Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A review of Daljit Nagra’s poem collection, ‘Look We Have Coming To Dover!’


Daljit Nagra’s debut poetry collection ‘Look We Have Coming To Dover!’, published in 2007 by Faber, is a series of poems written in a mixture of languages such as English, Punjabi and Punjabi-accented English which includes many different voices, following the themes of alienation, conformity, racism and love. His collections of poems shows a humourus and witty insight into the diversity of Britain and also reveal a formally inventive sense of craft through the formatting of his poems as they lie on the page. Many pages of his collection include blank pages, showing how the emptyness is just as significant as words, which makes it seem as though his poems are created on a blank canvas, so that the reader can be opened up to the language and hear its voice. This can be shown in the poem, ‘Look We Have Coming To Dover!’ where each stanza contains five lines, contains a capital letter and goes down in steps to give the poem form. This could be done to mimic the tide of the sea, as the poem is set in Dover. The use of enjambment and free verse gives the poem an individual pattern.


  In the first poem of his collection, ‘Darling & Me!’, Nagra gives reference to the Indian culture and traditions such as Bollywood. For example, when Nagra writes, “Downing drink, I giddily home for Pakeezah record” and “Like Hilda Ogden,” revealing the cultural identity of the poem. Nagra’s poems are extremely dramatised, as they read best when read out loud. This is because of the phonetic spellings Nagra gives to his poems which can be seen within the poem ‘Darling & Me!’ as the reader has to form the Indian voice. However, in the poem, ‘Bibi and the Streetcar Wife’, phonetic language is not used. The narrator has a heavy Indian accent, so that the audience can be absorbed into the culture, and this is shown through the chaotic structure of the poem and the mistaken words. This is shown when Nagra writes, “We no needing this car- park house you share, in your name, clamping us to back-seat of your cinema.” This is cleverly done by Nagra as the Indian accent has often been used mockingly, and has been racialised, and Nagra turns this on its head, and fights back with his poetry to show how the language can be beautiful.


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