Following on from her Forward prize-winning collection, Small Hands, Mona Arshi’s new book Dear Big Gods continues its lyrical and exact exploration of the aftershocks of grief. Dear Big Gods is one of three new collections published by Pavilion Poetry in 2019, and to mark the occasion we have the below video of Mona sharing her thoughts on the connection between Small Hands and Dear Big Gods, as well as a new poem from her latest collection.
NT: This collection opens with a beautiful poem Little Prayer, and it has the lines
This time I’m a wren.
and it seems to establish a very strong connection with the previous collection but also a very different voice. Can you say a little bit about the connection between the two?
MA: Yes, there’s a very direct connection between Small Hands and Dear Big Gods. I think it’s important to understand there’s a real relationship between the two books. When I was writing Small Hands I was interrupted, or the writing of the book was interrupted, by this huge experience of losing my youngest brother and then I carried on finishing the book. Of course the heart of Small Hands is a number of elegies for my brother, but Dear Big Gods is written with distance from that event and as a poet I suppose in some ways I didn’t want to be writing about or tending to this, but I also realise that I kind of had a responsibility to the poems that were arising out of the distance. I mean part of me was sort of almost coldly thinking about exploring the kind of terrain and actually looking much more and staying with some of the difficult aspects of the hurting really, and also just sort of taking the temperature on how we all were five years after the death of somebody that was an integral part of our family and who died very suddenly. So I suppose it was an enquiry really, it was an enquiry at the beginning of that writing process for that book and I felt in Little Prayer that sort of sets that up right from the beginning. that this is the voice again, or another voice, or a voice that is interested in trying to have these conversations with the experience and seeing where that ends up.
Find out more about Mona’s new collection, Dear Big Gods on the Liverpool University Press website.