Winner of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, 2014
An anguished god surveys a world stricken by fundamentalism in these powerful poems by a writer whose cultural experience spans three countries: Pakistan, the country of her birth, and Britain and India, her countries of adoption. Her main themes are drawn from a life of transitions: childhood, exile, journeying, home, displacement, religious strife and terror, and latterly, grief. She is also an accomplished artist, and all her collections are illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of her books.
The terrorist at my table asks crucial questions about how we live now – working, travelling, eating, listening to the news, preparing for attack. What do any of us know about the person who shares this street, this house, this table, this body? When life is in the hands of a fellow-traveller, a neighbour, a lover, son or daughter, how does the world shift and reform itself around our doubt, our belief?
Imtiaz Dharker’s poems and pictures hurtle through a world that changes even as we pass. This is life seen through distorting screens – a windscreen, a TV screen, newsprint, mirror, water, breath, heat haze, smokescreen.
Her book grows, layer by layer, through three sequences: The terrorist at my table, The habit of departure and Worldwide Rickshaw Ride. Each cuts a different slice through the terrain of what we think of as normal. But through all the uncertainties and concealments, her poems unveil the delicate skin of love, trust and sudden recognition.
Imtiaz Dharker is an accomplished artist. Like all her collections, The terrorist at my table is illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of the book.
‘Hers is a strong, concerned, economical poetry, in which political activity, homesickness, urban violence, religious anomalies, are raised in an unobtrusive domestic setting, all the more effectively for their coolness of treatment’ – Alan Ross, London Magazine
‘Here is no glib internationalism or modish multiculturalism …Displacement here no longer spells exile; it means an exhilarating sense of life at the interstices. There is an exultant celebration of a self that strips off layers of superfluous identity with grace and abandon, only to discover that it has not diminished, but grown larger, generous, more inclusive’ – Arundhathi Subramaniam, Poetry International
'Were there to be a World Laureate, Imtiaz Dharker would be the only candidate' – Carol Ann Duffy.
Imtiaz Dharker reads five poems
Imtiaz Dharker reads five poems: 'Blessing' from Postcards from god, 'Honour killing' and 'They'll say, "She must be from another country"' from I Speak for the Devil, and 'The terrorist at my table' and 'How to cut a pomegranate' from The terrorist at my table. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets (2008), filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley, which includes five poems read by Imtiaz Dharker selected from her first three Bloodaxe titles.