Poet and dancer, Tishani Doshi was born and lives in Madras (India). Her first book of poems, Countries of the Body, won the 2006 Forward prize for best first collection. She was also winner of the 2006 All-India Poetry Competition.
If you had to describe in few words your art to someone who doesn’t know you, what would you say?
My work, I think, has to do with simple explorations: the body, beauty,
geography, space, time, love, loss, leaving and the return. I think the main
thing I’m trying to achieve is a sense of musicality and sensuality, whether it’s in poetry, fiction or dance.
In your web page you say how you becoming a dancer in Chandralekha’s troupe at the age of 26 “seems like a mysterious force of the universe” at play to you and you talk about your relationship with her as the most important relationship of your life. What made this relationship so important?
It was important for many reasons, but perhaps the most important was that it made me understand beauty. Beauty on so many levels – the beauty of being an artist, of performance, of transformation, of being a woman, of being in love, alive. There was something very immediate about the way Chandra lived her life – it was against compartmentalization, against mechanization and aridity – and I suppose I found it a very attractive alternative to what I had seen around me. She often said to me that a woman was nothing unless she had a sense of politics and sexuality, and I think she embodied that perfectly.
Do you still dance?
Not as often as I would like, but yes, I still dance and perform a couple of
times a year.
You say that as a poet you don’t ever set out to address certain things, it’s just that certain themes obsess you. So what themes are obsessing you now?
For a while now I’ve been obsessed with place, movement, where we begin and end. I’m interested in the motivations of these movements – the reasons for displacement. The kinds of people that undertake these movements –lovers, travellers, wanderers, adventurers, money-makers, refugees – and the necessary themes of memory and exile that must travel along with these physical movements.