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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, March 16, 2007


Between prose and poetry, I'd stick to prose anyday. Somehow, the draw of the poem works for me only when I'm seeing it performed. Poets at slams, at performance poetry session make their words come alive in a way that often exceeds my imagination. I feel a part of the experience, part of the words, Beyond that point, once it's all over I don't make a dash to the book store to buy the said book of poems.

All that's about to change thanks to British poet of Punjabi descent Daljit Nagra , who I heard on the BBC today. Not sure what show it was, was channel hopping, when I saw someone reading. It was my introduction to Nagra and his work and the effect was mesmeric. Enough to tempt to make that long overdue trip to Borders.

More than the sheer power of his words, which stood out in their own right - even on TV - it was the story of his life that had me all ears. He spoke of capturing the Indian experience, his own years growing up poor in London, fighting racism, his parent's shop, where they went from poor to rich to being robbed and his 'Indianness' (or is it Punjabiness) that speaks out loud and clear in his work.

He read parts of his poems to demonstrate that, flitting charmingly between his British accent to a Punjabi one back to the British one, making the interview a viewer's delight.

Nagra spoke of the absence of poetry when he was in school, how he got started, why he refused to go on even when recognised critics like Martin Dodsworth believed in him. He continued mixing English with Punjabi while he was at University and only started taking his work seriously in the late 1990s. Things changed when he started getting published and won the Forward prize for Best Individual Poem in 2004 for 'Look We Have Coming to Dover!'

His book has been published by Faber and Faber this year and garnered a five star rating on Amazon. That's some start considering this slim volume was only out on 1st February. Despite the success, Nagra, the poet has no plans of giving up his day job as a teacher.

His students may be wondering why a published poet is still around but the lure of the job, he pointed out, is bound to keep him going. As Nagra spoke about how much he loves teaching, it was hard to imagine him giving up on teaching. After all, his words seemed enough to inspire a whole new generation of poets who perhaps would be as willing to take risks with the form, as he has and with that draw a whole new generation of readers.

Even if you don't enjoy poetry, it's hard not to love this.

Raja's Love Song

All the girls say they love me
all their mums say I'm lovely -
ever since I lived in the clouds.

Ever since you left me
I've been raining on the road
where you first said you loved me ...

It's enough to draw me back to my long forgotten Milton, Browning and Keats.

If it's Nagra who'll get you started, then head here to read more.

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