coming January 16, 2023 from ALICE JAMES BOOKS
Moving between the Qur'an and the Bible, these poems explore the complexities and spectacles of gender, faith, and family by unraveling the age-old idea that seeing is believing. Navigating both scripture and culture, the poems in Theophanies work to spin miracles from the mundanities of desire and violence. Through art and music, Pakistani history, and scriptural stories, these poems struggle to envision a true self and speak back against time to the matriarchs of the larger Abrahamic faiths, the mothers at the heart of sacred history.
Stitched throughout is longing—for mothers, angels, and signs from the divine. Theophanies asks: is seeing really believing, and is believing belonging? What does it mean to have a woman's body when that body has been hailed a vessel for the divine? Theophanies arises from the speaker's tenuous grip on her own faith while navigating the colonial legacy of Partition and inherited patriarchal expectations of womanhood.
“In this expansive debut collection, Ali draws from the Quran and the Bible as vehicles for a deeper consideration of the intersections of family, gender, and faith. … These powerful, resonant poems herald an exciting new voice.”
—Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"Ali's is one of the most sure-footed debuts I've had the pleasure to encounter in many years. Wrought with precision, control, and an astute humility before the wondrous, the profound and profane, these poems feel crafted from the sum total of history, then realized at the crest of the poet's matrix of experiences. A truly fearless and tender gem of a collection."
—Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
“Sarah Ghazal Ali’s debut collection, Theophanies, pulses with life—angels, cranes, and a woman’s own fierce potential, the miraculous and terrifying possibilities she holds within her heart, womb, and mind. Through sinuous lyric and religious persona, Ali delves unblinkingly into the depths of faith, family, and womanhood. These poems are bold, insistent reckonings that reach across time and geography, a chorus of female voices demanding to be heard.”
—Leila Chatti, author of Deluge
”That god's words would be splintered into many forms and tongues is inevitable and appropriate. This book utilizes many forms, ancient and new, to contend with the long legacy of a multitude of spiritual traditions: the expulsion from the divine, living in gendered bodies, the fate of humans to live as mortal. There's music aplenty here to accompany difficult truths, and that is really all one can ask of god or garden or ghazal.”
—Kazim Ali, author of The Voice of Sheila Chandra