A prayer is said, / a story told. Under the dome / the Word explodes.
Imtiaz Dharker grew up a Muslim Calvinist in a Lahori household in Glasgow, was adopted by India and married into Wales. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014, is an accomplished artist, and this collection is accompanied by a selection of those works.
This is my first book of Imtiaz’s, but there are five more that I will be saving for in the months that follow. These poems are beautiful and elegantly drawn, placed in precise and well-defined spaces in which they move and live, waiting for you to discover their detail and complexity. You never leave the same either, a part of the poetry becomes caught on your jacket or stuck in your hair. Pieces of these works return their scents and tastes to you, too, long after they have been digested.
Lessons from the Text
From the first poem, Chaudhri Sher Mobarik looks at the loch to the last, This Tide of Humber, Imtiaz constantly reminds you of the many worlds she straddles; the spaces in these poems seem larger than in any other work I have ever read, that lifetimes and memories and things I will never understand are buried within the lines themselves. From loss and regret to recollections both familiar and unknown, this is a book that is painted both in words and pictures.
There are so many standouts too: the complex and unnerving Six Rings, Sixty Seconds and A Haunting, that effortlessly straddle the space between life and death, yearning and loss. Double, I think, is a nod to a songwriter I too have written poetry about, and This line, that thread is at least, for me, about as perfect as poetry can get. This is a book I have happily been lost in since I returned from the Lake District with it in my bag.
It transpires that going to the Kendal Festival was a life-changing experience, and the poetic insights I’ve learned from the artists I saw perform are going to stick with me for many years to come. Sometimes, you need to step out of your comfort zones and walk to new spaces. This was like finding an entirely new Universe sitting just beyond my eyeline. Of the many things learnt this year, being a better explorer still needs practice.
Will you read it again? I’ve not stopped dipping into it since the end of June, and there are not many books I can ever say that of, poetry or otherwise.
Would you recommend it for me to read? Yes. A thousand times.