cover image Theophanies


Sarah Ghazal Ali. Alice James, $18.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-949944-58-7

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. In “Ghazal Ghazal,” she writes: “My people must include my father, his voice lilting from baritone to bellow./ Did my god not make his mouth, aural imprint of every remembered ghazal?// My people say I am a morsel of their great, green liver. My people love first/ like vultures, then martyrs. Death the sprawling shadow behind each sunlit ghazal.” Many of the collection’s strongest poems consider the religious implications and constraints placed upon female bodies: “Like a good woman/ I wound myself first.// Like a good wound/ I laugh until my mouth rips” (“Cicatrix”). “Tumulus” begins with a question (“& weren’t we all/ once slick/ girls in the bath, knees/ to chest, thinking/ of Mary, effigy/ of maidenhood?”), while “Aurat” opens, “By the time the angels intervened/ the ache had long fled the fields,// irretrievable by then,/ & what it took from me was gone.” Elsewhere, Ali writes, “When came the bush,/ I knew to burn.” These powerful, resonant poems herald an exciting new voice. (Jan.)