Poet of Honour: Imtiaz Dharker

Poet of Honour is a series of Ars Notoria and Word Masala Foundation’s celebration of some of the best contemporary poets who have become iconic and a major inspiration.

Believe me; it is most difficult to write a front editorial note for someone of Imtiaz Dharker’s stature and her presence across the boundaries that is really the religion of literature! Her daughter Ayesha is the supreme example of there is nothing Muslim, Jews, Christians or Hindus about us at a level of our humanity as she dances across all religions on a variety of stages, taking her mother’s teaching aboard.

credit: Ayesha Dharker

Art cannot afford the political pettiness or religious bigotry, so l am profoundly grateful that Imtiaz not only agreed to be a special guest for us to celebrate Christmas but also share as a special treat for you her trademark artistic expression in sketches. Merry Christmas! Please enjoy not only our usual Poet of Honour content but also her drawing, which she has generously sent to share with us on Christmas. So please celebrate Christmas with her, Phillip, and me.

-Yogesh Patel MBE

Three poems by Imtiaz Dharker

Lapis Lazuli

If you thirst for blue beyond ultramarine,
here is the blue that stains the artist’s hand,
lifted out of the most precious seam
in the generous heart of Badakshan

to place an azure light in the Pharaoh’s eyes
after he is gone, lap at the Virgin’s cloak,
seep into the masjid walls. A prize
to protect the wearer, allow the hope

that a simple ore could save the prey
and shield the savaged heart from harm;
that in a broken land it could find a way
to wrap the child in sacred blue, a charm

or talisman to still the approaching drone,
if you could only mine the prayer inside the stone.

Undone

That tongue of yours is silver when you speak
and silver when the speaking’s done.
Those eyes have a look that turns my quick
to silver and proves my body’s not my own
but away on loan to your fingers, bold
in their skilful wheeling and their dealing.
Your mouth the alchemist, I am gold,
blown through the eggshell of the ceiling
into a clear murano sky.
All that goes with me is the scent of you
which could be the scent of me, for there is no I
or you, flung as we are to glassy blue.
See how well I am undone
with one touch of your silenced silver tongue

The trick

In a wasted time, it’s only when I sleep
that all my senses come awake. In the wake
of you, let day not break. Let me keep
the scent, the weight, the bright of you, take
the countless hours and count them all night through
till that time comes when you come to the door
of dreams, carrying oranges that cast a glow
up into your face. Greedy for more
than the gift of seeing you, I lean in to taste
the colour, kiss it off your offered mouth.
For this, for this, I fall asleep in haste,
willing to fall for the trick that tells the truth
that even your shade makes darkest absence bright,
that shadows live wherever there is light.

Imtiaz Dharker
Imtiaz Dharker

Imtiaz Dharker is a poet, artist and video film maker, awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2014. Her six collections, all published by Bloodaxe Books, include Over the Moon and the latest, Luck is the Hook. Her poems have featured widely on BBC radio, television, the London Underground and Mumbai buses. She has had eleven solo exhibitions of drawings and also scripts and directs video films, many of them for non-government organisations working in the area of shelter, education and health for women and children in India.

‘Whether she writes of exile, childhood, politics or grief, her clear-eyed attention brings each subject dazzlingly into focus. She makes it look easy, this clarity and economy, but it is her deft phrasing, wit and grace that create this immediacy.

Reading her, one feels that were there to be a World Laureate, Imtiaz Dharker would be the only candidate’.

Carol Ann Duffy

To read poets honoured previously here is roll call; please click on the name.

George Szirtes

Steven O’Brien

Nick Makoha

Fiona Sampson

Mimi Khalvati

Vijay Seshadri

Pascale Petit