Mother Kingdom/ poems by Andrea Deeken/ book review by Laurence Carr

Mother Kingdom, a chapbook of poems by Andrea Deeken is an intimate reflection of family played out in fourteen individual but connected pieces. The book won the 2021 Slapering Hol Poetry Chapbook Competition and is published by Slapering Hol Press, a prolific Hudson Valley publisher of numerous books over the years.

The intriguing cover art and drawings by Hyde Meissner must also be mentioned, which brings a strong mythic sense of the book. We’re drawn in from first glance.

The volume, at a chapbook-length of 28 pages, is tightly focused tracing the author’s relationships with self and others: father, daughter, mother, grandparent. Some of the poems are more generalized, creating an atmosphere of thoughts for the reader to breathe in and ponder; other poems are highly detailed and bring the visual to the forefront. Objects hold weight here and become minor characters that may affect the reader as much as the more poignant offerings.

From “Evolution”:

“Today it’s cold but the crocuses are coming up,

ochre pollen petals small as thimbles.

Soon the geese will head back north,

their black wings cutting through soundless cloud.”

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Mother Kingdom, a telling title, reflects the role of “mother”, not simply as the person who gives birth, but as the deep observer and nurturer of those around her, recording how people both attract and repel but ultimately are an integral part of each other’s lives. The book creates a fine balance of memoir, diary, confessional poem, and sharp observation.

The yearning to find oneself is prevalent throughout the piece. The end of “What is a Mother?” states:

I’d fill my belly with other people’s

plans, a skinny girl biking on gravel

looking for something, a way

to feel full.”

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Readers can look forward to reading Andrea Deeken’s work. The poems resonate and have a haunting power that will hold until the next volume. I’ll leave the final words to the poet, from the end of the poem “Before Girl’s, There Was God”:

I’d floor the motor

as fast as it could go, riding

on top of those sun-setting souls,

bound by the old law.

I was alive, flying free.”

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Author Andrea Deeken was born in rural Missouri. Her writing has appeared in Beltway Poetry QuarterlyThe Blue Mountain ReviewSpoon River Poetry ReviewValley Voices, and elsewhere. Her awards include an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize Contest and second place in the 2020 Blue Mountain Review LGBTQ Chapbook Contest, among others. A former book editor, she has worked for the Multnomah County Library for fifteen years. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her wife and daughter. 

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Cover artist Hyde Meissner is a retired psychotherapist who is delightedly spending her free time making drawings and woodcuts. She majored in art at Smith College and holds a Master of Arts in Art Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a MSW from Smith College. 

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