Cleveland State University Poetry Center

Say Soby by Dora Malech



Say So
by Dora Malech

The poems in Say So are at once rigorously formal and wildly experimental. Human utterance—be it prayer or plea or pun or turn of phrase or epithet—is one of Say So’s primary pistons; poetic tradition—rhyme, meter, form, rhetoric—is another; the beauty and betrayals of the body, or bodies—echoed in the beauty and betrayal of language itself—is a third. Together, these forces provide the pressure that makes Say So move and brings these poems to life.

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A review from the The Daily Iowan

Verse Daily Review

A video of Dora Malech reading "Love Poem" on PBS's Weekly Poem series

Say So review in Galatea Resurrects #18




Please be my date
to this evening's disaster.

A bit lip. The tip
of the tip off, you,

of my ever endless.

Apples fallen
on the launch pad.

Sun racing down
without a parachute again.

In event of horizon,
lie low and alone.

Underpass and overpass
crisscross the fault.

Raze the last
of the orchard.

Raise the blackened banner.
Lower your right hand.



Dora Malech is the author of the poetry collection Shore Ordered Ocean (Waywiser, 2009). Her poems have appeared in Best New PoetsThe New YorkerPoetryPoetry London, and elsewhere. Her work has recently been honored with a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship, and a residency at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation in Umbertide, Italy. Malech has taught writing at The University of Iowa, St. Mary's College of California, Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters in New Zealand, and Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. She lives in Iowa City.


“The two-faced (at minimum) essence of language is Dora Malech’s inherited problem, and her opportunity: nothing is just what it says, and everything says much more than it knows. “I hope you like dirt because that’s what you’re getting,” she warns, or promises. Malech is ferociously alert to the unconscious absurdity and desire in idiomatic speech, its mortifying blend of self-effacement and self-betrayal. The closer one stares at the dizzying, ultra-fluent surfaces of these poems, the more their grave ambiguities emerge.”
—Mark Levine

Say So flaunts the powers inherent in the duplicities of language, words as reactants in shifting contexts and punning-under-pressure, yet it settles for no easy, cool ironies, no detached assumptions of transgression; in fact, it achieves what can only be called white-hot sincerity and committed truthfulness. This is writing of astonishing prosodical dexterity and lexical wiles. What strikes me as most courageous is that even as Dora Malech’s poetry confronts social, political and personal despair and wreckage, it never sacrifices innovative fire, will not be made mute or abjure the glorious means of poetry.”
—Dean Young