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Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan. Learning Objectives: Note context Consider key images and themes Annotate the poem. Slide 6 contains a link to BBC Bitesize video NB: This presentation does not contain a copy of the text. Islamic Country. Temperatures can reach up to 45 °C. Pakistan.

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presents from my aunts in pakistan

Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan

Learning Objectives:

Note context

Consider key images and themes

Annotate the poem

Slide 6 contains a link to BBC Bitesize video

NB: This presentation does not contain a copy of the text

Islamic Country

Temperatures can reach up to 45°C



Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore in Pakistan, the daughter of a Pakistani father and an English mother. She moved to Hatfield in England when she was a few months old. She didn't revisit Pakistan until after the publication of her first book of poems - 'The Country over my Shoulder' - from which this poem comes.  

The poet says:"Presents from My Aunts... was one of the first poems I wrote. When I wrote this poem, I hadn't actually been back to Pakistan. The girl in the poem would be me at about 13. The clothes seem to stick to her in an uncomfortable way, a bit like a kind of false skin, and she thinks things aren't straightforward for her.

listen to the poem
Listen to the poem
  • Add these notes to the poem:
  • The speaker in the poem, who is of mixed race, describes the gifts of clothes and jewellery sent to her in England by her Pakistani relatives.
  • She is drawn to the loveliness of these things, but feels awkward wearing them. She feels more comfortable in English clothes - denim and corduroy.
  • She contrasts the beautiful clothes and jewellery of India with boring English 'cardigans/from Marks and Spencer'.
  • She tries to remember what it was like for her family to travel to England.
  • Her knowledge of her birthplace, which she left as a baby, comes to her only through old photographs and newspaper reports.
  • She tries to imagine what that world might be like.
structure and language
Structure and Language
  • The poem is written in free verse: the phrases are arranged loosely across the page. It is divided into stanzas of varying length.
  • What might this suggest seeing as this was written by a thirteen year old girl?

Look at the way the lines are arranged on the page. How does this force the reader into reading it?


Listen to the difference, for example, between:  

'I longed for denim and corduroy'  


'I longedfor denim and corduroy'  

imagery and sound
Imagery and Sound
  • The poem is a sequence of personal memories. I is repeated a lot in the poem. When we are remembering things, our minds often drift from one image to another, in the way that the poem does, and sometimes surprise us by fixing on odd details - like the 'tin boat', perhaps (line 54).
  • On the next slide are two lists; one for Pakistani imagery and one for English imagery.


'A salwar kameez peacock-blue'

'Glistening like an orange split open'

'The presents were radiant in my wardrobe'

  • 'denim and corduroy'
  • 'cardigans from Marks and Spencer'

Add to the lists and think about the words that the poet has chosen


Much of the meaning of a poem is conveyed by the attitude it expresses toward its subject matter. 'Attitude' can be thought of as a combination of the poet's tone of voice, and the ideas he or she is trying to get across to the reader.

How do you think this poem should be read?

In a confused voice, as if the girl cannot decide whether she is more Pakistani or English?

Wistfully, as if she regrets having lost her original culture?

Gratefully, as she thinks about the beautiful, exotic gifts?

Select a short quotation to justify each choice.