Daljit Nagra

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Daljit Nagra

At a poetry reading in 2007
At a poetry reading in 2007
Born1966 (age 56–57)
Yiewsley, England
Notable worksLook We Have Coming to Dover! (2007)
Notable awardsForward Poetry Prize

Daljit Nagra MBE FRSL (born 1966[1]) is a British poet whose debut collection, Look We Have Coming to Dover! – a title alluding to W. H. Auden's Look, Stranger!, D. H. Lawrence's Look! We Have Come Through! and by epigraph also to Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" – was published by Faber in February 2007. Nagra's poems relate to the experience of Indians born in the UK (especially Indian Sikhs), and often employ language that imitates the English spoken by Indian immigrants whose first language is Punjabi, which some have termed "Punglish".[2] He currently works part-time at JFS School in Kenton and visits schools, universities and festivals where he performs his work. He was appointed chair of the Royal Society of Literature in November 2020.

Early life and education[edit]

Daljit Nagra, whose Sikh Punjabi parents came to Britain from India in the late 1950s, was born and grew up in Yiewsley, near London's Heathrow Airport, the family moving to Sheffield in 1982.[3] In 1988 he went to study for a BA and MA in English at Royal Holloway, University of London.[3] Tentatively beginning to write, he later attended poetry workshops, courses and tutorials, receiving feedback from poets including Pascale Petit, Moniza Alvi, John Stammers, Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay, and from 2002 being mentored by Stephen Knights.[3]

Poetry career[edit]

In 2003, Nagra won the Smith/Doorstop Books Pamphlet Competition, leading to the subsequent publication of his Oh MY Rub!, which was the Poetry Book Society's first ever PBS Pamphlet Choice.[citation needed] In 2004 Nagra won the Forward Poetry Prize for best single poem for "Look We Have Coming to Dover!". Nagra's debut book-length collection, which takes the same title, was published in 2007, when it received extremely positive reviews and was featured on television and radio, including the prominent BBC programme Newsnight Review.[4] Look We Have Coming to Dover! won the 2007 Forward Poetry Prize for best first collection,[5] the South Bank Show Decibel Award and was nominated for the Costa Poetry Award, the Guardian First Book Award, the Aldeburgh Prize and the Glen Dimplex Award.[citation needed]

His second collection, Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man Eating Tiger-Toy Machine!!! (2012), was shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize.[citation needed] Nagra's 2013 book, Ramayana, was also shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize.[citation needed] In 2014 he won the Royal Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship Award.[citation needed]

His poems have been published in the New Yorker,[6] Atlantic Review, The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry Review, Poetry London, Poetry International, The Rialto and The North.

He has performed at venues located in places such as Banff, Calgary, Toronto, Bratislava, Galle, Mumbai, Delhi, Orkney, Belfast, Dublin, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Heidelberg, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Ty Newydd and many places in England.[citation needed]

Nagra has been on the Board of the Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Archive. He has judged the 2008 Samuel Johnson Prize,[7] the Guardian First Book Award 2008, the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Award 2008, the National Poetry Competition 2009, the 2010 Manchester Poetry Prize.[8] and the Costa Book Award poetry category and overall winner in 2012. He has also hosted the T. S. Eliot Poetry Readings 2009. He was the Keats House Poet-In-Residence from July 2014 to June 2015, and he was an Eton College Wisdom Scholar in November 2014.

Nagra has acted as the Lead Poetry Tutor at the Faber Academy and has run workshops all over the world. He is a regular contributor to BBC radio, and in October 2015, he became the first poet in residence for BBC Radio 4.[9] He was succeeded in this role by Alice Oswald.[10] Nagra has written articles for The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times of India. He teaches English[11] at Brunel University.[3]

In 2017 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.[12][13]

His poem "Singh Song!" was added to the AQA English Literature GCSE love and relationships poetry specification.[14]

Nagra was appointed chair of the Royal Society of Literature in November 2020,[15] taking over from Lisa Appignanesi, who had held the position since 2016.[16]

Nagra was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2022 Birthday Honours for services to literature.[17]

In 2023, Nagra wrote a spoken word piece that was performed by actor James Nesbitt at the Coronation Concert, to mark the coronation of Charles III and Camilla.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Nagra married a woman he met at university, not long after they graduated.[19] Although the marriage produced a daughter, it was not successful and the couple divorced, at Nagra's behest. Subsequently, Nagra met and married his current wife Katherine, with whom he has two daughters, Maia and Hannah.[20] During the 2000s they lived in Dollis Hill before moving to Harrow in the 2010s.[21]


  • Oh MY Rub! – Smith/Doorstop, 2003. ISBN 978-1902382548
  • Look We Have Coming to Dover! – Faber & Faber, 2007. ISBN 978-0571231225
  • Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!! – Faber & Faber, 2012. ISBN 978-0571264919
  • Ramayana – Faber & Faber, 2013. ISBN 978-0571294879 (hardback); ISBN 978-0571313846 (paperback).
  • "British Museum" – Faber & Faber, 2017. ISBN 978-0571333738 (hardback)


  • Anon. (6 October 2014). "Novelists are overrated". Writer at Work. India Today. 39 (40): 73.


  1. ^ "Daljit Nagra" Archived 25 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine, Poetry International Rotterdam.
  2. ^ "Do you speak Punglish?", BBC, 29 September 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d "Biography", Daljit Nagra website.
  4. ^ Literature: Daljit Nagra 'Look We Have Coming to Dover!', Newsnight Review, 19 January 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2007.
  5. ^ Ezard, John (24 August 2007). "Guardian award highlights good year for first-time writers". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
  6. ^ Nagra, Daljit (25 July 2011). "A Black History of the English Speaking Peoples (poem)". The New Yorker. pp. 52–53.
  7. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (16 July 2008). "The Suspicions of Mr Whicher wins Samuel Johnson prize". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 July 2008.
  8. ^ "Competition judges". Manchester Poetry Prize. Manchester Metropolitan University. Archived from the original on 31 March 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2010.
  9. ^ Blumsom, Amy (8 October 2015). "Daljit Nagra becomes first poet in residence for Radio 4". The Telegraph.
  10. ^ "Alice Oswald announced as BBC Radio 4's new Poet-in-Residence". BBC Media Centre. 22 September 2017. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  11. ^ "Daljit Nagra" at British Council, Literature.
  12. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha (7 June 2017). "Rankin, McDermid and Levy named new RSL fellows". The Bookseller.
  13. ^ "Current RSL Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2015. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  14. ^ "English Literature Paper 2 Section B: AQA Love and Relationships Poems" Archived 24 February 2020 at the Wayback Machine, via Drapers' Academy.
  15. ^ Flood, Alison (30 November 2020). "Royal Society of Literature reveals historic changes to improve diversity". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Press Release: Royal Society of Literature Celebrates 200th Birthday with 60 Appointments and Five-year Festival" (PDF). The Royal Society of Literature. 30 November 2020. Retrieved 1 December 2020.
  17. ^ "No. 63714". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 June 2022. p. B23.
  18. ^ "Stars including Take That and Kermit the Frog put on a night to remember at spectacular Coronation Concert". BBC Media Centre. 7 May 2023. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  19. ^ "Singh Songs". HeraldScotland. 27 January 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  20. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 2 January 2021.
  21. ^ Barkham, Patrick (18 January 2007). "The Bard of Dollis Hill". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2021.

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