In I Speak for the Devil, the woman’s body is a territory, a thing that is possessed, owned by herself or by another. Her sequence, They’ll say, ‘She must be from another country’ traces a journey, starting with a striptease where the claims of nationality, religion and gender are cast off, to allow an exploration of new territories, the spaces between countries, cultures and religions.
The title-sequence speaks for the devil in acknowledging that in many societies women are respected, or listened to, only when they are carrying someone else inside their bodies – a child; a devil. For some, to be “possessed” is to be set free.
Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan, grew up in Glasgow, and now divides her time between Bombay and London. Her main themes are drawn from a life of transitions: childhood, exile, journeying, home, displacement, religious strife and terror. She is also an accomplished artist, and all her collections are illustrated with her drawings. Leaving Fingerprints is her fourth book of poems and drawings from Bloodaxe.
In these poems, the only thing that is never lost is the Bombay tiffin-box. All the other things which are missing or about to go missing speak to each other – a person, a place, a recipe, a language, a talisman. Whether or not they want to be identified or found, they still send each other messages, scattering a trail of clues, leaving fingerprints.
Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan, grew up a Muslim Calvinist in a Lahori household in Glasgow, was adopted by India and married into Wales. Her main themes are drawn from a life of transitions: childhood, exile, journeying, home, displacement, religious strife and terror, and latterly, grief. She is also an accomplished artist, and all her collections are illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of her books. Luck is the Hook is her sixth book from Bloodaxe. In these poems, chance plays a part in finding or losing people and places that are loved: a change in the weather, a trick of language, a bomb that misses its mark, six pomegranate seeds eaten by mistake; all these events cast long shadows and raise questions about who is recording them, about believing, not believing, wanting to believe. A knot undone at Loch Lomond snags over Glasgow, a seal swims in the Clyde, a ghost stalks her quarry at a stepped well, an elephant and a cathedral come face to face on the frozen Thames, a return ticket is thrown into the tide of Humber, strangers wash in. Even in an uncertain world, love tangles with luck, flights show up on the radar and technology keeps track of desire. Imtiaz Dharker was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2014 for her fifth collection Over the Moon and for her services to poetry.
Over the Moon is Imtiaz Dharker’s fifth book from Bloodaxe. These are poems of joy and sadness, of mourning and celebration: poems about music and feet, church bells, beds, cafe tables, bad language and sudden silence. In contrast with her previous work written amidst the hubbub of India, these new poems are mostly set in London, where she has built a new life with – and since the death of – her husband Simon Powell.
An anguished god surveys a world stricken by fundamentalism in these powerful poems by a writer whose cultural experience spans three countries: Pakistan, the country of her birth, and Britain and India, her countries of adoption. It is from this life of transitions that the themes of Imtiaz Dharker’s poetry are drawn: childhood, exile, journeying, home and religious strife.
The Terrorist at My Table asks crucial questions about how we live now – working, travelling, eating, listening to the news, preparing for attack. What do any of us know about the person who shares this street, this house, this table, this body? When life is in the hands of a fellow-traveller, a neighbour, a lover, son or daughter, how does the world shift and reform itself around our doubt, our belief?
Imtiaz Dharker’s poems and pictures hurtle through a world that changes even as we pass. This is life seen through distorting screens – a windscreen, a TV screen, newsprint, mirror, water, breath, heat haze, smokescreen.
Her book grows, layer by layer, through three sequences: The terrorist at my table, The habit of departure and Worldwide Rickshaw Ride. Each cuts a different slice through the terrain of what we think of as normal. But through all the uncertainties and concealments, her poems unveil the delicate skin of love, trust and sudden recognition.