The Hudson Prize Winner


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ISBN: 978-1-62557-041-3
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Publication Date: October 2022


Indebted to the docupoetics tradition, Raena Shirali’s summonings investigates the ongoing practice of witch (“daayan”) hunting in India. Here, poems interrogate the political implications & 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- & second-generation immigrants reconcile the self with the lineages that shape it, wondering aloud about those lineages’ relationships to misogyny & violence. These precarious poems explore how antiquated & existing norms surrounding female mysticism in India & 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 is comment on power & patriarchy, on authorial privilege & the shifting role of witness, &, ultimately, on an ethical poetics, grounded in the inevitable failure to embody the Other.


These poems seethe with the energies of violence endured and absorbed—where can it go? Raena Shirali locates the pain, the weapons, and the tools needed to cleanse and dress wounds. I am in awe of this book: the shimmering images and the worlds they conjure, the insight that knocks them down, the escapes from collapse at a poem’s end, the renewal marked by each new beginning. summonings is remarkable and will be with me forever.

-Elissa Washuta, author of White Magic and My Body Is a Book of Rules

To immerse yourself in the world built through the work in summonings is to also welcome a reckoning, to walk out of the book with a series of questions about what stories get told, why they get told, and who they serve. Not only are the poems sharply and eloquently crafted, there’s a depth and wealth of research woven into that craft, making this a book of immense generosity.

– Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance and A Fortune for Your Disaster

“Who owns / this world”? Raena Shirali has written a precise sensory archive of the rejection of wisdom and the rejection of feeling, and this act of mourning drives her verse into the very magical acts its women are persecuted for—and I should warn you that as such it is very, very beautiful. We seem to fear beauty, at least lately, on this planet. Shirali’s poetics find that beyond the historicization and theory of witchcraft, from one culture into the next, and beyond the fundamental dignity of bearing witness, there is something uncanny, even supernatural, that becomes achievable by approaching the truth—the facts—somehow femininely. These poems feel impelled by Justice but are not merely pious: they are sensuous, precise, they move me to face my own wounds, move me closer to life, they draw the living and the dead, the crime and the punishment, the seduction and its consequences into a space through which I seem to see, glimmering, beckoning—another, a truer, way to be. A marvelous and important book.

—Ariana Reines, author of A Sand Book

About the Author

© Brooke Marsh

Raena Shirali

Raena Shirali is the author of two collections of poetry. Her first book, GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, and her second, summonings (Black Lawrence Press, 2022), won the 2021 Hudson Prize. Winner of a Pushcart Prize & a former Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University, Shirali is also the recipient of prizes and honors from VIDA, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, & Cosmonauts Avenue. Formerly a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Muzzle Magazine, Shirali now serves as Faculty Advisor for Folio—a literary magazine dedicated to publishing works by undergraduate students at the national level. She holds an MFA in Poetry from The Ohio State University and is an Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University. The Indian American poet was raised in Charleston, South Carolina, and now lives in Philadelphia.

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