A God at the Door
There is a maxim about the number of “errors” (errors here is used to mean bad writing) a piece of writing can contain. For novels, it’s a paragraph; for short stories and essays, it’s a sentence; for poetry, it’s a word. This speaks to the conciseness, the efficiency of poetry, that there is only room for one “wrong word” (and is possibly daunting to writers.) This conciseness, the distillation of thought, is often what I am drawn towards in reading poetry. In a way, it’s a sort of parallel to a well-acted scene in a play in which zero to few words are uttered. The right gesture or expression can convey volumes more than a soliloquy. And yet, in reading Tishani Doshi’s poems in A God at the Door, I get a feeling that the writer is bursting with words. For example, she ends the poem My Loneliness Is Not the Same as Your Loneliness with this stanza:
There’s a child screaming
in the playground below, a refrain
so shrill it scrapes a layer off the air.
She’s reassuring herself, she’s not alone.
No one tells her, We’re here together,
you’ve been heard.
The author has not broken conventions in her poetry, in terms of conciseness, and yet, I think I might be a little disappointed when our copies of A God at the Door arrive at the bookstore and they aren’t physically bulging!
Much of Doshi’s writing is in response to the news (most of the poems in this collection were written during 2020.) The range of topics and poem titles are wide: both Why the Brazilian Butt Lift Won’t Save Us and Every Unbearable Thing are poem titles in this collection. I expect American readers will be intrigued and interested in the references to the author’s native India. (Ever heard of a Blue Mormon? I hadn’t either.) The author has also paid great attention to the presentation of poems on the page, including some concrete poems (poems that visually appear on the page like the topic of the poem.) If you want to know the shape of the poem Advice for Pliny the Elder, Big Daddy of Mansplainers, you’ll have to see it for yourself ;) Until then, treat yourself to the poet reading one of her poems, They Killed Cows. I Killed Him from A God at the Door collection here.
This book will release in paperback on November 9.