I heard Moniza Alvi read at Exeter Poetry Festival earlier this month. How have I lived without her poems before now? On that evening, I wasn’t sure if I was mishearing some of the words at the ends of the poems so I bought Split World Poems 1990 – 2005 and was immediately captivated. Such a lovely, unassuming person writing about things that might seem mundane but in her quiet, relaxed voice become utterly extraordinary. No wonder I thought I had misheard!
Here’s the opening of The Laughing Moon from her 1996 collection called A Bowl of Warm Air.
‘I had two pillows and one was England,
Two cheeks and one was England.
Pakistan held me and dropped me in the night.
I slid through
yesterday and tomorrow – …’
Moniza Alvi left Pakistan for England when she was young and this led her to explore her own sense of duality. In later books she writes she ‘became interested in the interplay between inner and outer worlds, imagination and reality, physical and spiritual.’ I’d say she is very courageous and doesn’t shy away from the worst that humans inflict upon one another, getting deep under the skin of experience.
I recommend anything by Moniza Alvi for her fine judgement and precision, for her ease and naturalness. Split World is great as it contains five of her collections. I wish I had also bought Europa.
And….. Here is her website: http://www.moniza.co.uk/