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Steady, My Gaze: Why You Should Read This Book by Marie-Elizabeth Mali

Like the glowing match on its cover, Marie-Elizabeth Mali’s book, Steady, My Gaze, is spiritual chiaroscuro, a quiet conversation between light and darkness. Reading Steady, My Gaze, makes me feel as if I’m on retreat. I’m uplifted one moment, carried away in gorgeous imagery and masterful writing, and then slammed by reality in the next. Although, in these poems, the slamming is beautiful too.

“Silent Retreat,” The final section, is among my favorite. The words of Adyashanti, the retreat leader, are threaded throughout each poem. “The image you have of yourself/ is unworthy because it’s an image,/ unreal. You interpret it to mean/ you are unworthy, but it’s the image/ that’s unworthy, not you.”  The next stanza is in the speaker’s voice, “Resonant body strings, our sitting/ thrums the room./ At the back of the hall, a toilet/ flushes like thunderclap.”  Such is life; the...

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