16 January, 2021

On A Lyrical Planet

Death and dereliction mark most of Doshi's poems but what remains is not the dead weight of despair so much as the luminous lines her flame-tipped poet's pen conjures.

On A Lyrical Planet
The trouble with poetry is that anyone thinks they can write it. With more poets inflicting their self-published works on us, there are fewer readers than ever for poetry. Which is perhaps why Tishani Doshi’s Countries of the Body went unnoticed even after winning the UK’s prestigious Forward prize last month. The Forward prize is to poetry what the Booker is to novelists, and 31-year-old Chennai-born Doshi—also a dancer with Chandralekha’s group—the first Indian to win the prize for Best First Collection.

The business of poetry, as Doshi puts it in one of her poems in this collection, is "prising open hearts of things in her hands". And Doshi’s remarkably good at it, stripping away skin, fibre, muscle to expose with tender ruthlessness the living heart of things. Her craft is evident whether she is describing houses "going on emerald shoes,/ Colliding on streets, spitting/ Bits of brick and splinter on our sleeves", the old eucalyptus tree blocking the driveway after "travelling for years, lascivious for Indian earth", or merely...



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