Sandeep Parmar was born in Nottingham and raised in Southern California. She received her PhD in English Literature from University College London in 2008, on the unpublished autobiographies of the modernist poet Mina Loy, and she holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. She is Reviews Editor of The Wolf magazine, and edited The Collected Poems of Hope Mirrlees for Carcanet Press (2011). Her critical book, Reading Mina Loy’s Autobiographies, appeared from Bloomsbury in 2013. She teaches twentieth-century literature and creative writing at the University of Liverpool, and is currently editing the Collected Poems of Nancy Cunard as well as writing a biography of Hope Mirrlees.

As her academic interests might suggest, Parmar’s poetry is engaged with the English modernist tradition, in that her curiosity, restlessness and formal invention seem connected to the genuine spirit of modernism, rather than modernism as it is sometimes portrayed, as a kind of museum piece. Her work is exemplary of a renewed interest among some younger British poets in techniques and approaches pioneered in the first half of the twentieth century, and largely disregarded by their parent generation, who remain more indebted to the relatively conservative objectives and methods of the ‘Movement’ poets (themselves reacting against modernist strategies).

Parmar’s work is represented here by three divergent examples of her practice: the rapturous, improvisatory prose-poetry of ‘Invocation’, whose agility, exuberance and imagistic innovation (‘Trenchant penurist, hoarder of silvered lakes’) are reminiscent of early John Ashbery; ‘Against Chaos’, a take on the ghazal form which blends a contemporary and material sense of language and location with a convincingly ancient atmosphere of apocalypse; and lastly, ‘Archive for a Daughter’, an astonishing, fragmented documentary poem, tracing a personal or imagined history (both seem possible and true) through a series of discoveries – scraps of text from letters, diaries and poems, misplaced photographs and anomalous images, which aggregate an affecting sense of lost information, history, and self. Parmar’s readings are concise and measured, allowing the work’s surprising declarations to arrive with a force that feels slightly miraculous – moments that seem to have appeared out of the specific language of each poem, and as if from the blue, unbidden.

Sandeep Parmar’s favourite poetry quotations:

“Poetry is prose bewitched, a music made of visual thoughts, the sound of an idea.”  – Mina Loy

“A poet may try to hide in the bosom of Ezra Pound as much as he wishes, but the realities of conflict are inescapable.” – Langston Hughes

“The poet is the Namer, or Language-maker, naming things sometimes after their appearances, sometimes after their essence, and giving to every one its own name and not another’s…The poet made all the words…For though the origin of most of our words is forgotten, each word was at first a stroke of genius, and obtained currency because for the moment it symbolised the world to the first speaker and to the hearer. The etymologist finds the deadest word to have once been a brilliant picture.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


This recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 28 August 2014 at Soundhouse and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.

Poems by Sandeep Parmar

Against Chaos - Sandeep Parmar
Archive for a Daughter - Sandeep Parmar
Invocation - Sandeep Parmar
Sandeep Parmar in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.

Books by Sandeep Parmar