(Bloodaxe Books, 2021); £10.99
As a much admired poet, writer and dancer, Tishani Doshi leaves little of the arts world untouched. Countries of the Body was awarded the Forward Prize for Best First Collection while Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award. From politics, womanhood to the roots that ground us, this is a rewarding journey to undertake as a reader. Doshi’s characteristic wit, spikiness and vigour are on display in her new collection:
What more can be said about women?
Leave it. If history were a picture show
and we kept editing the bits we didn’t like
snip snip snip […]
(‘Instructions on Surviving Genocide.’)
From the very outset, these poems require an inquisitive mind. To turn history and ancestry on its head, they invite reflections on the misjudgement of legality and the failure of patriarchy. Despite touching on topics so pressing in recent years, Doshi highlights the absurdity of ‘as long as there are beautiful girls there will be rape’, igniting rage and laughter simultaneously. This is the power A God At The Door not so secretly wields. Throughout the collection, similes might utilise rock formations to describe Kim Kardashian’s curvaceous features; aquariums explicate the flaws of our digital world.
This collection, separated into six sections, starts by elucidating the sound of loneliness and ends on an image of hope as a magnetic, flowing energy. Beside loneliness and hope, other inevitable realities are embraced, and death is often among them: ‘In wars / there are almost always the same number / dead from starving as from combat.’ Modern-day mortalities are outlined with tenacious honesty: plague, exhaustion, unemployment, human rights riots, starvation.
what are we really saying
and is it enough?
(‘I Don’t Want to be Remembered by My Last Instagram Post.’)
Doshi delivers a continuation of hard truths and questions. To read this book and not to look fiercely inside yourself, your morals, your positioning, and your actions would be a pity. After ‘Nation’ and ‘We Will Not Kill You. We’ll Just Shoot You in the Vagina’, you will find it impossible to sit still for long.
While the revolution will not be televised, ‘The Coronapocalypse Will Be Televised’. Often in this book, a poem is met with an epigraph quoting other established authors and artists: Anselm Berrigan, Josef Albers, Muriel Spark, and Emily Dickinson among others. Each poem is a story, a witty remark, a learning process, a mutual train of thought. The concluding poem, ‘Hope is the thing’ refers to Emily Dickinson’s ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers – not in the admiration of the human capacity for hope but in astonishment of it, after the many times that ‘Hope died’. Perspectival shifts between a girl and a woman, learning and teaching, involve darker issues of life and death. Intermittently, poems remove humour and play to pay respect to vital conversations and poignant remarks:
that a 12-year-old girl, who makes her living
picking chillies, has just died of exhaustion
(‘Hope Is the Thing.’)
A god is at your door, and Doshi urges you to answer. Yet through all the hardships, and the lessons, there are brief moments of comfort:
Your final phone call is to the future,
We’re fine, you say. We’re all going to be just fine.
(‘Hope Is the Thing.’)
A God At The Door is eloquent on a list of necessary and pressing topics everyone in society has a stake in: feminism, issues of class, poverty, faith, love, science, disease, war, and of course the current coronapocalypse. Each of the six sections embraces monumental themes that can be read as both a wakeup call to life and a firm hug that says not to be afraid, ‘living is a thing we do together’.
A God At The Door will be published 22 April 2021