Every now and again a knot cracks
and the burning sticks fall a little.
The old women and men go on talking
about who is to marry whom
and who has died and who has left…
Their tobacco rich voices mingle
with the world news on the radio.
The children, curled up by the fire,
are lulled to sleep by the deep voices.
Around the farmers, in the immense dark,
there are the sleepy cotton fields;
luminous cotton plants that look like stars
in the endless expanse of the Milky Way.
Fireflies wander among them like brief comets
or souls dissolving just beyond ourselves.
Whether writing about the Pakistan of his childhood, about people (those inhabiting his imagination, as well as his family, friends or the shop-keeper down the road) or about the natural world, Tariq Latif’s poetry is characterised by its narrative quality, a quality that springs from his heritage. Writing of Latif’s winning entry in the Daily Mail National Poetry Competition 2004, Andrew Motion said: “There’s an understanding of the beauty of the language, which means you have to have a very good ear – which he has.” This was borne out by his appearances on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Poetry Please’.
He was the first-prize winner of the Daily Mail National Poetry Competition 2004. His work has been featured on BBC 2 and BBC Radio 4. His previous two collections, Skimming the Soul (1991) and The Minister’s Garden (1996) were also published by Arc.