In Stet, poet Dora Malech takes constraint as her catalyst and subject, exploring what it means to make or break a vow, to create art out of a life in flux, to reckon with the body’s bounds, and to arrive at a place where one might bear and care for another life. Tapping the inventive possibilities of constrained forms, particularly the revealing limitations of the anagram, Stet is a work of serious play that brings home the connections and intimacies of language.
“Stet,” from the Latin for “let it stand,” is a proofreading term meaning to retain or return to a previous phrasing. The uncertainty of changes made and then reconsidered haunts Stet as its poems explore what is left unsaid through erasures, redaction, and the limitations of spelling. How does one “go back” on one’s word or “stand by” one’s decisions? Can a life be remade or revised, or is the past forever present as in a palimpsest? Embodying the physicality and reproductive potentiality inherent in the collection’s forms and figures, Stet ends expectantly, not searching for closure but awaiting the messy, living possibilities of what comes next.
By turns troubling and consoling, Stet powerfully combines lyric invention and brilliant wordplay.
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What People are Saying About This
“With anagrammatic swerve, Dora Malech stitches letters into lyric tapestries of cascading metamorphoses. The stunning final series reinvents a Plath poem: poiesis becoming as palpable as the dawning of crystals in dark matter."—Charles Bernstein, author of Pitch of Poetry "Reader beware: you are handling a book as dangerous as it is delicious. Dora Malech’s passionate constraint—her fervor, her discipline, and her devotion—is exemplary and can be contagious. This collection is one of a kind."—Stephen Yenser, author of Stone Fruit“Obsessiveness bears with it intensity, and so these taut, fraught poems—strung on strands of anagrams—sear in their double duty to the alphabet and to the demise of a love affair. Part tour de force, part cri de coeur, Stet enacts a transposition: the system of language is given a mutable body while the feverish spirit straps itself to the rigor of patterning. Dora Malech’s feats have made for a knotty and mesmerizing book.”—Susan Wheeler, author of Meme"If a poem is 'a machine made of words,' here it's broken down to its essential elements, and then built back up in a recombinatory process echoing DNA, and as full of life. Throughout, Malech strikes a vertiginous, Oulipean balance, incredibly tight while utterly winging it. An acrobatic delight!"—Cole Swensen, author of On Walking On