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“Not Knowing The Next Line” Makes Poetry Beautiful: Tishani Doshi

Tishani Doshi
Tishani Doshi is a poet, dancer and  novelist who has published six books of fiction and poetry. Her major work that has gained commendation around the world includes- Countries of the Body, Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, Small Days and Nights.

Tishani has been a part of the famous choreographer Chandralekha’s troupe as a dancer. Her recent publication of A God At The Door has been shortlisted for Forwards Prize under the best poetry category. It is the fourth collection of her poetry which she began writing at the start of the pandemic.

Currently, she is serving as a Visiting Professor for Literature and Creative Writing at NYU, Abu Dhabi.

As Doshi says- “The idea of epiphany and revelation is crucial in poetry”. At the SheThePeople’s Women Writers Fest, Doshi was in conversation with Priyanka Bhattacharya who is currently the Head of Middle School at The Millennium School – Dubai.

Tishani Doshi And Her Take On Poetry | Interview with SheThePeople

Idea For The Book, A God At The Door

Doshi started writing the book at the start of the pandemic. The pandemic period which locked every person in the precincts of their home and the feeling of fear, loneliness pervaded inspired Tishani to write the poems which were later on made into a collection. Doshi explained the poems are more about emerging from extraordinary moments and trying to find the footholds to centre ourselves. The book is more on overcoming the prospect of strangeness by looking for a pilgrimage, deity or what we may call God and finding them.

On ‘not knowing’

It is not just restricted to the poets but to different writing forms. When you create something, there is a very fuzzy line between imagination and reality. Tishani looks for the transformation through the poetry – for reader, poet and to life beyond. The power of words and voices is that they have the capability of making a shift within one’s personality is the power of words and voices.

Tishani recited a poem she dedicated to the famous poet Varavara Rao and her connection to every line made sense in the world we live in.

Hearing Unheard Voices

It is not just restricted to the poets but to different writing forms. When you create something, there is a very fuzzy line between imagination and reality. Tishani looks for the transformation through the poetry – for reader, poet and to life beyond. Power of words and voices is that they have the capability of making a shift within one’s personality is the power of words and voices.

Tishani recited a poem she dedicated to the famous poet Varavara Rao and her connection to every line made sense in the world we live.


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Contemporary Poetry Scene 

She reads a lot of contemporary poetry and different languages and regions with translations. But she has been reading a lot of AK Ramanujan since last year. She loves the liveliness of the poems and as she says- “It is necessary to have the poets as an inspiration who may not live in your time, but they have left such an imprint that they would make you write”. Doshi feels that even when you don’t know the notes, you still know the pitch of the poem you want to take. There are certain footholds that she makes for herself before delving into the poetry- be it visual imagery or so.

Effect of Performing Arts on Poetry

The world of dance and writing came together in her life. The world of dance seeped into her world of writing. Body has been a source of bewilderment for her and she calls it a “serendipitous” experience to be working with Chandralekha(the dancer and choreographer). However the dance gave her a subject in the form of human body and a centre through which she views her creative practice.

For all the ideas of gender violence, agency, love or joy, beauty- she tries to understand all of them through the idea of body. After the pandemic struck the world and she could not perform with the dance troupe she felt the un-centeredness within her. The dance, just like her work, lets her body connect to the people around, the communities, cosmos and environment.

Poets React or Respond?

Thinking of many times where poets have made the invisible as visible, she wants to claim poetry as space outside of monetary benefits and it requires more of honorable intentions of interpreting the world around. The poets use ordinary word to narrate extraordinary happenings. The poetry that transcends the time, that goes beyond the concept of “now”-is what poetry means to her.

Role of Poetry in Post Pandemic World

There was a necessity of the arts to keep the people “lively” specifically during the period of pandemic. Values created by poetry may not have been palpable and the effects were not actually visible from the results that arts produced. Be it in the forms of films, or the art painting like the oldest cave paintings of Bhimbetka, the art has strived through the time. So, poetry is more important now than ever.

Taking a utilitarian view of living will not help the art flourish. If the artists don’t have the dignified way of living, it is difficult to sustain it. It is necessary to reexamine their role i society which has bound us in life.

Political View Point As Female Poet

As Doshi recollects Chandralekha’s words” You need to have a sense of politics and the audience have to meet you halfway.”

It is not necessary that you might have viewpoint on everything. The political idea that you might have may help connecting with the people who may choose to come along in the journey of a writer. Through the view and works, it is necessary to not just enlarge the poet’s imagination but also help the readers achieve the same. However the expectation of social media is quite different and the prompt response is needed on every issue in news.

Fun Fact about Tishani Doshi

Tishani Doshi had the opportunity to go to Antarctica with the student group and she composed a prose piece there which got included in a CBSE syllabus in India- “Journey To The End Of The Earth“.

Watch her video interview with SheThePeople here.

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