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'If I can, you can', MBE poet tells students

Daljit Nagra MBE Professor of Creative Writing, Brunel University London

Daljit Nagra's inspiring message to young writers

He presents BBC Radio’s Poetry Extra, his work is on the National Curriculum and now Creative Writing Professor Daljit Nagra has approval from the Queen no less.

A letter from the Cabinet Office landed at the Harrow home he shares with his wife and family in June telling him he’d won an MBE for Services to Literature.

Often described as a national treasure, Daljit is one of 1,134 people across the UK recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for what they give UK society.

 “It is an important honour,” he said. “I see myself as a poet–academic–broadcaster and also a social activist, doing my little bit to support neglected communities.”

Daljit’s poetry draws on his Punjabi and Sikh background. One of his most famous poems, Singh Song, is taught in schools as part of Key Stage 3 and GCSE English. His parents are Sikh Punjabis who came to Britain from India in the late 1950s. Daljit and his elder brother were born and grew up in Yiewsley, near Heathrow Airport.

“I grew up in a certain level of hardship and neglect,” he said. “There were no books at home, schooling was poor and I was discouraged from further studies by my school and my parents, yet I did it, and made my academic life a success.

“My message to students is if I could do it, you can do it!  But once you’ve achieved success, it’s vital you remember others who are being denied a right to aspiration, so go out there and support causes.”

Daljit, whose four poetry collections include Look We Have Coming to Dover! And British Museum, has won a slew of awards. His work was shortlisted for the Costa Prize and twice for the TS Eliot Prize, and he chairs of the Royal Society of Literature. He was BBC Radio 4’s first Poet in Residence and he presents the weekly Poetry Extra on Radio 4 Extra.

Find out about the Brunel Centre for Contemporary Writing