Moniza Alvi's new book is unified by birds. Her creations 'Motherbird' and 'Fatherbird' are inspired by her parents, and by the loss of her father and by his emigration from Pakistan. Among the many bird-related poems are versions of the French poets Jules Supervielle and Saint-John Perse, and poems 'after' the paintings of the Spanish-Mexican surrealist artist Remedios Varo.
Blackbird, Bye Bye is Moniza Alvi's first new poetry book since her T.S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted collection At the Time of Partition, published in 2013.
‘As in her previous collections, Alvi probes the subject of dual-heritage, and the challenges and successes of living in between two countries. Concerned with borders of all kinds, Blackbird, Bye Bye also imaginatively treads the line between life and death… Blackbird, Bye Bye is a tender exploration of the world and human nature, which recognises “the carnage, the onslaught/ of the centuries” while managing to find solace in the redemptive powers of art, language and the natural world.’ – Sarala Estruch, The Telegraph
‘Through the metaphor of birds, Moniza Alvi writes with a sing-song clarity about her father’s emigration and death in Blackbird, Bye Bye… With a light tone, Alvi probes darker truths of what it means to leave one’s country and family behind… There’s also a timeless vivacity to the book, present in the subtle, low-key deployment of internal and slant rhymes.’ – Carla-Rosa Manfredino, Times Literary Supplement
‘Her first poetry collection since the T S Eliot Prize-shortlisted At the Time of Partition sees the Wymondham-based writer on superb form. With a unifying theme of birds, the bulk of the book is taken up with a poignant series of poems about her parents. Alvi explores the contrast between the frailty of old age and the vigour of lives in their prime…’ – Trevor Heaton, Eastern Daily Press
'She has a metaphysical wit, both very economical and very wild; the power to create extraordinary concrete images with a lot of space around them; and an imagination so surreal that surreal is where we start. We only gradually realise that she is using the surreal as a lens through which her poems marvel at so-called real life. It is all presented so fluidly and naturally, with a smile and subtle humour, that you accept it instantly.' – Ruth Padel, The Poem and the Journey
'At the Time of Partition is a truly extraordinary collection, a work which succeeds in being spare, compelling and timeless. Furthermore, for the subcontinental reader, it captures a moment of time, a memory, so visceral that it has an extraordinary power. This book should not be missed.' - Muneeza Shamsie, Dawn
'These poems are about what is just out of reach, what cannot ever quite be captured but can be imagined with such delicacy that it becomes real.’ – Helen Dunmore, Observer
'Moniza Alvi's world is a place of wild energy... Alvi's voice has achieved a relaxed naturalness, a fluidity which allows her to present these delicious, extraordinary poems as though it were easy.’ – Kathleen Jamie and Hugo Williams, PBS Bulletin
Moniza Alvi reads six poems
Moniza Alvi reads six poems selected from her Bloodaxe retrospective Split World: Poems 1990-2005 (2008) and her later collection Europa (2008) whose cover picture is a painting by American artist Tabitha Vevers, ‘When We Talk About Rape’ (1992), the inspiration for the poem ‘Mermaid’, which she reads last in this ﬁlm. The title-sequence of her 2005 collection How the Stone Found Its Voice is a series of poems inspired by creation myths. Begun in the wake of the tragedy of 9/11, they are imbued with the dark spirit of that time, with titles including ‘How a Long Way Off Rolled Itself Up’ and ‘How the World Split in Two’, the poem she reads first in the ﬁlm. The poems she reads are: ‘How the World Split in Two’, ‘I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miró’, ‘I Was Raised in a Glove Compartment’, ‘The Sari’, ‘Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan’ and ‘Mermaid’. Neil Astley filmed her reading and discussing a selection of her poems at her home in Wymondham, Norfolk, in November 2013. This ﬁlm is one of 60 videos included in the DVD-anthology In Person: World Poets, filmed and edited by Pamela Robertson-Pearce and Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2017).