Coining a Wishing Tower
—winner of the Broken River Prize by Playtypus Press—
-nominated and longlisted for the Best First Collection, Forward Book Prize 2022-
is both story and song, a lyrical narrative that gathers and releases. There are moments of childlike wonder and of adult meditation—oftentimes one and the same. In fragments both real and unreal, this is a book of rituals, of history, of surrender.
Ayesha Raees’s Coining a Wishing Tower is everything I hope to find when I read a book of poetry—fearless reckoning with unprecedented experience spoken
in a singular, deeply and importantly strange lyric voice. My luck, to get to help introduce it to you.
Your luck, to get to read it for the first time.
— Kaveh Akbar
“You are entering a world of Ayesha Raees’ making, a lyric fable woven in tight silk strands. Singular in its voice and imagination, Coining a Wishing Tower
is unyielding in its search for truth, for a spiritual tether. Its allegories remind us of what’s holy in the everyday: a mother’s faith, a father’s machinery, a moon in love with a goldfish, the omniscience of Google. She writes, ‘On fifth avenue, I want to be important. I want to hammer a nail into the New York sky. I want to hang myself on its wound’ That’s Raees daring you to leave unchanged.”
“Ayesha Raees’ Coining a Wishing Tower is a beautiful epic, told through prose poems that surprise with precise and wondrous language. Raees thinks through art, place, family, life, and the afterlife, animating the collection through various characters—House Mouse, Godfish, the moon—and mediating it all through a Pakistani, Muslim, and woman speaker, who traverses racialized and gendered spaces’ pilgrimages of faith and of the imagination; knowing and unknowing. In this debut, we find a bright and wild new voice in poetry.”
“Ayesha Raees’s Coining A Wishing Tower is an exciting debut collection that traverses multiple dimensions and landscapes, both metaphorical and physical. By skillfully playing with the theme of real or not-real, Raees invites the reader to meditate on what constitutes ‘real’ in the first place. The poet explores multiple other themes that play off one another—longing, belonging, departure, arrival, life, death, prayer, performance, and love, to name a few—through recurring figures that reflect and refract one another’s desires. By rendering the figures’ thoughts and situations into prose poetry, Raees also formally illustrates the various enclosures that serve to both trap and liberate the figures. Smart and imaginative, Coining a Wishing Tower is one worth reading over and over for the rich imagery and storytelling; a book that offers a new discovery at each savoring.”
“With Coining a Wishing Tower, Ayesha Raees’ intercultural, interreligious meditation on family life, childhood, memory, and death, comes a bold imagination populated with a cat and a moon both in love with a Godfish, a House Mouse who performs rituals, where death is one such ritual, and a child who tells their father that ‘The bare minimum to life … is to just live.’ At its core, this collection wrestles with grief amidst life between cultures, religions, and geographic places. After hammering a nail into the sky, the speaker reveals, ‘I want to hang myself on its wound,’ and so too, was I rapt, hanging on the words of Raees’ fashioned wound.“
Ayesha Raees عائشہ رئیس
identifies herself as a hybrid creating hybrid poetry
through hybrid forms. Her work strongly revolves around issues of race and identity, G/god and displacement, and mental illness while possessing a strong agency for accessibility, community, and change. She cultivates relationships between the word and the image through theatrical performance, filmic visual imagery, paint, and documentary photography.
Raees currently serves as an Assistant Poetry Editor at AAWW's The Margins and has received fellowships from Asian American Writers' Workshop, Brooklyn Poets, and Kundiman. Her work has been published in Poets.org, Gulf Coast, Quarterly West, and elsewhere.
From Lahore, Pakistan, she currently shifts around Lahore,
New York City, and Miami.