Leila Chatti

In her early twenties, Leila Chatti started bleeding and did not stop. Physicians referred to this bleeding as flooding. In the Qur’an, as in the Bible, the Flood was sent as punishment. The idea of disease as punishment drives this collection’s themes of shame, illness, grief, and gender, transmuting religious narratives through the lens of a young Arab-American woman suffering a taboo female affliction. Deluge investigates the childhood roots of faith and desire alongside their present day enactments. Chatti’s remarkably direct voice makes use of innovative poetic form to gaze unflinchingly at what she was taught to keep hidden. This powerful piece of life-writing depicts Chatti’s journey from diagnosis to surgery and remission in meticulous chronology that binds body to spirit and advocates for the salvation of both. Chatti blends personal narrative, religious imagery, and medical terminology in a chronicle of illness, womanhood, and faith.

ISBN: 9781556595899

Format: Paperback

Listen to Leila Chatti read her poem “Annunciation” from Deluge: 

About the Author

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and author of Deluge (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), and the chapbooks Ebb (Akashic Books, 2018) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editors’ Selection from Bull City Press. She is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant, scholarships from the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place, and the Key West Literary Seminar, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New …

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“To write a series of poems out of extreme illness is a bracing accomplishment indeed. In Deluge… Leila Chatti, born of a Catholic mother and a Muslim father, brilliantly explores the trauma. In a frightening two-year saga of a tumor and the ‘flooding’ it caused, Chatti finds not disassociation but deeper association with her own experience.” —Naomi Shihab Nye, The New York Times

“Chatti turns fear and shame into empowerment in her unflinching debut… [She] translates a gritty, traumatizing experience into a hypnotic, transcendental topography of the human spirit.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Tunisian American poet Leila Chatti’s powerful collection of poems centers her faith, health, embodiment, shame and womanhood.” —Ms. Magazine

“A stunning debut.” —The Millions

“Chatti’s writing is taut, succinct, and gut-punching at moments, with wonderful vocabulary throughout, as the speaker writes of an arc familiar to most girls, yet rarely revealed so explicitly… It is a triumph to have this book out in the world.” —RHINO

“Through attention to her singular story, Chatti tugs on the web of her life. Each poem is a shiver of that web, the vibrations of which can be felt long after the page is turned.”—RHINO

“I was so blown away by Leila Chatti’s new book of poetry, Deluge, that it took me two days to get past the first poem… Chatti writes of seeking reassurance ‘that one can truly suffer, can bleed / and bleed as if gutted / by the blade of God’s command, / and still be loved by God / and, more importantly, love Him back.’ For anyone who has wondered the  same in their own life, Chatti’s poems offer solace and solidarity.” —U.S. Catholic

“Leila Chatti’s debut collection of poems is mesmerizing for its narrative flow, illuminating language, stark imagery and altogether powerful voice.” —Split Lip Magazine

“…Deluge is life-giving in its stirring portrayal of what it means to have a female body, an ill body, a body that bleeds and bleeds and won’t stop… [This book] is flush with extraordinary imagery.” —Muzzle 

“This collection is a momentous treatise on grief without making beautiful the act of suffering. It is a multifaceted and nuanced consideration, using Mary along with religious iconography and scripture as its lodestar. The achievement of this book is in its expansion of the ways it is permissible for the body to fall short, coming to love the flawed operational mechanics we inhabit… Deluge is an unspeakably gorgeous book, the most lyrically stunning and visceral debut collection I have come across since Richard Siken’s Crush.” —Cleveland Review of Books

Deluge is a complicated work; Chatti’s words constantly prod, writhe, and elude… To revel in these nuances, even contradictions, is to experience Chatti’s work, to ‘look out at everything dying and declare it / radiant.'” —Arts + Literature Laboratory


Levis Reading Prize, 2021

Longlist, PEN Open Book Award, 2020