The following poem was first published in The Aleph Review, Vol. 1 (2017), alongside the sketch.
Re-locating from Lahore to Manchester
at the age of eight I learnt to speak
English by approximations, mimicking
the sound of words as they were spoken.
Compared to Urdu the English alphabet lacked
subtle kinks and emotive curves; no minarets,
deep pans or snake eyed shaped letters.
I had to soften my guttural tongue, reverse my writing from right to left,
re-name the world with strange new words;
and that slow erosion of my Punjabi self
altered my auditory and emotional
responses to language.
I had to accept that some words like except and accept sounded the same but had different meanings. I before e except after c confounded me. Before I left Primary School I was taught the word pre-ju-dice the meaning of which troubles me to this day.
Sometimes I am asked: “Does being bi-lingual pose problems to your compositions?” “No,” I reply. “ It makes it richer.
However, I should tell you that often poems do not begin with words but images or emotions and all art is a form of translation an approximation of music and vision
heard, seen and felt beyond ourselves.
And that is another act of mimicry.
Tariq Latif was born in a small village outside Lahore in Pakistan and his family moved to the U.K. in 1970 when he was a child. He graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in Physics and worked in Manchester for fifteen years in a family printing business. At the time this bio was printed in Aleph, he had moved to the outbacks of Argyll and Bute, where he was working part-time as a telephone salesperson, spending his free time roaming the Scottish Highlands and writing occasional verse. He was the First Prize winner of the Daily Mail National Poetry Competition 2004, and his work has been featured on BBC2 television and BBC Radio 4. Collections of his poems have been published by Arc Publications.