Poetry of the immigrant experience
This article is from 2007.
Daljit Nagra is very popular with the pupils he teaches English to at a north-west London school. Not because he lets them off with throwing paper aeroplanes across the room or allows them to bunk off early, but because he has injected them with a love of literature and, mainly, as they think he’s a literary superstar earning millions.
So much so that they posted glowing reviews onto Amazon when his debut collection, Look We Have Coming to Dover!, which docked at the start of the year. The grown-up kind of critics have been similarly taken with this writer’s Punjabi-English sensibility and he won the much-vaunted Forward Poetry Prize for best single poem with the title verse back in 2004.
Not many writers explore the immigrant experience via inspirations such as Milton or Browning; indeed, the winning verse clearly acknowledges its debt to Malcolm Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ which extended its gaze towards conflicts abroad while Nagra peers with insight upon the shores of the homeland his parents arrived at in the 1950s. It’s not a bad achievement for someone whose closest experience of literature at school was Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. (Brian Donaldson)
Recommended Reading: Look We Have Coming to Dover! features works such as ‘Singh Song!’ and ‘Parade’s End’
12 Aug (with Nick Laird), 10.15am, £7 (£5).