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I Should Have Given Them Water

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I Should Have Given Them Water is a sensual and heartbreaking new collection of poetry by San Francisco-based poet Eileen Malone. With a maximalist style, Malone s hard-edged poems make the most of grammatical ambiguities and compel the reader to fully engage with her unique sense of the incongruous. Offering feminine as well as feminist testimony to the experience of being a woman in the 21st century, Malone is a widely published poet, mental health activist and the host of a television series on the arts in California. "

84 pages, Paperback

First published June 12, 2010

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Profile Image for Skylar Burris.
Author 20 books230 followers
October 14, 2010
I am not a fan of the use of the lower case i for the personal pronoun, which has become increasingly popular in poetry. In fact, I even note my dislike for the use of the lowercase I in my submission guidelines for Ancient Paths, the literary magazine I edit and publish. In my experience, the lower case “i” in poetry is very often accompanied by either excess pretension or impenetrability. Therefore, I was expecting to find much of the poetry in “i should have given them water” not to my liking. Interestingly enough, despite the title, no poem in the volume uses the lower case i. That alone was not why I respected the poems in this volume, however. Proper capitalization of the personal pronoun, as satisfying as it is to me, does not a great poem make.

But I enjoyed the stark and often unique imagery of Eileen Malone’s poems. She makes use of the five senses, but I was particularly struck by her use of scent. At times the lines seemed too long to carry a pleasing rhythm, and I felt as though I was being dragged along them, but the alliteration was arresting. These dark poems are sometimes tender, sometimes disturbing, with alternating notes of hope and dejection. Some are quite moving.

Although the poems are all well written, there are very few in the volume that could see myself wanting to read over and over again. The most powerful are those that deal with struggling or dying relationships. I would not recommend this collection to a casual reader of poetry, as they are not easily accessible and require some thinking, but if you are well-read in the genre, I would urge you to give this volume a try.
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