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Daljit Nagra: ‘Poetry is an espresso shot of thought’

Radio 4’s poet in residence on his journey from school dropout to poetry prizewinner

Daljit Nagra remembers the moment his life changed course: it was when he rang home for his A-level results. He was a 21-year-old secondary school dropout from Sheffield who had spent a year at evening classes studying English, sociology and politics. “I didn’t expect to get good grades and when my brother read them out over the phone it was a complete shock.”

He hadn’t presumed to apply for university, but his results were good enough to earn him a place in the clearing system. He took a train down to London for an interview at London University’s Royal Holloway College and was accepted to read English. It was the start of a journey that would lead two decades later to the winners’ podium at the Forward prizes, where he joined the great and the good of the UK poetry world to collect the award for best first collection.

Related: British Museum by Daljit Nagra review – a questing, questioning third volume

When they put the Ramayana or the Mahabharata on TV in the 1980s my parents would get out the joss sticks

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