Tishani Doshi on Writing Into Wonder – Tricycle

December 15, 2021 by No Comments

Poet, journalist, and dancer Tishani Doshi has a knack for detecting remarkable stories. In her latest poetry collection, A God at the Door, which came out in November, she writes, among other things, about seven Indian men who quarantined in a tree and a Russian photographer who waited eleven months to capture a rare photo of an Amur tiger. But her stories of wonder often dwell within tragedy. The seven men belonged to millions of workers who walked hundreds of kilometers to their home villages when India imposed a COVID-19 lockdown with four hours notice; hundreds of these migrants died on the road. And Amur tigers are so rare because they’re a critically endangered species due to habitat loss and poaching. Doshi spoke with me about how she uses poetry to reveal how often wonder and tragedy coexist and how stories—religious, spiritual, and political—impact our actions.

A God at the Door references many religions, often in a single poem. “Pilgrimage,” for example, contains images of circumambulation, the self-help industry, relics, the devil, altars, and crucifixion, to name a few. How do you see different religions interacting in your poems, in this book, and in your life? My father comes from a Jain Gujarati family, and my mother a Welsh Protestant one. I grew up in India, where you breathe every kind of religion, not just your own. We celebrated Christmas and Diwali at home, but they were less faith-based and revolved more around ritual and family. My best friend in school was Ismaili, [a Shia Muslim community], and there were pictures of the Aga Khan in her house. I remember being so intrigued. I went home and asked my mother, “Why don’t we worship a god who wears a suit?” 

Most of my childhood was spent being acutely aware that other people had a god or gods. Because my parents come from such different backgrounds and were making a life together, the notion of God was there, but wispy, and they wanted to give my siblings and me the freedom to choose our own paths. So I became a kind of pan-spiritual seeker as a teenager. As a writer I’m concerned with all those old ideas that religions have tried to speak to: love, fear, death, what comes after. 

Many of your poems take unique shapes on the page—one takes the shape of a tree; others oscillate between left justification and right justification. How do you decide which poems will take less conventional shapes? How does shape affect how a reader experiences …….

Source: https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/tishani-doshi/


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