Tishani Doshi, A God at the Door – review

‘Exuberance is beauty’, said William Blake, and ‘Energy is eternal delight.’ Read rapidly, Tishani Doshi’s A God at the Door is an exhilarating treat. Easily straddling the author’s Eastern and Western heritages and high and low cultures, its breadth of reference is unusual in itself, but what’s truly remarkable is the agility with which Doshi dances between different poles.  However, individual poems don’t invite the sustained lingering over that many in her previous book Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods do. In the end, it comes down to the kind of reading that means most to the individual reader. I personally like meditating in solitude on multifaceted single poems, so though I enjoyed reading A God at the Door, the book of Doshi’s that I’ll really treasure is Girls. Those who prefer more rapid transitions between poems may prefer this one. I think it would also lend itself very well to public reading, where there’s a premium on listeners’ being able to grasp ideas quickly, enjoying shocks of imaginative surprise as the poem swerves in new directions without being required to go back over their responses to what went before.

Many of these poems are immediately topical. Notes relate some to specific newspaper reports of shocking or inspiring comments or actions. While some present grim examples of violent misogyny, fanaticism-inspired atrocity or environmental degradation, others reflect with rueful wit on female aging (‘Why the Brazilian Butt Lift Won’t Save Us’) or male flaunting (‘The Comeback of Speedos’). Yet others delight in natural beauty or the instinctive seizing of joy, like ‘Contagion’, which presents a girl and her sister dancing through the fear and blame of the pandemic. While the poems I get most out of tend to work by arresting time, what I admire about these is Doshi’s ability to surf the times in their rapid movement. She has reinvented herself as a poet to write in this way, and though I prefer the style of Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods I admire this broadening of her range.

Tishani Doshi, A God at the Door, 120pp, £10.99, Bloodaxe Books Ltd

I would like to thank Ann and Peter Sansom and Suzannah Evans for permission to post this extract from my review of books by Fleur Adcock, Tishani Doshi, Annie Freud and Michael Vince in issue 66 of The North.



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