Steady My Gaze
Published by Tebot Bach in 2011


Steady, My Gaze is a metaphysical page-turner.  Marie-Elizabeth Mali is not fooling around – she means to find her way to the real—each poem makes possible the next—a breath-taking debut. —Marie Howe

“Wholehearted” is an undervalued word; to my mind it means not blind enthusiasm or unthinking embrace but something more like the full consent of the self to experience, to be present in the glorious and wounding matrix of the here and now. I can’t think of a better word for Marie-Elizabeth Mali’s poems. She wants “the honeyed sizzle beyond all language,” wants to be a vulnerable and conscious participant in the life of things as they are, awake to love and the struggle to live freely and compassionately.  “How to hold the ocean,” she asks, “when the vessel leaks? Rise your wild, / dear animal . . .” —Mark Doty

Wherever her well-versed gaze lands, whatever chords she seizes and sings, however she chooses to tango across the floor of your imagination, you are assured to be embraced and hypnotically swept up by Marie-Elizabeth Mali’s stylish rotations of thought and pivoting reflections. What she executes in language, “all flit and hover,” is no mere feat and goes beyond our standard fare of dramatic recall and gestural redemption. The poems in Steady, My Gaze announce this poet as, also, spiritually awake and sagacious, full of the necessary vitality to stir our souls, to make a distinctive sound in the din of our modern world. —Major Jackson

Attuned to the sensual and the sacred, Marie-Elizabeth Mali is engaged in “the pursuit of some ground to call home.” A restless traveler of the landscapes of self and the self’s origins, and of the heart’s affections, Mali is always a seeker reminding us to “Praise this beautiful, terrible world where we are opened / and rushed.”  Steady, My Gaze offers the gift of keenly observed, celebratory poems from a passionate spirit. —Kim Addonizio

Marie-Elizabeth Mali is a poet of extraordinary sensitivity, who picks up the signals of joy and suffering and puts that music out into the world. She takes delight in everything from the mist of a waterfall in Venezuela to her husband’s creative use of bananas. She confronts mortality in a moving elegy for her father, in the suicide of her husband’s first wife, and the haunted words of a firefighter who dug up a human foot from the rubble of the World Trade Center. She is a spiritual and a sensual poet both, utterly honest and unafraid, capable of wonder yet grounded in compassion, writing from a tactile awareness of the body in all its grace and vulnerability. This is a steady gaze indeed. —Martín Espada

What a perfect title for this book. Its gaze is steady and more: tender (there are marvelous and unabashed love poems here), illuminating, and bursting with a life force so strong and so rare that it should be almost illegal! —Thomas Lux

Reading this vivid debut from Marie-Elizabeth Mali, I am reminded of the preciousness of true understanding, how briefly our words will be the right ones. “Words are dust,” she warns us, “caught in a ray of light . . .” Steady, My Gaze is a book we can open anywhere—go ahead, do it now—and discover how young poetry still is, how much still remains to be savored. The voices and forms are many, the humor is rich, the intimacy startling. You’ll want to read it more than once. “Forgetfulness is ecstasy’s cousin.” —Brendan Constantine




Co-edited by Annie Finch and Marie-Elizabeth Mali
Published by Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets in 2012


The first of its kind–a comprehensive collection of the best of the villanelle, a delightful poetic form whose popularity ranks only behind that of the sonnet and the haiku.

With its intricate rhyme scheme and dance-like pattern of repeating lines, its marriage of recurrence and surprise, the villanelle is a form that has fascinated poets since its introduction almost two centuries ago. Many well-known poets in the past have tried their hands at the villanelle, and the form is enjoying a revival among poets writing today. The poems collected here range from the classic villanelles of the nineteenth century to such famous and memorable examples as Dylan Thomas’s “Do not go gentle into that good night,” Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,” and Sylvia Plath’s “Mad Girl’s Love Song.” Here too are the cutting-edge works of contemporary poets, including Sherman Alexie, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Rita Dove, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, and many others whose poems demonstrate the dazzling variety that can be found within the parameters of a single, strict form.