Reading Everything begins Elsewhere

Tishani Doshi’s slight book of poems Everything begins Elsewhere has two parts- most poetry books are divided this way into parts. The first part is Everything begins.

Where does everything begin? Have you thought of the beginnings of love, beauty, terror and the wind? Endings are something people think of a lot and beginnings- that’s the stuff of  dreams. Doshi starts with the dog in the valley- an insistent barking from somewhere. She is the kind of poet whose writing is so typically POET  if you understand what I mean.


She weaves a world of vine, brainfever birds, teak, rain, jasmine, coconut husks, mudras,mosquitoes, Mohenjedaro’s brassy girls… Her background so entrenched in dance and journey comes out like a story and Asia is born. Take her interpretation of the seventh century Buddhist scholar Xuanzang’s journey along the Silk Route as he traverses past monasteries, loiters behind caravans, meets the Bamiyan Buddhas, the atmosphere of ‘scattered Sanskrit kisses’  lingering in her poems.

“Would you say how you’ve been waiting/for something to grow from the silence-/nothing phenomenal-just cracks of light/in the long doorways you’ve been walking through” she says of sublime love in ‘Sunday Afternoon’.

In ‘River of Girls‘,  Doshi pays tribute to girls gone missing:”sound of ten million girls/singing of a time in the universe/when they were born with tigers/breathing between their thighs/when they set out for battle/with all three eyes on fire/ their golden breasts held high//like weapons in the sky.”

The second part is the Elsewhere– the place of dreams, the past, the future, the emigrant’s journey, dance. Throughout the book, there are lessons interspersed. I loved  the lesson on Losing. It is a poem about the slow disappearances that characterize the final Loss- death, the reality that  no one can really understand.

I read the volume a couple of times. It grows on you and takes you to other poets like the Scottish poet Burnside and the ancient Sanskrit poet Jayadev. She refers to quite a few poets in the short prologue lines to some of her poems. This is a beautiful way to construct poems- read and reflect on a poet’s lines, a poet whose words make sense to you, and then write a poem in response to those words or lines. The lines could be a trigger or may be placed before the poem as an afterthought. They could be the beginning or the elsewhere….

Why not reflect on a favourite poet’s work  right now and see what happens when you write or even read?


neelthemuse@ 2013

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