Mona Arshi’s debut collection, 'Small Hands', introduces a brilliant and compelling new voice. At the centre of the book is the slow detonation of grief after her brother’s death but her work focuses on the whole variety of human experience: pleasure, hardship, tradition, energised by language which is in turn both tender and risky. Often startling as well as lyrical, Arshi’s poems resist fixity; there is a gentle poignancy at work here which haunt many of the poems. This is humane poetry. Arshi’s is a daring, moving and original voice.
Mona Arshi was born to Punjabi Sikh parents in West London where she still lives. She trained as a lawyer and worked for Liberty, the UK human rights organisation, for several years. She began writing poetry in 2008 and received a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She won the inaugural Magma Poetry competition in 2011 and was also joint winner of the Manchester Creative Writing Poetry Prize in 2014. She has most recently won the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection at the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2015.
The Lion Entomological Specimens Practicing Your Skills Insomniac What Every Girl Should Know Before Marriage Taster Bad Day in the Office You Are Not My Mother’s Hair The Gold Bangles ‘Jesus Saves’ Ticking On Ellington Road Cousin Migrant The Daughters Different Principles of Enclosure Day Ghost This Morning The Bird Almost September Phone Call on a Train Journey Small Hands In the Coroner’s Office April 18th of November Notes Towards an Elegy The Urn The Rain That Began Elsewhere Gloves My Father Wants to be a Rooftop Railway Surfer Ghazal Ghazal Ode to a Pomegranate Bulbul Parvarti waits for the return of Shiva, after the slaying of Ganesh Lost Poem Large and Imprecise Baby Wireman Barbule The Found Thing Woman at Window Mr Beeharry’s Marriage Bureau Mrs M Unravels Ballad of the Small-Boned Daughter Hummingbird
Cath Nichols Poetry Wales
Small Hands is a beautiful, minimally-designed and tiny edition – even the font is noticeably smaller than the industry norm – and Liverpool University Press have done an excellent job making the physical object match the work inside it. The collection is full of curious, shifty poems that seem intent on approaching their subjects sidelong, or from multiple angles at once. If this approach sometimes makes it difficult to get an accurate read on the poem’s message, it does make for work that seems to offer up something different with every reading.
Mona Arshi proves she has the tools to move and startle her audience with precisely-crafted work.
Dundee University Review of the Arts
There is an extraordinary keenness, sharpness, poignancy and precision in Mona Arshi's poems. They deal with loss, pleasure and the sheer particularities of life with striking grace, constituting something like ‘an erotics of the spirit’, tenderly and imaginatively taking apart and reassembling language, registering everything necessary. Time and again she hits the perfect note. It is rare to find a first book as beautiful as this.
Deliciously varied in form and approach, tone and voice, Mona Arshi’s poems display a tantalising ‘instability’ – each one prismatic and glittering. She opens a clear, suggestive window onto many aspects of life and inner life, on her cultural background, for instance, and on the tragic loss of a brother. So often one thinks, pulled up in amazement, ‘Where did that come from?’ that I’m tempted to the use the word ‘genius’.
It is a testament to Mona Arshi's talent that, after a decade of not reading any poetry at all, her work had me clambering for old anthologies. Of course, little of what I read afterwards was as elegant, moving, haunting or true. Nothing less than Britain's most promising writer.
Sathnam Sanghera The Times
Size: 189 x 118 mm
Publication: April 9, 2015
Series: Pavilion Poetry