Alumna Wins 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award

Raena Shriali, a College of Charleston undergrad alumna, recently won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. Shriali received this prestigious recognition for her first poetry collection, GILT. GILT is an experimental collection focusing on societal standards enforced by family, relationships, and the invalidation of women.

“[GILT] is a book of danger and sarcasm and heart,” says Jericho Brown, author of The New Testament. Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish, further explains that GILT “embroiders lavish Indian weddings and Diwali festivals with the reckonings of a relationship’s end.” With Shriali’s raving reviews and an outstanding five stars on Amazon(link below), it’s not a wonder that she was the winner of the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award.

What is the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award? Well, this award honors outstanding poetry books written in the previous year by American poets. Even if it is rarely given to poets with only one published book, Shriali made an impression on judge Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Gillan stated in her summery, “an almost dizzying power and honesty characterize this work and her poetic voice is not one that will be easily forgotten.” Finalists included: Danez Smith, Maggie Smith, and Afaa Michael Weaver, among others.

Who is Raena Shriali? Shriali graduated the College in 2011 with a major in English with a Concentration in Creative Writing. She earned her MFA at The Ohio State University. Shriali taught English 110, English 220: Poetry 1 as an adjunct instructor in 2016 and 2017. Since attending the College, she has performed at venues such as the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center in New York City, the Boston Poetry Slam, Slam Free or Die, and many more. She now lives in Philadelphia where she continues to inspire and create, dabbling in photography and teaching a specialized poetry course at Blue Stoop. And she continues to inspire all of us her at College of Charleston with her fantastic achievements.

You can find her website here:

If you want to learn more, here is the link to the Milt Kessler page: