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Segue 12: Fall 2014  ||  Andrea Witzke Slot


about the author


Andrea Witzke Slot writes poetry, fiction, essays, and academic work, and is particularly fascinated by the spaces in which these genres intersect. She is the author of the poetry collection To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012), and recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Southeast Review, Poetry East, Bellevue Literary Review, Mid-American Review, Mezzo Cammin, Nimrod, Tupelo Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and in academic books published by SUNY Press (2013) and Palgrave Macmillan (2014). She lives just north of Chicago with her husband, the youngest of her five children/step-children, and her crazy West Highland Terrier Macbeth.


about the work


This particular poem, “Regret,” was sparked by the constant feeling of being too busy in our lives—too busy to write letters, amble around the garden, take go-nowhere walks with friends, and make long, catch-up, just-for-the-sake-of-it phone calls. The poem came to me slowly over a period of time, as they often do, but was initially prompted by the experience of waking in the night thinking, “Why didn’t I call so-and-so back? Why didn’t I answer that email?” Then I’d feel terrible and send him or her some telekinetic love. The second experience that sparked the poem is in direct contrast to the first—the long hours I once spent in my youth chatting to friends on our yellow house phone, long before the advent of texting, cellphones, or any kind of social media. I have powerful images of the large, bulky, screwed-to-the-wall phone we used to use. In the 70s, we didn’t even have “cordless” phones, so we were quite literally tied to the wall, which meant standing within a ten-foot radius of the handset. Our phone was located in our kitchen, too, which was painted in my mother’s favorite color—bright orange—so the color imagery as well as the buzzing centrality of family life in that kitchen were key accompaniments to those phone conversations.

When writing and developing this particular poem, the most difficult part was getting the flow and movement between now and then and back to now to unfold in a way in which time matters. In my prose as well as my poetry, I rework poems relentlessly as I attempt to create the right tone, music, and metrical lengths that allow images to linger in the reader’s mind for the right amount of time and then connect easily and smoothly to the ones that follow.  The easiest part of writing the poem was having strong images already in mind—my computer, the midnight sorrow, and the old phone in my childhood kitchen. The poem is an apology of sorts, too. As much time as I spend at my computer writing, I am not always good at returning emails or phone calls.

And the craft of poetry? To me, writing poetry has always been about trying to create an image and sensation that is as powerful in words as it is in my head and heart. This means creating a kind of movement in a piece that will make the subject come to life and, I hope, make readers feel and think differently about the way we live our lives. When I reread the poem, I feel reminded of the urgent need for me to take the time to call my sisters, friends, parents, and extended family more often. And if just one reader is likewise prompted to make a long overdue phone call after reading the poem, then perhaps the poem has succeeded in its goals, however small they might be.


andrea witzke slot on the Web




muse.jhu.edu/books/9781438449067 (free access through college libraries that subscribe to Project Muse)





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