Imtiaz Dharker on BBC Radio's Private Passions, Saturday Live & The Arts Hour

Imtiaz Dharker on BBC Radio's Private Passions, Saturday Live & The Arts Hour


'Weaving between her distinctive illustrations and powerful poems, Dharker expresses the most profound concern for humanity.' – Jo Clement, PBS Selector, Poetry Book Society Summer Bulletin 2024, on Shadow Reader


Imtiaz Dharker's seventh book of poetry from Bloodaxe, Shadow Reader, was published in May 2024. It is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation for Spring 2024. As with all of her poetry books, it is illustrated with her own black and white drawings, which form an integral part of the book. Shadow Reader follows her 2018 collection Luck is the Hook

Poet, artist and filmmaker Imtiaz Dharker was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for Over the Moon, her fifth book of poetry from Bloodaxe.  She has also received a Cholmondeley Award from the Society of Authors and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Over the Moon was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2014. Her poems are on the British GCSE and A Level English syllabus, and she reads with other poets at Poetry Live! events all over the country to more than 35,000 students a year.  In 2020 she was appointed Chancellor of Newcastle University. Imtiaz was born in Pakistan, grew up in Glasgow, and lived in India for many years.  She has been based in London since 2003.

Imtiaz Dharker is a regular contributor to BBC Radio. Many of the programmes she has presented or been interviewed on have been chosen for BBC Radio 4's Pick of the Week.



The Arts Hour, BBC World Service, forthcoming Saturday 13 July 2024, 20:06 hrs Europe/UK (repeated Sunday 14 July, 15:06 hrs & Tuesday 16 July, 10:06 hrs)

A major interview with poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker will be broadcast on the BBC World Service’s The Arts Hour on 13 July.  Imtiaz will be in conversation with host Nikki Bedi about her life and poetry, and will be reading from and talking about her new collection Shadow Reader.  Imtiaz has previously spoken to Nikki on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live on 15 June (a BBC Radio 4 Pick of the Week choice), but this will be a much more in-depth discussion.  In addition to this profile interview, Imtiaz and Nikki will be joined in the studio by cultural critic Murtada Elfadl to discuss five or six other BBC Arts interview clips from previous weeks - these will be short highlights of the best arts and cultural coverage from across the BBC.  

‘Nikki Bedi is joined by poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker and cultural critic Murtada Elfadl. They consider Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s role in the Disney + series The Bear.  New Zealand film director Lee Tamahori discusses what a great actor brings to a production. Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic’s appearance at the Glastonbury music festival. Actors Kit Harrington and Olivia Washington on audience discomfort in the theatre. And music from South African singer Moonchild Sanelly.’

Listen live or via BBC Sounds after broadcast.



The Scotsman, Saturday 6 July 2024

Imtiaz Dharker’s Glasgow poem ‘Back’ from Shadow Reader was featured as Poem of the Week in The Scotsman Magazine on 6 July. The poem was accompanied by a short introduction.

‘This week's poem is by globally acclaimed poet, artist and filmmaker Imtiaz Dharker, who grew up in a Lahori household in Glasgow, was adopted by India and married into Wales. This is from her new collection Shadow Reader, which nods to exclusions and erasures, as well as being a playful celebration of life in all its glory; full of joyous language and rich imagery.’ The Scotsman, Poem of the Week, on ‘Back’ from Shadow Reader

In print only.

Imtiaz Dharker read this brilliant poem on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live on 15 June - scoll down for details.  Her reading of 'Back' was chosen for BBC Radio 4's Pick of the Week on 23 June.   Imtiaz is introduced by Julie Hesmondhalgh at 10:02:



Buzz Magazine, New Poetry for June, online 26 June 2024

Imtiaz Dharker’s new collection Shadow Reader was given a wonderful review in Mab Jone’s June poetry feature in Buzz Magazine Wales.  Mab Jones was reviewing ‘six of the best new entries from the British poetry landscape of June 2024’.

‘…terrific, transcendent poems, which go from grit to heart, sorrow to song, and all between. It’s a stunner of a collection…’ – Mab Jones, Buzz Magazine, on Shadow Reader

In print in the June issue of Buzz Magazine.  Also available online.

Short & Sweet, online 1 July 2024

Poet Katrina Naomi chose Imtiaz Dharker’s new collection Shadow Reader as her Recommended Read for July 2024 in her Short & Sweet newsletter.

‘Imtiaz Dharker's Shadow Reader is a joy. I admire poetry which draws on the political. Imtiaz's poems do this so well […] Her work always comes from a fresh angle […] Poetry of empathy, love & revelation.’ – Katrina Naomi, Short & Sweet (Recommended Read for July 2024)



Imtiaz Dharker's new collection Shadow Reader was very well reviewed at the top of Graeme Richardson's summer poetry round-up in The Sunday Times of 23 June 2024.

'If you’re not a regular reader of poetry, Imtiaz Dharker gives you a place to start. Shadow Reader, her seventh collection from Bloodaxe, is not only easily accessible, but also hauntingly relevant in this time of war and displacement [...] With clever but not intrusive rhyme and rhythm these are poems to read aloud. And while there’s no hiding from the world’s reality — battlefield flies “wind and weave at the centre of this carnival” — ultimately Dharker’s poetry is a gesture of hope. “When you open the book, it opens you.”' – Graeme Richardson, The Sunday Times (Summer poetry round-up)

In print on 23 June 2024. Available online on The Times's website here:



Pick of the Week, BBC Radio 4, Sunday 23 June 2024, 6.15pm

A clip from Saturday Live was chosen by Julie Hesmondhalgh for BBC Radio 4's Pick of the Week on 23 June 2024. Julie introduced 'the wonderful poet Imtiaz Dharker' at 10:02, and chose Imtiaz's reading of her poem 'Back' from Shadow Reader, a poem in which she 'explores her love of Glasgow and her disdain for those who seek to be reductive of her and her identity based on appearances only.'

The programme has been archived on BBC Sounds.  Imtiaz is introduced at 10:02.



Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4, Saturday 15 June 2024, 9-10am

Poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker was a wonderful guest on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live on 15 June, co-hosted by Nikki Bedi and Jon Kay. Imtiaz was in conversation with Nikki Bedi and read her brilliant poem 'Back' - one of her poems from the book featuring Glasgow, where she grew up - from her new poetry collection Shadow Reader.  Her fellow guests were the journalist and presenter Ashley John-Baptiste and landscape and garden designer Miria Harris.  Also featured were the Inheritance Tracks of writer and presenter Danny Robins.

‘I think she’s one of the world’s greatest contemporary poets.’ – Nikki Bedi, introducing Imtiaz Dharker on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live

‘This collection of poems, like all your collections and the drawings within [them], addresses so much about the human condition.’ – Nikki Bedi, on Shadow Reader

The programme has been archived on BBC Sounds.  Imtiaz features in the introduction (from 2:17) and at 19:33. Her main interview is from 43:09.

Imtiaz Dharker shared her ‘Interitance Tracks’ on Saturday Live on 19 May 2018.  This feature is still available to listen to on BBC Sounds:



Poetry Please, BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 18 June 2024, 4pm

National Poet of Wales, the Welsh-Iraqi poet Hanan Issa, was guest poet on Poetry Please on 18 June.  She was in conversation with host Roger McGough and chose and introduced poems from listener requests.  A clip from this programme was chosen by Julie Hesmondhalgh for BBC Radio 4's Pick of the Week on 23 June 2024.

Menna Elfyn’s poem ‘Brooch’ from her 2012 retrospective Perfect Blemish was the first poem featured. Menna recorded this especially for the programme, and read it first in Welsh, then in English. Menna commented that the poem was about ‘the way we wear loss in our daily lives’.

Imtiaz Dharker also recorded her poem especially for the programme. ‘Prayer’ is from her first Bloodaxe title Postcards from God [with Purdah], which was published by Bloodaxe in 1997. Like Imtiaz, Hanan Issa is a poet, artist and filmmaker.  Hanan said that she had chosen this poem because ‘Imtiaz just writes so powerfully, but there’s a gentleness in the way the poem unfolds, and that’s what I love about it.’

The final poem in this edition of Poetry Please was by the late American poet Jack Gilbert, who died in 2012.  ‘The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart’ is included in his 2006 UK retrospective Transgressions: Selected Poems.  The poem was beautifully performed by Elizabeth Marvel, taken from a film commissioned by the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation, directed by Matthew Thompson.

Available on BBC Sounds until 4.30pm on 18 July 2024.  Menna’s and Imtiaz’s poems are featured first, from 1:33 and 6:57.  Jack Gilbert’s poem is introduced at 22:30.



We’d Like A Word podcast, episode 21: Khushwant Singh Lit Fest: Indian, Pakistani & Bangladeshi authors, online 5 June 2024

Imtiaz Dharker was interviewed for an episode of the We’d Like A Word podcast recorded at the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival at which she was giving a reading from her new collection Shadow Reader.  She was speaking to co-host Jonathan Kennedy.

‘In this special We'd Like A Word India episode at the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival, co-hosts Paul Waters & Jonathan Kennedy (standing in for Stevyn Colgan) hear ideas from top authors of fiction, non-fiction, memoir & poetry & other experts.’  Guests included ‘poet Imtiaz Dharker on her latest collection, Shadow Reader

Imtiaz spoke about her background and about her poetry, in particular her aim to find the music in a poem, and to let rhyme to ‘drip through the middle of a poem’.  She spoke about her new collection and read her poem ‘For the Minicab Driver Who Looked as if He Needed Feeding’ from Shadow Reader.

Imtiaz features from 58:56.  Listen via Spotify here.



Private Passions: Imtiaz Dharker, BBC Radio 3, Sunday 26 May 2024, 12pm-1.30pm

Poet, artist and filmmaker Imtiaz Dharker was Michael Berkeley’s guest on BBC Radio 3’s Private Passions on 26 May. Over the course of this 90-minute programme she spoke about her life, poetry, drawings, and her choice of musical pieces, which Michael described as ‘a rich tapestry of music’.  

Michael Berkeley referred to Imtiaz’s poem ‘Campsie Fells’ from her 2006 collection The Terrorist at My Table. He also spoke about her collection Over the Moon, for which she was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, 2014. At 36:26 Imtiaz talked about the drawings which feature in all her poetry books, explaining how the poems and the drawings flow into and amplify each other.

Imtiaz read her poem ‘Night Walk with Blackbird’ from Shadow Reader, her seventh book of poetry from Bloodaxe, and later spoke about the true story of the prophesy she received from a Shadow Reader when she was a young woman. Her poems about his unwelcome prophesy are scattered through the collection.

‘Michael Berkeley's guest is the poet Imtiaz Dharker, who was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014.’

Imtiaz reads her poem ‘Night Walk with Blackbird’ at 42:19. She spoke about the background to Shadow Reader at 1:08:57.  The programme will be available on BBC Sounds in this full 90-minute version until 1.30pm on 25 June 2024, after which it will be replaced with a version with shorter musical clips.


Imtiaz was Kirsty Young's guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on 17 July 2015.



Imtiaz Dharker, Amanda Dalton and Katie Donovan launched their new collections online with Bloodaxe on 21 May 2024, joining from their homes in London, Hebden Bridge and Dublin.  The poets read from their new books Shadow Reader, Fantastic Voyage and May Swim, and discussed them with each other and with the host, editor Neil Astley. Excellent readings by all three poets, followed by a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion about writing in response to loss, and also about how their work in other areas – art, drama and therapy - feeds into their poetry.


Imtiaz Dharker: Shadow Reader

Imtiaz Dharker reads and introduces a selection of poems from Shadow Reader. All her poetry collections are illustrated with her drawings, which form an integral part of the books; she is one of very few poet-artists to work in this way. This video includes some of the drawings from Shadow Reader showing their visual connections with particular poems from the book. Neil Astley filmed her reading from her new collection at her home in London in January ahead of the book’s publication in May 2024.




Larkin Revisited: Talking in Bed, BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 10 August 2022, 1.45pm

Imtiaz Dharker joined Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to talk about and read from Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Talking in Bed’ for the third episode of this BBC Radio 4 series Larkin Revisited. Simon Armitage introduced her by saying: ‘Imtiaz Dharker is also a poet with a talent for clarity, and the author of intimate, sensual poems.’

‘Across ten programmes and ten Philip Larkin poems, Simon Armitage, the Poet Laureate, finds out what happens when he revisits and unpicks Larkin's work in his centenary year.’

Imtiaz features from 02:09. Listen via BBC Sounds here.

Imtiaz Dharker’s new poem ‘Swiping left on Larkin’ was featured in The Guardian of 9 August 2022, marking 100 years since the birth of the great English poet. Imtiaz is an honorary vice president of the Philip Larkin Society.  In her introductory piece to her poem, Imtiaz wrote about Larkin more generally. She highlighted his poem ‘Talking in Bed’, which she also discusses with Poet Laureate Simon Armitage in the above Radio 4 series Larkin Revisited

‘Swiping left on Larkin’ was subsequently published in Imtiaz's seventh book of poetry from Bloodaxe, Shadow Reader (2024).

Read the poem feature on The Guardian website here.


Breakfast, BBC Radio 3, Monday 2 September 2019, 6.30-9am, 20 December and 25 December 2019

Imtiaz Dharker was specially commissioned for the BBC Radio 3 Breakfast's Carol Competition 2019. Amateur composers around the country were challenged to set the text of this poem to music. Presenter Petroc Trelawny launched the competition on the 2 September edition of Breakfast.  He introduced the poem, which was then read by Imtiaz Dharker.

The six shortlisted musical settings of Imtiaz Dharker’s poem were all played on Breakfast, performed by the BBC Singers, and the winner was chosen by Radio 3 listeners. The highest ever number of votes was recorded this year, and the winner was announced on Breakfast on 20 December.  The winning carol was played again on the Christmas Day edition of Breakfast.

The winning setting was by Chris Black, an NHS doctor from Wetherby, also a Newcastle University alumnus. A happy coincidence - Imtiaz Dharker had recently been named the next Chancellor of Newcastle University and took up her post in January 2020.  Chris Black was interviewed by Petroc Trelawny, and spoke very warmly about Imtiaz's poem.  

Listen to the winning carol and the five other finalists here, where you can also read the poem, and hear Imtiaz read her poem 'Go to the Child’. 

'Go to the Child' was subsequently published in Imtiaz's seventh book of poetry from Bloodaxe, Shadow Reader (2024).


The Documentary: Sweeping the World, BBC World Service, Tuesday 5 February 2019

Imtiaz Dharker wrote and presented this half-hour documentary feature for BBC World Service. She wrote a new poem for this, and it was intercut into the programme.

‘Imtiaz Dharker presents a reflective evocation of the broom, in words, sound and music.’

A clip from Imtiaz’s poem and one of the interviews she conducted was chosen for BBC Radio 4’s Pick of the Week on Sunday 10 February 2019.

Listen here.

Imtiaz's new poem 'Sweeping' is now published in her seventh book of poetry from Bloodaxe, Shadow Reader (2024).

[22 May 2024]

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