Cover Art: Yamini Nayar
Cover & Interior Design: Alban Fisher
Paperback, 104 pages
March 15, 2017, ISBN 978-1-936919-41-3
About Raena Shirali
Raena Shirali is the author of GILT (YesYes Books, 2017). Her honors include a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 2016 Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize, the 2014 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, & a “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize in 2013. She has also been recognized as a finalist for the 2016 Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize & a 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship. Her poems & reviews have appeared in Blackbird, Ninth Letter, Crazyhorse, Indiana Review, Pleiades, Four Way Review, & elsewhere. Born in Houston, Texas, the Indian American poet earned her MFA from The Ohio State University. She recently completed the Philip Roth Residency at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, & currently serves as a poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine.
Gilt by Raena Shirali
Winner, Milt Kessler Award, 2018
Longlist, Julie Suk Award, 2018
Shirali, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has written a collection that dissects experiences against a white Southern background and begs the question: “What does America demand of my brown body?” Her answer is complicated. She is expected to be thin, fair, demure, accepting, and invisible—all while being fetishized and sexually available. The speaker refuses all this, and we join in her refusal; she so easily slips into a narrative of brutal, unabashed nakedness that we are left stunned.
Shirali explores our inability to reconcile the self with its surrounding cultures, and investigates mental and physical trauma in the process. Our speaker is “gilded for the fall,” and her descent is delivered in lush imagery and jagged lines, both embodying and resisting the liminal. Ultimately, Shirali’s poetry is that of witness and dialogue, where persona often cannot be separated from the self, where we are given a mirror, asked to hold it up, asked to see not just ourselves in the reflection, but to acknowledge the histories that have brought us here.
To read Gilt is to open windows steamed with bright and exacting language, worlds where a “cobra is a garland—no, the cobra / is a man’s knuckles, a girl’s hair clumped / between them…” Shirali’s tough-tender debut embroiders lavish Indian weddings and Diwali festivals with the reckonings of a relationship’s end. The rich wisdom you glean from the powerful pages of Gilt will leave you spent and enchanted.
-Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish
Raena Shirali is a poet who keeps asking what poems can actually do, and these formally inventive lyrics ask for activity, for travel. Her comment on culture, on identity, on justice is her comment on poetry. It is not fixed; and if it is, it shouldn’t be. Gilt is a book of danger and sarcasm and heart.
-Jericho Brown, author of The New Testament