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Moniza Alvi (born 2 February 1954) is a Pakistani-British poet and writer.
Life and education
Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan, to a Pakistani father and a British mother. Her father moved to Hatfield, Hertfordshire, in England when Alvi was a few months old. She did not revisit Pakistan until after the publication of one of her first books of poems — The Country at My Shoulder. She worked for several years as a high-school teacher, but is now a freelance writer and tutor, living in Norfolk. She and her husband, Robert, have one daughter.
Alvi says: "'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan' was one of the first poems I wrote. When I wrote this poem I wasn't actually back in Pakistan. The girl in the poem would be me at about 13. The clothes seem to stick to her in an uncomfortable way, a bit like a kind of false skin, and she thinks things aren't straightforward for her. I found it was important to write the Pakistan poems because I was getting in touch with my background. And maybe there's a bit of a message behind the poems about something I went through, that I want to maybe open a few doors if possible."
Peacock Luggage, a book of poems by Moniza Alvi and Peter Daniels, was published as a result of the two poets winning together the Poetry Business Prize in 1991, in Alvi's case for "Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan". That poem and "An Unknown Girl" have featured on England's GCSE exam syllabus for young teenagers.
Since then, Moniza Alvi has written four poetry collections. The Country at My Shoulder (1993) led to her being selected for the Poetry Society's New Generation Poets promotion in 1994. She also published a series of short stories, How the Stone Found its Voice (2005), inspired by Kipling's Just So Stories.
In 2002 she received a Cholmondeley Award for her poetry. In 2003 a selection of her poetry was published in a bilingual Dutch and English edition. A selection from her earlier books, Split World: Poems 1990–2005, was published in 2008.
On 16 January 2014, Alvi participated in the BBC Radio 3 series "The Essay – Letters to a Young Poet". Taking Rainer Maria Rilke's classic text, Letters to a Young Poet as their inspiration, leading poets wrote a letter to a protégé.
- Carrying my Wife (Bloodaxe Books, 2000) ISBN 978-1-85224-537-5
- Souls (Bloodaxe, 2002) ISBN 978-1-85224-585-6
- How the Stone Found Its Voice (Bloodaxe, 2005) ISBN 978-1-85224-694-5
- Split World: Poems 1990–2005 (Bloodaxe, 2008) ISBN 978-1-85224-802-4
- The Poetry Quartets 6 with George Szirtes, Michael Donaghy and Anne Stevenson (Bloodaxe / British Council, 2001) ISBN 978-1-85224-519-1
- Sonja Lehmann: Moniza Alvi’s Europa. Rewriting Myth from a Feminist Postcolonial Perspective, in: Verorten - Verhandeln - Verkörpern. Interdisziplinäre Analysen zu Raum und Geschlecht, edited by Silke Förschler, Rebekka Habermas, Nikola Roßbach. Bielefeld, transcript Verlag 2014, pp. 41–60, ISBN 9783839423998
- Biography, Moniza Alvi website.
- "'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan' by Moniza Alvi (analysis)", BBC GCSE Bitesize. Accessed March 2016.
- Sawnet Profile. Accessed March 2016.
- Het land aan mijn schouder. Translations by Kees Klok. Sliedrecht: Wagner & Van Santen, 2003. ISBN 90-76569-36-3.
- Bloodaxe, ISBN 978-1-85224-802-4
- "Moniza Alvi: The Essay, Letters to a Young Poet Episode 4 of 5", BBC Radio 3, 2014.