Momtaza Mehri

Bad Diaspora Poems

SHORTLISTED 2023

The definition of diaspora is the dispersion of people from their original homeland. But what does it mean to write diaspora poetry? Momtaza Mehri’s debut collection poses this question, taking us from Mogadishu to Naples, Lampedusa to London. Mixing her own family’s experience with the stories of many others across nineteenth- and twentieth-century Somalia, Bad Diaspora Poems confronts the ambivalent nature of speaking for those who have been left behind.

We meet the poet, the translator, the refugee, the exile, and the diaspora kid attempting to transcend their clichéd angst. Told in lyric, prose and text messages, and taking place in living rooms and marketplaces, on buses and balconies, on transatlantic journeys and online, these are essential poems about our diasporic age.

Momtaza Mehri is an award-winning poet and essayist. She is a former Young People’s Poet Laureate for London and winner of the 2019 Manchester Writing Prize. Her writing has featured in the Guardian, POETRY, Granta, Wasafiri, Bidoun, the White Review and on BBC Radio 4. She works across criticism, translation, anti-disciplinary research practices, education and radio. Bad Diaspora Poems is the winner of an Eric Gregory Award and the 2023 Forward Prize for Best First Collection.

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