by Dora Malech
Cleveland State University Poetry Center
Say So by Dora Malech is a tumble down the language rabbit hole.
It takes you into a world of wordplay that is more than mere playful language. These poems are serious business and will gather your senses until you are absorbed into their consciousness. When Malech titled her book, Say So, it was a signpost to her readers because that is exactly what she does in this, her second full-length collection of poetry.
Malech sets the obvious against the hidden and blends them into a musicality that peels away layers until the reader feels as exposed as the /images in her poems. The wordplay trickles in and around the words like a meandering tributary that opens up into a vast river of /images that rushes through to her readers.
Malech’s speech is straightforward and at times raw. She begins her poems with a searing openness that both beckons the reader and grips like a vise. Some of the titles in this collection include:
“Oh Grow Up”
“Lying Down With Dogs”
“Note To So Sorry For Self”
“Them’s Fighting Words”
And, my personal favorite: “Goodbye I Love You.”
But these beckoning titles are only a part of the story. Malech takes everyday speech and weaves it into a rhythmic and melodic song. In “Love Poem” she juxtapositions opposites until they tell an intimate story:
“Get over it, meaning, the moon.
Tell me you’ll dismember this night forever,
you my punch-drunking bag, tar to my feather.
More than the sum of our private parts, we are some
peekaboo, some peak and valley, some
bright equation (if and then but, if er than uh).
My fruit bat, my gewgew. You had me at no duh.” (5)
The combination of positives and negatives within the play of everyday words gives her readers an insight into the duality of love and relationships in a clever, tongue-in-cheek fashion.
But as one reads this collection, one sees through to the heart of this duality. There is something much stronger being expressed within these seemingly playful lines. This is evident in poems such as “Pop Quiz”:
“Twist of lime or twisted arm? Lent hand or footsie?
All the crossword puzzle nouns can’t help me now—“
This ominous beginning only deepens as the poem continues:
“Tactile error means wrong cheek to cheek.
I’m wetting my unicorn suit. Can’t blame this mess
On longwinded weather, cyst, or whiskey dick”
Until we come to the end and are left with a final line of strength and defiance:
“Throat closed for repairs, I gag a bit, allergic
to the peanut gallery: “Its your fucking heart, man.”
I pledge a lesion, draw a spine in the sand.” (47)
Malech’s poems have many voices in this collection: some are sad, some sarcastic, some are funny with a sneering backhand; but, no matter the subject, this collection will sing to you. It is definitely best when read over and over. Keep Say So on your bedside table for those sleepless nights when you need something to remind you that the world is indeed an amazing place filled with contradictions and beauty hiding in very strange places.
Joan Hanna was born and raised in Philadelphia. She has a BA in Writing Arts from Rowan University and is completing her MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry and Creative Nonfiction at Ashland University. Her poems have appeared in Common threads, Modicum, the premier issue of Glassworks and the 15th anniversary edition of Poetry Ink. Joan is a reader for River Teeth and writes reviews for Author Exposure and Poets’ Quarterly.