FLOURISH: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2020
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In Flourish, multiple meanings catch light—as the leaves of growing things might, or the facets of cut gemstones, or a signal mirror flashing in distress. These poems explore themes of thriving, growth, innovation, and survival, while immersing the reader in the pleasures of language itself—the “flourish” of linguistic gesture, play, form, turn, and adornment.
Here, the lens zooms in and out to micro and macro levels, asking us to see the familiar with new eyes. The collection engages with the materials of the worlds we inhabit—natural worlds and those of our own making—and a full spectrum of poetry’s own materials, building worlds of words and illuminating the shadowed terrain of our interior landscapes as well.
“Malech wields an elegant knife. A reader wowed by her brilliant imagery might overlook the terror in a line like, ‘Though his eyes are open, the dead man is not all that moved by the stars.’ These poems examine the violence about us. Malech’s landscapes are full of ‘bloody lullabies,’ ‘sweet asylum,’ ‘lexical kaleidoscopes,’ and sentences ‘bursting at as if all else / were seams, field sown to open, / reveling in its unraveling.’ Flourish is dazzling.”
— Terrance Hayes, author of American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin
“What a brilliant book. Page after page one finds lines one wants to write down. Here is poetry that is unafraid to see us clearly. In this time of injustice, what can one poet do? How can that one ‘pair of wings on fire’ lift us out of our predicament? Open this book to find out. Find that there is, after all, what this poet calls this ‘pesky tenderness.’ Open this book and see for yourself how ‘gratitude that one expends expands.’ This is real poetry, friends.”
— Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic
"Announcing what’s most at stake in its own title, Flourish is about the ardent encounters that irradiate a life into meaning. In poems about the textures of the world, the currents of thought and feeling within the self, and the intricate amplitude of language itself, Dora Malech is engaged in a project of enlargement steeped in granular attentiveness. As the title poem, with serious wit, proposes: “sweet alyssum, / sweet asylum.” Dazzled and mournful often at the same time, Malech’s poems keep asking, “you—will you attend?” And in their intensities—imaginative, emotional, ethical—these poems keep saying yes."
— Rick Barot, author of The Galleons
"In Dora Malech’s Flourish we encounter a speaker who brilliantly pinpoints the pulses and currents that undergird spaces, events, people, the political, the natural world, and the self. These poems believe deeply in the power of words as spells, prayers, songs, and talismans—and they interrogate the nature of language itself as the nexus of existence, torquing and bending signifiers and sounds until they radiate with insight. There is a danger, a fire, a smolder beneath these poems and their dazzling beauty and music—this is a book of awareness, of light and growth and small gestures—a book of resilience that lets us deep into the speaker’s internal life, her contemplative strength and optimism."
— Erika Meitner, author of Holy Moly Carry Me
Reviews of Flourish:
"Nothing is off limits. Malech bends all registers of language to her ends . . . There is something in this collection for everyone—the personal, the political, the intimate, the strange, and humorous. Malech makes me sympathize with unexpected figures—rats, the flame-obsessed moth, a scorpion, even the annoying homeowner whose hyperactive sump-pump disturbs what should be a peaceful abode for the speaker. Flourish is full of gems . . . [If] you enjoy poetry’s nuanced, detailed gift wrapping and the process of unwrapping a poem’s daedal surprises, then pleasures will never cease for you in the beautiful, sinuous Flourish."
— Jalen Eutsey, BmoreArt
"I’m awed by Flourish. I’m awed by Malech’s ability to capture the moment of the double-take, to record the moment of misapprehension, the artful stumbling. To dutifully mourn for the world’s losses while the embers are still smoldering. To confess to complacency and privilege, to vow to worship at the altar of progress, to attempt to understand the human mind at a time when understanding has retreated to the periphery like an abandoned animal. To persevere, despite it all."
— Jane Huffman, The Iowa Review
"Malech uses poetry as an investigative tool to identify places where humans suffer, and as a palliative to ease that suffering. By paying attention to the world around us, Malech’s poems suggest, we can uncover meaning in everyday experience that gives substance to one’s fleeting existence. Flourish is a call to action to live that way now."
— Michael Quinn, The Literary Review
"‘Flourish,’ the title poem, is also the last poem of the book, and it ends, “Celebrate // the act / we make of the temporary fact of us.” Fittingly, this poet of such energy and verve and play ends with a deeply humanistic invitation, not to look at words as a magic spell that must act to matter, but rather to revel in them as symptoms of what’s within us, a heart we must celebrate even as we seek to say what it is. It’s a poetics hopeful that sound, if allowed to detach and transcend the signifier-signified relationship, can transcend meaning and rise into flame; after all, “a small fire is still fire. / No telling what it can consume.” It insists that language can still be our best probe into what we’re made of."
— Bill Neumire, Verdad
"Beauty certainly exists in the strong, tangled lines—and we have some birds, some bees, and many clematis—but the poems are not the snoozy, lazy ride in a boat on a warm Fourth of July; they are the fireworks that occur later, set a little too close to the house. “A small fire is still fire./No telling what it can consume,” “Running in Autumn” tells us. You’d better be awake because you’re going to be dazzled."
— Kyle Torke, The Center for Literary Publishing