An author of six books of fiction and poetry, Doshi started writing Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, in a fury, after Jyoti Singh (Nirbhaya) was brutally raped in Delhi, in December 2012.
“It seemed to be a turning point in this country about the way we talked about gender violence and sexual assault, topics which for a long time had been shoved under the carpet. There has been such an unleashing of stories about violence against women since then, and there continues to be,” begins Doshi, who will be in conversation with TM Krishna in the city today, as a part of Poetry with Prakriti monthly series organised by Prakriti Foundation. The launch is being done in association with the Alliance Francaise of Madras.
It was not just Jyoti, her good friend Monika Ghurde, a designer and perfumist, was murdered in her home in Goa last year. Her titular poem is dedicated to Monika.
“Monika was not a provocation, it was a realisation that the ring of violence is so large, it will eventually claim someone very close to you, and one day it might claim you. I put her name to the poem as a way of reclamation and remembering,” says Doshi who will be releasing the book with a powerful performance encompassing a reading of her poems as well as an experimental dance act. The author is a disciple of legendary choreographer Chandralekha.
The collection is not entirely about gender violence though — there are poems about coastal life, mortality, dogs and more. In the book, Doshi inhabits the different homes, her childhood, the body, cities that were passed through cycles of rain. There are poems of celebration and homages, as there are poems lamenting human cruelty and dispassion.
“There are several things that went into these poems. I wrote them over a period of three years, so there are poems influenced by news headlines, travel, poems about staying still. The triggers for poems are mysterious. You never know what’s going to make you want to write one, what’s going to stay,” adds Doshi whose her first book of poems, Countries of the Body, won the Forward Poetry Prize for best first collection in the UK in 2006.
Her new book comprises four main sections book-ended by two standalone poems. “Contract, which begins the book, is a direct address to the reader, where I compare the role of a poet to a mosquito, buzzing endlessly into the reader’s ear (without passing on life threatening diseases), and When I was Still a Poet, ends the book, and I suppose it’s a contemplation on whether poetry will sustain itself, which is one of the themes of the book — what’s the point of poetry? Will it survive? Why write it, why read it? Obviously, I’m hoping that the book will prove that poetry is indeed important, even though it sits very much on the edge of mainstream culture,” muses Doshi. There is also a poem that talks about the harsh reality of coastal life, which is perhaps inspired by the author’s life in Chennai, which in her opinion brings one closer to death.
Unlike writing fiction, which the author finds quite demanding because of the narrative continuity, she says poetry is rather smooth. “Each poem is individual and so as you work on it - the challenge is only to the poem, not figuring out how it will fit in the book.
Later, when you have a number of poems and you realise it’s almost a book, you start working towards that, deciding which one to include, which you’ll throw. But this is not so much a challenge. I find the process of editing quite soothing,” adds Doshi.
About what she hopes to convey through her recent work at the end of the day, she says, “The poems are varied, and one can never have expectations about what the work will do. I hope that the book finds readers, and that the readers will find surprises in there.” Doshi’s next book is testimony to her eternal pursuit of pushing boundaries. “I’ve just finished a novel which deals with freedom and duty, coastal life, and what it means to be a woman in India who chooses to live alone,” she finishes.