Poetry by Raena Shirali
Black Lawrence Press, October 2022
Indebted to the docupoetics tradition, Raena Shirali’s summonings investigates the ongoing practice of witch (“daayan”) hunting in India. Winner of The Hudson Prize, these poems interrogate the political implications and shortcomings of writing Subaltern personae while acknowledging the author’s Westernized positionality. Continuing to explore multi-national and intersectional concerns around identity raised in her debut collection, Shirali asks how first- and second-generation immigrants reconcile the self with the lineages that shape it, wondering aloud about those lineages’ relationships to misogyny and violence. These poems explore how antiquated and existing norms surrounding female mysticism in India and America inform each culture’s treatment of women. As Jericho Brown wrote of Shirali’s poetics in GILT, her “comment on culture, on identity, on justice is her comment on poetry.” summonings offers a commentary on power and patriarchy, on authorial privilege and the shifting role of witness, and ultimately, on an ethical poetics, grounded in the inevitable failure to embody the Other.