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Moniza Alvi (born 2 February 1954) is a Pakistani-British poet and writer. She has won several well-known prizes for her verse.


Life and educationEdit

Moniza Alvi was born in Pakistan to a Pakistani father and a British mother. Her father moved to Hatfield, Hertfordshire in England when Alvi was few months old.[1] 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 currently a freelance writer and tutor, living in Norfolk. She and her husband named Robert have a 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."[2]

Peacock Luggage, a book of poems by Moniza Alvi and Peter Daniels, was published after the two poets jointly won the Poetry Business Prize in 1991, in Alvi's case for "Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan".[3] 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.[4] A selection from her earlier books, Split World: Poems 1990–2005, was published in 2008.[5]

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.[6]

Selected worksEdit


  • Peacock Luggage (1991)
  • A Bowl Of Warm Air (1996)
  • 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 – which was inspired by Kipling's Just So Stories
  • Split World: Poems 1990–2005 (Bloodaxe, 2008) ISBN 978-1-85224-802-4
  • Europa (2008)
  • Homesick For The Earth (2011)


Further readingEdit

  • 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 and Nikola Roßbach. Bielefeld, transcript Verlag 2014, pp. 41–60, ISBN 9783839423998


  1. ^ Biography, Moniza Alvi website.
  2. ^ "'Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan' by Moniza Alvi (analysis)", BBC GCSE Bitesize. Accessed March 2016.
  3. ^ Sawnet Profile. Accessed March 2016.
  4. ^ Het land aan mijn schouder. Translations by Kees Klok. Sliedrecht: Wagner & Van Santen, 2003. ISBN 90-76569-36-3.
  5. ^ Bloodaxe, ISBN 978-1-85224-802-4
  6. ^ "Moniza Alvi: The Essay, Letters to a Young Poet Episode 4 of 5", BBC Radio 3, 2014.

External linksEdit