Rachel Slotnick received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. She is a tenured faculty member at Malcolm X College and adjunct faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a commissioned muralist for Chicago’s 35th, 39th, 46th and 47th wards. Rachel recently completed sculpture installations on Michigan Avenue as a donation to PAWS Chicago, two of which have been placed on permanent display at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her work has appeared in Mad Hat, Thrice Fiction, Driftwood Press, After Hours, Rain Taxi, Newfound, and The Brooklyn Rail among others. Rachel won Rhino Poetry’s Founder’s Prize and was nominated by Rhino Poetry for the Pushcart Prize in 2015. She was nominated by Make Literary Magazine for the Pushcart Prize in 2017. She is the author of “In Lieu of Flowers,” available through Tortoise Books.
I teach art, creative writing, and composition in a community college where students claim they don't "get" poetry. Then they turn up the volume on their headphones and bob their heads to music and mouth the words. Poetry is inherent and intuitive for all of us. The rules can be evasive. Formlessness itself becomes a form. I often find myself trying to pinpoint what I love so much about poetry. There is something about the silences between words, the inhale interrupting the tempo of the slam poet, the anticipation as we turn the page. Sometimes, by saying something that means nothing at all, we are much closer to saying something.
My debut book of poetry, “In Lieu of Flowers,” was dubbed a collage in book form for the way it transmuted narrative and abstraction through text, painting, and fabric collage. Painting has always been an essential part of my process, and at times the writing takes a back seat to colors and forms. Sometimes, I spend whole summers exploring my poems and stories as large scales murals sprawling across walls in the city. Other times, I am reminded that my writing is the beating heart of my painting.
My first book contemplated our relationship to flowers. Keats said that lilies represent the return of the soul to innocence at death. I’m fascinated by the roles flowers play in our rituals– that we designate some flowers for funerals, and others for weddings. And I think it’s very interesting that there’s some overlap. Some flowers have their roots in two worlds, and I relate to that as someone who is a little confused. Most of my work is about memorial, and I suppose I’m planting words like flowers to make peace with my memories.