Poet, novelist and dancer Tishani Doshi epitomises an essence of measured rhythm in the written word as well as bodily movement. She loves ‘capacious’ novels, and takes time out to pause at the profoundly liminal junctures of repose amidst the delirium of being busy. She shares with us a range of writing she’s encountered, her predilection towards springboards over collaborations, and the idea of ‘throat clearing’.

What are you currently reading? If you were to name one work of writing you’d like to revisit, what would it be?

I’m immersed in essays. Romila Thapar’s Indian Cultures as Heritage, Siri Hustdevdt’s A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women, and Zadie Smith’s Feel Free. Rather than revisit, I’d like to finally get around to reading [James] Joyce’s Ulysses.

What are some of the works of writing that bring you comfort?

I love capacious novels—War & Peace, The Brothers Karamazov. All the old Russians, really. Also, big doorstopping biographies. In terms of contemporary novelists—Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History & Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy… I like the knowledge, as with a really good television series, that those characters and I will be spending a lot of time together, and that the company will be just fine.

Whom do you write for?


If someone were to come across your work in the future, how would you like for it to be received?

With tenderness.

What was the last book you received as a gift? Do you usually gift books?

Stasiland by Anna Funder, which is a magnificent piece of non-fiction. I do gift books. Usually my own (my excuse is I’m a poet).

The concept of rehearsal is crucial to dancing, or any form of stage routine. Does it also extend to the process of writing?

One of my professors at grad school used to call it “throat clearing” -- this sort of long gearing up before getting to say what you really want to say. Rehearsals are throat clearing. You need them if you want to sound good.

What are some of the creative collaborations of the recent past that you have enjoyed?

Writing is a solo game, so collaborations tend to be better as ideas than in reality. I have had some joy working with musicians though. Luca Nardon, a percussionist and friend, made a beautiful score to Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, to which I choreographed movement and have been performing extensively. It’s more call and response ekphrasis though…I didn’t interfere with his musical process. He used my words as a springboard—I loved and incorporated. I’d say I prefer springboards to collaborations.

With a deluge of literary festivals, and the constant compulsion of being in the public eye, does the notion of a writer being a recluse still hold water?

A lot of writers I know—including myself—are gregarious hermits/ shy exhibitionists/ pick your own oxymoron. In other words, yes, it’s possible.

There has been a noticeable rise in the trend of writing poetry in tune with a click-and-swipe culture --- the word count is rather constrained, the verse is conversational, poetry that goes viral, or ‘Instagram poetry’, if you will. What are your thoughts on this format?

It’s not for me. I love Instagram, but I see it essentially as a visual medium with text as backup.

You spoke about the luxury of slowness at a TedX talk in Palermo in 2011. Has the notion of slowness changed for you since then? What do you do to slow down?

It has remained an ideal to which I aspire to in a Sisyphian manner. It’s not that I wish for life to be a state of constant slowness (that would be BOH-RING) but that I want to excavate pockets of slowness between the crescendos and busyness. It’s the slowness where boredom lies, where idea lies—that’s an important place to be.

This interview was taken in April 2018.