Dora Malech, Shore Ordered Ocean

96 pp, ISBN: 978-1-904130-39-0, £8.99 (paperback only),  
UK Publication, November 7th 2009

US Publication, March 2010

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A note about Shore Ordered Ocean

"By turns playful and serious, the poems in Dora Malech's long-awaited second collection, Shore Ordered Ocean, revel in the inherent tensions and pleasures of sense, sound and syntax, reveal the resonance in the offhand utterance, seek the unexpected in aphorism and cliché, and tap into the paradoxical freedom of formality. This is an extraordinary collection of highly idiosyncratic poems which explores place, politics, the body, love, art, and more. It is bound together by an urgent, physical and beguiling relationship with language itself."


A note on Dora Malech

Dora Malech was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1981 and grew up in Bethesda, Maryland. She earned a BA in Fine Arts from Yale College in 2003 and an MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2005. She has been the recipient of a Frederick M. Clapp Poetry Writing Fellowship from Yale, a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship from the Writers’ Workshop, a Glenn Schaeffer Award in Poetry, and a Writer’s Fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbertide, Italy. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including the New Yorker, Poetry, Best New Poets, American Letters & Commentary, Poetry London, and the Yale Review. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa; Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington, New Zealand; Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. She lives in Iowa City.

To read Dora Malech in conversation with Gregory Lawless, please click on the link below:


Praise for Shore Ordered Ocean


“These are wonderful poems. Dora Malech knows just about everything there is to know about the risky music that lives in language. But she also knows about Truth and Beauty. She’s far too wise to try and make these last two rhyme, but she constantly tempts them into conversation.” – Bill Manhire

“If you’d wondered where the dappled things had gone, how the tisket and tasket ended up, what the fickle, freckled, couple-colored pieces of life were up to, look no further. Dora Malech has woven them into her exuberant debut. And she’s stuck in too the x-rays of Zeus and the horns of Moses. Shore Ordered Ocean is by turns witty and wonderstruck, fragile and fierce. Best of all, it announces an extraordinary talent to be watched and cherished.” – J. D. McClatchy

“Inquiring, irreverent, reverent, enraptured, Dora Malech is that rare thing, the magician technician, and she has written a book in which a sudden segue in poetry takes place – from Hopkins to the present. The result is as breathtaking as a dove release. She knows every word in the world is a book, that every center sought and found is continually thrown off, that the muscular is fragile and vice-versa, yet none of her old soul knowledge is ponderous, predictable, or dull, for she remains in love with that essential playfulness which is the innocence of art. Here is Malech on the birth of a child: ‘... unfold all / those origami limbs to test / the inevitable debutante bawl.’ This book is an astonishing debut, one that makes me feel our original, lost language has found its way home.” – Mary Ruefle


Reviews of Shore Ordered Ocean


Indiana Review, 32:2 (Winter, 2010)

"Dora Malech's ... Shore Ordered Ocean is a feast for the ears, tongue and imagination .... – Alessandra Simmons



PN Review, 196 (November-December 2010)

"Dora Malech is a remarkably individual and assured poet, both funny and engaging ... She has a remarkably keen eye for the outer world. Her effortlessly fresh descriptions, such as 'The young snails resemble pearl barley', even find a new epithet for that old hack, 'the chubby moon'. Taut couplets suit her talent for summary, surprise and wisecracking ... I am full of admiration for Malech's range ... Her collection, which concludes 'let us at least attempt / our impossibly / tiny lives', leaves me with a sense of possibilities for an exciting poet, who, unusually, could take off in various directions. I look forward to communications from her poetic after-life." – Alison Brackenbury



Tarpaulin Sky

"Dora Malech is a poetic contradiction of the best sort: a hyper-productive perfectionist. There's a surplus of brilliant poems in Malech's ninety-one-page debut, Shore Ordered Ocean, a book that showcases a rare talent." – Greg Lawless

To read the whole of this review, please click on the link below:



Poetry London, No 66, Summer 2010

"Malech's great talent is to loosen our boundaries with the sounds of words. She reaches further back than Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose work must be an influence, to Metaphysical poets such as John Donne and even to Shakespeare. Here is part of 'Dreaming in New Zealand':

And since this is my comedy
of ears, in one and in the other's
fate's to trip again, I'll claim:
the body is both bread and breed,
as words well said are planted seed,
and grow so where we tread is treed,
where each line read remains the reed
on which the note is played when pressed
to lips, mouth, self-ordained as priest,
weds wed to we'd and weed and so
with word grown one forever as even
the dead remain in deed, wound round
and round in these wet sheets of wind.

Complex syntax folds clause on clause to build up a rhetoric of public performance ... Malech subsumes everyday idiom wittily inside a poet's voice that relishes patterned phrasing:

Tread threads tract
To contract, acts
As line and signer. ('Ubi Sunt')

There is political commentary, too, in this collection. Malech presents some scenes of direct and highly visualized violence, as in 'Liar':

… 'But by now the heat has melted what's inside his arms and the blows are breaking the burnt skin that's holding him together.'

This quotation describes a filmed fire, violence contained in a safe space. Tradition, or what we have learned, is a source of unease in her poems. By here delivering sadistic description through the voices of educationalists: 'This is where we learn how to approach disparate conflagrations', and by her many other and varied technical resources, this poet undoes the security of our television-led inner world. – Claire Crowther



New Letters, Spring 2010

"[The poems in Dora Malech's ... Shore Ordered Ocean are stark, lyrical, and intense ... Reading this book is like a good, strange dream from which you never want to wake." – Danielle Sellers



Acumen, 67, May 2010

"[S]triking in its power of physical evocation, the lanhguage often being used with a Hopkins like instensity and a fascinated (and fascinating) ear for the sounds of words, for the echoic patterning of consonants and vowels that makes for some remarkable effects ... This is a talent well worth watching." – Glyn Pursglove



MAKE Literary Productions, MFP

"Even fire could not snap the spectrum up as you do, proclaims Marianne Moore in “To A Chameleon.” At the risk of overt labeling or select application of another writer’s words, it must be said that Dora Malech’s first collection has an expansiveness that inspires such comparisons or at least demands a phrase that summarizes the whole. One gets the impression of a huge space, delivered iota by iota to the reader with discipline and control. The language of these poems does not miss a beat; it is literally a “heat-seeking scope” that detects the playful, the romantic, the unbearable, the metaphysical. Here, we have a master of craft who honors the metrical order of a poem, the structure of every line, and above all the sonic effect of words in their order. Nevertheless, Malech’s idiom is capricious and malleable. Phonemes and morphemes bring themselves to light. At a poem’s end, its intricacy is so evident that the reader could easily return to the beginning and assess the poem in a different way: admire its tiny building blocks, its internal echoes and visual patterning ... In Shore Ordered Ocean, Malech has examined and stirred up language to such a level that it is exciting to imagine how her work will progress. Her other collections will be written in its wake – not in the sense of a backwash or aftermath, but in response to her own unleashing of a powerful force." – Jane Lewty

To read the whole of this review, please click on the link below:


On the Seawall: A Literary Website by Rone Slate

When I really like something, all of the praise coming out of my keyboard sounds flat. Fake. Like this: “Dora Malech is the real thing. Ever since I heard her read two poems aloud in 2004, I’ve been waiting for a book from her.”

Oh dear, I really mean that. But how can you hear it? You cringe. Or at best the cliché washes over you, like a ripple in a wave pool. So I tried the online anagram engine. Dora Malech’s Shore Ordered Ocean is

A Credo Redone She Or.
A Code Reorder Shone.
A Corrode Nosed Here.

Of the 58,524 anagrams of the collection's title, ready-made in eight seconds, here’s what I like about the three above: Each captures how Malech’s poems alter – redo, reorder, corrode – the world. Patterns are heaped upon broken patterns. Here Name Your is the title one bears. Oh go disfigure, another poem says.

When the poems don’t know what to say, they sing – until they hit upon something, or end.

Her diction is clipped. Her ear is impeccably playful. Oomph inhabits her lines. Her rhythms! These poems are laced with some kind of metrical chemical. So you just march on and suddenly the book is done.

Stop though. Don’t equate playfulness with innocence or obliviousness. The poems are full of breaking-here-means-broken-elsewhere news – local and international.

Your mother yells at you as you’re stepping off the curb, Look both ways before you cross! You’ve heard it so many times before that you don’t hear it anymore. So you don’t look. You get hit by a car. And then Dora Malech comes along and says Cross both ways before you look, and it makes sense – you can understand English again – and of course, you’re not safe – you’ve already been in a horrible car accident and you know there’s no safe passage to be had – but at least now you have an anthem. Or a creed. And A Creed Doors Hereon." – Darcie Dennigan


From Shore Ordered Ocean


Treasure Hunting


Soon to be a low moon and elsewhere
fire. Lucky mountain shone copper
but not to pocket. Not that kind of angel

between maybe and the blaze. Asked
to hold my baby. Didn't envy gravity
to lug its chubby moon from under.

Dear dire said the radio and oh I was
its girl. Called it a silver un-bridge
a single listing trestle. Someday sounded

the siren of a false all-clear. May I?
My skein all un-spun under fire.
The spider alive in a primrose.

The baby bent to an iris and willing
her face to unfurl. I wanted to watch
the coupling trains. Had never seen

machines in love before. No arrowheads
but among ordinary stones red flint from
which one had maybe once been broken.

The sky streaks with diurnal war paint.
Touches on baby's pulse where
a dream tries to surface. Touches

as the horsemen do (indeed) pass by
the monarch in said spider's web
where struggles spin to filigree.






A Shortcut

A hedgehog shuffles out to take a moment
of the moon. The moon leaves off trying on
cloud after cloud to render for a moment
the frowsy foliage and the nose beneath
in tenebrous strokes, not light and dark,
but light in dark or light in spite of.
Doesn't rinse the brush to touch the lilies'
brief white swash and sticky spots
of seeds and pulp where the karakas bend
and drop their drupes. Sprays of stone-fruit
come to sweet rot underfoot with a stench
that in a warmer, brighter hour would draw
the flies to feed at each smear adhered, here
to the asphalt switchback and there to the stairs
that teeter through the terraces and past
the walls that prop the city up above the sea,
walls studded with snails after a day of rain.
The young snails resemble pearl barley, pale,
scattered as at some strange matrimony,
the old are dark burls grown somehow from brick.
Egalitarian spectrum renders the memory
of the sun's gaudy palette obsolete
here where each edge is a glint and each
hollow, a shadow. Holds at first glance each
as distant and as dear, though an eye that waits
to warm to, lets its iris open into
finds that though both take a glimmer, the shell
knows one way to shine and the body, another.
The former's luster, a crystal ball in which
one sees the muddy future, the latter,
a small brown tongue pronouncing "like" against
a concrete palate, careful. Only the wind hurries
here, and the leaves turn aside to let it pass,
shake disapproval. A spider rests
after mending its nets, sits at the center
of tenuous nebula wound from catkin
to fern frond to the black beaks of the last flax,
an almost-still-life. Here a twitch and there
a shiver and each snail's nacreous wake
belies if not progress then process,
illuminated glyphs, transient text, a glisten
spelling if not here-to-there then
by way of these walls that hold the hills from
their someday certain spill into the harbor
a moment more and then another moment
more for each of our small sakes.




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