Today we are exploring 5 brilliant and inspiring poets living in Britain of South Asian origin. Some talk about the large gap between their lives in Britain and their history in South Asia, whilst others are committed to sharing their story and the struggles that themselves and their peers have lived through.
Moniza Alvi’s first full-length collection, The Country at My Shoulder (1993), explores her feelings of growing up in Britain and feeling out of touch with her home country, Pakistan, where she was born. Her later piece of work, A Bowl of Warm Air (1996), explores the impact of her first journey back to Pakistan.
At the Time of Partition (2013) is Alvi’s latest collection. In this poem, Moniza Alvi is inspired by her family history to share a deeply personal story of courage and tragic loss. It’s an incredibly powerful piece of work and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize.
One the leading Urdu poets of his generation, Saqi Farooqi only occasionally write his poems in English. Born in North India, Farooqi migrated to Bangladesh in 1947 and then onto Pakistan in 1950.
He studied English Literature in England and eventually settled in London. The Listening Game (1987) is his only poetry collection translated into English and published.
With poems on the British GCSE and A Level English syllabus, Imtiaz Dharker regularly reads with other poets at events over the country. She has won the Queen’s Gold Medal for her poetry and is regarded as one of Britain’s most inspirational contemporary poets.
Born in Pakistan and brought up in Glasgow, Dharker describes herself as a “Scottish Muslim Calvinist” and carries strong themes of home, journeys, cultural displacement and communal conflict in her poetry.
Imtiaz Dharker has written 6 books of poetry. Purdah And Other Poems (1989) was her first published poetry book, which dealt with the injustice and oppression Muslim women can experience in their lives.
Daljit was awoken to the power of poetry at the age of 19, which inspired him to go on to study English in higher education. He went on to be published by poetry magazines and eventually released his debut collection, Look We Have Coming to Dover! (2007).
Nagara’s poems heavily relate to the experience of Indians born in the UK, particularly Indian Sikhs, since Nagara’s parents were Sikh Punjabis who migrated in the 1950s from India to the UK, where he was born.
Currently, Daljit lives in Harrow with his family. Daljit teaches poetry at Brunel University and is Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra’s Poet in Residence.
Born in Ludhiana, India, Raman Mundair has lived in the UK since the age of 5. She studied at SOAS, London and went on to become a poet, writer, playwright and artist.
Her poetry anthologies, Lovers, Liars, Conjurers (2003) and Thieves and A Choreographer’s Cartography (2007) highlight “the intense joys of intimacy and love, and the pain of their rejection” and isn’t afraid to speak about politics in her work.