Imtiaz Dharker was born in 1954 in Lahore, Pakistan, and was less than a year old when her family emigrated to Glasgow, Scotland. Her hybrid identity – she describes herself as a »Scottish Muslim Calvinist« – connected to her itinerant life spent between Mumbai, London and Wales also informs her writing. Her poetry examines the experience of an ever more complex, multicultural world in which old concepts such as home, freedom, gender roles and belief are increasingly losing importance, and also being defined anew.
While Dharker’s lyrical narrator in »Purdah« (1989), her first volume of poetry, which addresses the veiling of Muslim women, still asks how she might get home, later works recognize that people sometimes find their home in the moment of a journey, not upon reaching a destination. In a »Church Times« review of her collection of poetry titled »Leaving Fingerprints« (2009), a critic called Dharker’s poetry »strongly personal: intimate yet international«. Reviewers consistently praise her economical use of language, whereby this reticence creates space for discovering facets of the treated themes, which can often be (too) emotionally charged. In her book published in 2014 titled »Over the Moon«, the poet processes her own experiences of sorrow and loss, and those of love and happiness, using characteristically subtle modes of poetic expression that link and celebrate all human beings. She has also illustrated all the volumes of poems she has published, and her drawings have been exhibited in various countries across the world, including India, the United States and France. Her experiences as an author and director of over one hundred documentary films have also informed her literary work. She has said that her poem »The Right Word« has taught her that an image can be presented in various contexts, thereby altering the recipient’s perspective and interpretation. In this poem, by way of alternating, nuanced descriptions an anonymous man changes from terrorist to freedom fighter to martyr before being described at the poem’s conclusion, as »a boy who looks like your son«.
In 2015 the Queen of England awarded Dharker the Gold Medal for Poetry. Several of her poems are now firmly established in the curricula of British schools. Dharker also gives readings for »Poetry Live«, a project launched by her deceased husband, Simon Powell.