Terri Witek

The Rape Kit wins the Slope Editions’ 16th Annual Book Prize

Terri Witek has been announced as the winner of the Slope Editions’ 16th Annual Book Prize for her poetry manuscript, The Rape Kit. The prize was judged by poet Dawn Lundy Martin.

Writing about the manuscript, Dawn says: “Terri Witek’s The Rape Kit is a powerful procedural collection of poems that unearths the obstructionist nature of the bureaucratic apparatuses that proclaim to attend to the trauma of sexual violence. But that’s just the beginning. The range and depth of this book is astonishing in its precision, and in its probing. The Rape Kit manages an unrelenting force of return to languages of steely repression, thereby stealing power from the gaze of the apparatuses and those behind it.”

Dawn adds that, “It is a miraculous accomplishment. Witek’s collection is rare and necessary and a fire in throat of a culture that has no appropriate language for rape and its aftermath. Her approximation here strokes the aura of a pain that cannot be spoken. It takes multiple approaches—renderings of interior architectures, absences, diagrams, historical overlay, erasures, and language repetition—but in the end, Witek’s The Rape Kit is a grand success, the best we’ll get. Fresh, relevant, and heartbreaking.”

Terri Witek teaches poetry and directs the Sullivan Creative Writing Program at Stetson University in the United States. Her books include Body Switch (2016), Exit Island (2013), The Shipwreck Dress (2010), Fools and Crows (2003), Carnal World (2005), and The Rape Kit will be published in 2018 by Slope Editions along with the prize of $1000.

Witek’s poetry is a portal to new languages and possibilities within terrestrial and celestial bodies. In a poem in Exit Island she writes, “as the sun arrived we touched it.” Hers are poems that alternate between esotericism and the nearest human manifestations. In a poem in Body Switch she writes, “The river says I don’t have to wake up.”

Talking about her poetic process, Witek says: “I believe in the poem as a way of simultaneously seeing and moving. What are the limits of language? Can we, by writing things down, make them vanish? These may be the deeper subjects—what I’m probably usually writing about is love and its overlaps, lapses and betrayals. Though perhaps this is for readers to say—I was astonished to be called a “water poet” recently, for example (seems right, though I never would have said this).  Poems don’t start with a theme for me—it’s more often a situation—a piece of language plus something I see—that gets me going. And I only seem to be interested in things I don’t quite understand.”