Essay on Moniza Alvi's Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan

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Moniza Alvi's Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan

Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, in Pakistan, the daughter of a
Pakistani father and an English mother. She moved to Hatfield in
England when she was a few months old. She didn't revisit Pakistan until after the publication of her first book of poems, The Country over my Shoulder, from which this poem comes.

The poet says: 'Presents from My Aunts... was one of the first poems I wrote - when I wrote this poem I hadn't actually been back to
Pakistan. The girl in the poem would be me at about thirteen. 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
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It is divided into stanzas of varying length.

Try reading the poem aloud. How does the arrangement of the lines influence your reading? When there is no set pattern to a poem, the writer can always break a line to create emphasis.

Imagery and Sound

The poem is a sequence of personal memories. I is repeated a lot in the poem. When we are remembering things, our minds often drift from one image to another, in the way that the poem does, and sometimes surprise us by fixing on odd details - like the tin boat, perhaps
(line 54).

The poem is full of associated, sometimes contrasting, images.

Here are two lists of words that describe things to do with Pakistani culture and things associated with English culture.


* A salwar kameez peacock-blue

* Glistening like an orange split open

* The presents were radiant in my wardrobe


* denim and corduroy

* cardigans from Marks and Spencer

Add to the lists and think about the words that the

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