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Olena Kalytiak Davis. Mina Loy. Adrienne Rich. Charles Wright. Dean Young.
They are the five poets who take Andrea Dickens’ breath away.
A native of Virginia—where spring lasts for months—Dickens misses the flowering dogwood tree. But it is Arizona’s multihued and stunningly vast landscapes that inspire Dickens to write poems: poems which are results of her observations of one’s ephemeral interactions with elements of nature around them. Indeed, Dickens holds an MFA in creative writing from Ohio State University. That's in addition to her PhD in theology, ethics and culture from the University of Virginia and master's degrees from the University of Virginia and Yale University.
Besides poetry, another creative outlet for Dickens is ceramics art. A minimalist, heavily influenced by the Japanese tradition, as a ceramacist she follows the philosophy of creation as articulated by her teacher, Tom Clarkson: “center yourself before you can center your universe.”
Among her prize-winning ceramics, her personal favorite remains one which bears the marks of the process of making gone wrong. For the imperfection in the creation resulted in a unique piece which, one can argue, represents the essence of the dynamic nature of ceaseless interactions among the elements of Nature.
As her art brings to stillness such a ceaseless process of natural interactions, Dickens cherishes her experiences as a volunteer at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Such experiences only reaffirm her philosophy of balancing meditative silence with human interactions: inclusive, transient, and essential. Dickens' embrace of meditative practice also extends to her scholarship; in 2009, she published The Female Mystic: Great Women Thinkers of the Middle Ages (I.B. Tauris), which examined medieval women's mysticism.
Dickens was an instructor in the Department of English for six years before being promoted to her current position, lecturer, last fall.
Image 1: Courtesy image of Andrea Dickens.
Image 2: "Sea Urchin Bowl" by Andrea Dickens. Courtesy photo.
Image 3: "Snow on the Mountains" by Andrea Dickens. Courtesy photo.