Winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2014
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.
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.
'Hers is a strong, concerned, economical poetry, in which political activity, homesickness, urban violence, religious anomalies, are raised in an unobtrusive domestic setting, all the more effectively for their coolness of treatment' – Alan Ross, London Magazine.
'Beautiful ambivalence…realistic details take on a surrealistic menace in another context…These poems deal very powerfully with social, religious, racial and above all sexual entrapment’ – Christopher Levenson, Toronto South Asian Review.
‘Here is no glib internationalism or modish multiculturalism …Displacement here no longer spells exile; it means an exhilarating sense of life at the interstices. There is an exultant celebration of a self that strips off layers of superfluous identity with grace and abandon, only to discover that it has not diminished, but grown larger, generous, more inclusive’ – Arundhathi Subramaniam, Poetry International
'Were there to be a World Laureate, Imtiaz Dharker would be the only candidate' – Carol Ann Duffy.
Imtiaz Dharker reads five poems
Imtiaz Dharker reads five poems: 'Blessing' from Postcards from god, 'Honour killing' and 'They'll say, "She must be from another country"' from I Speak for the Devil, and 'The terrorist at my table' and 'How to cut a pomegranate' from The terrorist at my table. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets (2008), filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes five poems read by Imtiaz Dharker selected from her first three Bloodaxe titles.