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 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 Fortune for Your Disaster
Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies.