praise for GILT
"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
-Jericho Brown, author of The New Testament
Of the poem, judge Claudia Rankine says, “'daayan summoning magic'” is full of patience with its own unfolding. The poem sees the spectral as contingencies and offers up the conduction if as a way of opening out the metaphor of burning. A very beautiful and moving elegy."
-Cosmonauts Avenue Poetry Prize
GILT was recently named a long-list finalist for the 2017 Julie Suk Award, an August 2017 Small Press Distribution Poetry Bestseller, & was ranked #5 on TRACK//FOUR's list of Ten Most Anticipated Poetry Collections by People of Color in 2017.
reviews of GILT
"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."
-Paige Quiñones at Chicago Review of Books
"Shirali’s ethnicity made her exotic to boys in a way that seems, in retrospect, predictable (‘‘how they writhe when I flash a dark nipple. I’m durga, I’m kali’’); but (the poems ask) if she were to swear off acting exotic, if she were to distance herself from what boys want her to be, what, or who, would she be? Shirali’s waterlogged, fertile South Carolina and Georgia are places where girls define themselves by how boys feel and what young men can do for, or with, or to them; raw poems place those definitions in exceptionally high relief. Some of those poems, emerging from what Shirali calls ‘‘the space between girl and grown,’’ make sense as what we have learned to call performance poetry, an art that overlaps more broadly every year with its more careful, better-funded, pagebased cousin, as poets who grew up with YouTube earn MFAs...Such lines demand to be read aloud."
-Steph Burt at The Yale Review
" The lavish and daring poems in Gilt do indeed soar, pitch, and shimmer as they unravel and restring the intricate brocades of culture and memory Shirali seeks to understand. The best poems in this collection (“Dare I Write It,” “to miss America,” “Between Here & Predictable Characters”) examine gender and race through the prism of the American South and through popular culture. Gilt is an impressive first book, one that presages great things to come."
-Dante Di Stefano at The Best American Poetry