Mona Arshi

(1970 - Present)

Mona Arshi was born in West London into a Sikh Punjabi family and raised in Hounslow. She attended Lampton Comprehensive School. Her first vocation was law: she was a student at Guildford College of Law and University College London before earning her master’s degree in human rights law from the London School of Economics in 2002. Arshi worked at JR Jones Solicitors, then at the legal organization Liberty. There, she litigated multiple prominent cases, including the famous “right to die” case of terminally ill Englishwoman Diane Pretty.

Arshi began writing poetry in 2008 and received an MA with distinction in poetry from the University of East Anglia in 2011. In the inaugural Magma Poetry Competition, she was awarded first place for her poem “Hummingbird.” Next, she was named a prize winner in the Troubadour International Competition in 2013 for “Bad Day in the Office.” That same year, the Huffington Post listed her in its “Five Poets to Watch.” 2014 saw her win the Poetry Prize Manchester Writing Competition jointly with Michael Derrick Hudson.

Arshi has published two books, both from Liverpool University Press’s Pavilion Poetry imprint: Small Hands (2015), winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and Dear Big Gods (2019). Her poems and interviews have been published in Poetry, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Times of India, and Granta, among other publications. She has also had poems appear on the London Underground and BBC Radio 4. In 2021, she served as writer-in-residence at nature reserve Cley Next the Sea.

A frequent collaborator on cross-genre projects, Arshi has judged contests including the National Poetry Competition, the Forward Prize, the Magma Poetry Competition, the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Manchester Writing Competition, and the Outspoken Poetry Prize. Her debut novel, Somebody Loves You, was published by And Other Stories in 2021. It was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Jhalak Prize, and the Goldsmiths Prize, as well as being named book of the week by both The Telegraph and This Week. Arshi currently works as a tutor at the Arvon Foundation and the Poetry School.


More Mona Arshi

Text: The Guardian covers Arshi's residency at Cley Next the Sea and her bird-inspired poetic output

Audio: Mona Arshi and Amara Amaryah join Eleanor Penny on podcast Bedtime Stories for the End of the World

Text: Read six of Arshi's poems on her website


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