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Two workshop graduates to read poetry today

BY ERIC HAWKINSON | JANUARY 20, 2011 7:10 AM

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Poet Dora Malech doesn’t limit herself to literary work. She is a lover of all art forms — finding inspiration in drawing, painting, writing, music, dance, film, and photography. As a child in Bethesda, Md., she was exposed to some of the region’s many fine museums and art galleries.

“There was also the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, which had readings and workshops,” she said. “Since I grew up always wanting to be making something, it was great to have community resources to experience art.”

Malech, a resident of Iowa City, will read from her newest book, Say So, at 7 p.m. today at Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St. Joining her will be poet Shane McCrae, who has the same publisher as Malech. Admission is free.

“I read with McCrae once before in Madison last year, and I’m excited to read with him again,” Malech said. “He’s a really strong reader of his work.”

Because the two poets have been published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, McCrae said, it was only natural for them to perform a reading together. He expects it to be “verbally dazzling and emotionally involving.”

“It’s poetry that can shift in an instant from funny to heartbreaking,” he said. “That’s part of what you can expect.”

McCrae will read from his book Mule, which he wrote with some of his favorite music in mind. He said he hoped to create a musical book.

“I like a lot of noisy, pretty guitar-based stuff, particularly My Bloody Valentine, he said. “I was trying to make the words blur together in such a way that meaning would be generated by the blurring itself. But I wanted to do this without sacrificing the meanings, as I understood them, of the words themselves.”

In addition to the two poets being published by the same company and reading together, they both graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop — McCrae in 2004 and Malech a year later.

There is something about Iowa City that draws Malech back. She’s lived and worked in other places for semesters at a time but always returns here. She now calls it her home.

“I love traveling and experiencing new places, but I love the sense of community here in Iowa City,” she said.

The young artist said she was excited about joining a local Iowa City nonprofit organization called the Iowa Youth Writing Project, which aims to link Iowa City’s long literary history with the youth in the community. It’s a chance to potentially affect creativity in local children and teenagers.

“Accessing the imagination, expressing oneself through language, and being a part of a larger community can and should be empowering, exciting experiences, and that’s what we want the project to be about,” she said.

Since recently receiving a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, Malech has focused her time on finishing a third book of poetry. Her first book, published in 2009, was titled Shore Ordered Ocean. Since the release of that book, she has started incorporating other forms of art in her work. She said some of her visual art can be viewed in the Prairie Lights Times Club café throughout this week.

For the future, she said, she would like to create pieces that integrate her poetry and visual art. With a keen eye for many aspects in art, though, there’s no telling what her work will produce next.

“I’m fascinated by the impact and strengths of all different media,” Malech said. “I don’t think there’s any point in creating a hierarchy, because I think the arts are all part of a larger conversation.”


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