Artesian Well ~ C. Malcolm Ellsworth

About the Book:

With tenderness and clarity, C. Malcolm Ellsworth documents what lies above and below the surface. Using the Midwestern landscape, she fearlessly navigates a topography of love, violence, regret, and forgiveness – and unearths whatever it is that seeks to be revealed.

In life, we live with what has passed. In art, we make the past the present. We make it a gift. In Artesian Well, C. Malcolm Ellsworth presents us with love, lost love, regret, hope and strength. Farm girls write “on rocks / with rocks,” write on “wood / with ashes.” Like the poet, they use the material to make the material. In “Chocolate Cake,” Ellsworth bakes up a domestic “sheet.” By the end, the poem, like the cake, “splits, just a little / in the middle, and feels springy like flesh, / and a toothpick stuck in the center / comes out clean.” These artful poems, fleshed with the particulars of ordinary life, come out clean. – Thomas Fox Averill, author of rode and Secrets of the Tsil Cafe

The poems in Artesian Well wander with a dark elegance through a grainy rural terrain, where the burden of memory and a collective grief are characteristics of Midwestern legacy. This is a place where girls shoot guns and ride horses bareback, where recipes are passed down for generations, where “Sometimes in winter / they throw the dead away.” Ellsworth reveals with subtlety the ways our memories can play tricks on us and the illusion of a comforting nostalgia. This is a book about family and the bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, about forgiveness and aging, about how to learn that “the only way home / is through each other.” – Mary Stone Dockery, author of One Last Cigarette

Ellsworth’s Artesian Well reveals the dirt, both emotional and physical, of country living – the volatile, abusive husbands; the killers; the preachers. But here also is a book of beauty – of horses, of maidenhood, of desire blossoming like a chrysanthemum. Full of vivid insider details and stark images, this is a collection you won’t want to put down. – Kevin Rabas, author of Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar

About the Author:

C. Malcolm Ellsworth was raised on a farm in Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in English and an MFA in art. Her work has appeared in Blue Highway Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Everyday Other Things, Flint Hills Review, Montucky Review, and scissors and spackle. She lives in Topeka, Kansas.


“Dark, sweet, and gritty. Each piece made me eager to get to the next. I felt better after I read it, and better for reading it.” ~ R. Spicer

“These poems brim with regret and hope and love and forgiveness. Each word is carefully chosen, dear little potatoes dug up and scrubbed – but still they taste of earth” ~ Melissa Sewell