Pleasure through poetry


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Dora Malech has some very simple advice to give young, budding artists: Read a lot, fall in love, and travel however, whenever, and wherever you can.

Her passion for both poetry and art have inspired her words of wisdom. In her short 28 years, the Bethesda, Md., native has been the recipient of several writing fellowships, has taught in New Zealand, and has been able to transform her love of writing into two books.

Malech will read from her first publication, Shore Ordered Ocean, at 7 p.m. today at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St.

The second collection from Malech, Say So, is set for release in 2010 from the Cleveland State University Poetry Center.

“Dora is one of the most linguistically playful poets I’ve ever read, yet she still pays attention to form and structure,” said Michael Dumanis, the director of the Poetry Center.

When it comes to crafting a poem or a piece of art, Malech said, she has always found that it’s a medium to contact the outside world.

“Poetry and art are ways for me to maintain an active relationship with everything,” she said. “Making art has always been this paradoxical practice in which I could step out of my life and be more fully invested in my life at the exact same time.”

As a result of this paradox, her creative process is ever-evolving, and this progression depends on the piece itself. As each work grows, it takes on a life of its own, and blossoms into true form in its own time, she said. Her practice of “accretion” has had an effect on her work from the very beginning.

“There’s the rare poem that arrives fully formed, but for the most part, I collect my raw materials like a magpie for long stretches of time before I can begin to shape those parts into anything remotely whole,” she said.

This procedure has been successful for her, and she has had the opportunity to teach writing students in her craft around the country and the world. After receiving an M.F.A. in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2005, Malech had the opportunity in 2006 to teach in the M.A. poetry workshop at Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington, New Zealand.

This experience, she said, has been her favorite as a teacher.

Much of her teaching career has focused in and around Iowa, and she has also taught at Kirkwood Community College, the UI, and now at Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. Through the coursework she assigns, she is intent on teaching something a little less tangible to her students.

“I want my students to begin to find pleasure in asking big questions and wrestling with their own minds,” Malech said. “I want them to embrace literature for its difficulty and mystery, not in spite of it. What’s worth doing that isn’t, on some level, difficult and mysterious?”

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