Daljit Nagra is one of the contemporary poets Epsom A-level English students study as part of the Forward Anthology Poems of the Decade. In particular the poem Look We Have Coming to Dover! (2004), which takes an irreverent look at immigration (see below)
Mr Nagra is a poet and broadcaster, Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University and Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. His four poetry collections have won and been shortlisted for many prestigious poetry and literature prizes. He is also the inaugural Poet-in-Residence for Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra.
The students enjoyed hearing Mr Nagra speak, where he told them that “they create the meaning” – that is, after publication, all poetry is fully open to interpretation. He asked students to suggest interpretations of his poems’ form, which he was delighted to hear.
The group enjoyed readings by Mr Nagra of his poems, discussing wordplay and the writing process and there was a fascinating discussion about his background, his parents are Sikh Punjabis who travelled to Britain in the 1950s, as the topics of immigration and assimilation inform much of his poetry.
It was a thought-provoking day for all and it was a pleasure to host our guests from Epsom and Ewell High to enjoy a workshop with Mr Nagra as well.
Look We Have Coming to Dover!
‘So various, so beautiful, so new…’
– Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach
Stowed in the sea to invade
the alfresco lash of a diesel-breeze
ratcheting speed into the tide, brunt with
gobfuls of surf phlegmed by cushy come-and-go tourists prow’d on the cruisers, lording the ministered waves.
Seagull and shoal life
vexing their blarnies upon our huddled
camouflage past the vast crumble of scummed
cliffs, scramming on mulch as thunder unbladders
yobbish rain and wind on our escape hutched in a Bedford van.
Seasons or years we reap
inland, unclocked by the national eye
or stabs in the back, teemed for breathing
sweeps of grass through the whistling asthma of parks, burdened, ennobled – poling sparks across pylon and pylon.
Swarms of us, grafting in
the black within shot of the moon’s
spotlight, banking on the miracle of sun –
span its rainbow, passport us to life. Only then
can it be human to hoick ourselves, bare-faced for the clear.
Imagine my love and I,
our sundry others, Blair’d in the cash
of our beeswax’d cars, our crash clothes, free,
we raise our charged glasses over unparasol’d tables
East, babbling our lingoes, flecked by the chalk of Britannia!
by Daljit Nagra (2004)