzke Slot's first book of poems, enumerates the many ways that elegy, witnessing, and the dead haunt the living. With elegies that at once celebrate the dead and long for their touch, To find a new beauty is interested in just that—finding a beauty in the refuse, in what is left, in the hulking remains of grief."

– Roger Reeves

"Slot’s work stands equal with that of Snyder and Oliver. With bewitching language, she pulls the reader into a gentle current of rolling imagery. Suspended within the flow of these pages, I was carried to a place of calm reflection."

– L.M. Browning

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Featured Book

To Find A New Beauty

In Slot's new book, poetry becomes both an homage to tradition and an intervention.

09/20/15

Andrea Witzke Slot's finely crafted first book echoes with the voices of writers past and present.  H.D., David Baker, and John Keats are only a few of the poets whose work informs this refreshingly well-read debut. With that in mind, Slot's poems raise compelling questions about the role of the individual in an established literary tradition:  If poetry is a conversation, how does one define originality? Does it exist only as variation, refinement of what's been written before? To what extent does homage blur into destruction? As Slot teases out possible answers, her haunted and haunting poems allow myriad literary influences to coexist gracefully in the same narrative space.

Slot's treatment of her Modernist predecessors proves to be especially fascinating as the book unfolds. Frequently drawing attention to female figures whose work has escaped the widespread recognition seen by such male writers as Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce, Slot suggests that poetry may redirect the focus of our discussions of literary tradition. In many ways, poetry affords the opportunity to revise the cannon, redefining its terms to suit a changing cultural landscape. In Slot's new book, poetry becomes both an homage to tradition and an intervention. It is this blend of reverence and destruction that makes her work so intriguing. Consider "Hawks Nest, St. John, USVI,"

The hills tongue their way to sea
as if the sea begs the land to slide
into its waiting, open mouth.
The slick blue mirror
is deceiving... (13)

Here Slot appropriates numerous tropes of Imagist poetry. The poetic image becomes a point of entry to complex philosophical and emotional questions, which it is the reader's job to unravel. In many ways, the structure of the book is especially significant. By prefacing this poem with a line from H.D.'s "Sea Gods," and placing this piece at the front of the collection, Slot jostles the hierarchies that have been imposed upon the literary cannon. Likewise, the placement of the stylistic tropes associated with Imagism at the forefront of the collection suggests their largely overlooked influence on contemporary poetry.

With that said, Slot's use of epigraphs to comment on prevailing interpretations of the cannon is equally impressive. Frequently excavating overlooked gems—a phrase, an image, a metaphor—Slot cautions us against becoming entangled in the sweeping manifestoes and ambitious claims that populate literary history. Rather, she highlights the value of the smallest, but often most dazzling, accomplishments of her predecessors. It is these modest masterpieces that provide some of the most valuable material for contemporary poets. She writes in "Ode to a Bear:  Part I,"

That night we slept curled in one sleeping bag.
I dreamt of Ben, saw Boon's knife slash his throat.
Lion was ripped to shreds.  But in this dream
the bear did not die; he moved to the forest's edge
and turned to stare with yellowed eyes.  In fear,
I clung to you—and realized why you brought me here. (17)

Prefaced by a quotation from Faulkner, this poem is fascinating in that it presents the landscapes of his novels through the eyes of a female protagonist. The epigraph is effective in situating the poem within an existing literary tradition, which the text proceeds to revise, adapting Faulkner's aesthetic to a rapidly shifting social terrain. Slot's epigraphs frequently exist at the intersection of homage and revision. But this is what makes her work so fascinating. She envisions literary tradition as being constantly in flux, a work in progress that is always subject to revision.

For Slot, the past does not limit us, but rather, serves as the starting point for one's own contribution to an artistic conversation. Appropriation, reinvention, and dialogue afford exciting possibilities, which are not available to those working outside of an established literary tradition. It is her liberal approach to this received source material that renders her work so rich from an interpretational standpoint. With that in mind, the poems in this collection lend themselves to careful attention, and reward re-reading. To find a new beauty is a book that's as well-read as it is engaging. This is a wonderful debut from a talented poet.

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