Shamshad Khan

Shamshad Khan



Shamshad trained as a biologist and currently sits part-time as a lay member for employment tribunals. She lives and works in Manchester. Her performance work has included collaborations with video artists, musicians and live beat boxers.

She has performed at the Khala Ghoda festival (India, Mumbai, Feb 2006). Her verse theatre show Megalomaniac toured the UK (2005/06). Hard Cut, a poetic monologue with music, was performed in Switzerland and for the Barcelona literature festival. Both pieces were directed by Mark Whitelaw, winner of the Lawrence Olivier Award 2004.

Shamshad has had her work featured on BBC radio 3 and 4. She is co-editor of two anthologies of poetry and runs creative writing workshops.

Her first solo collection of poetry Megalomaniac was recently published by Salt Publishing. Available now ISBN 978-1-84471-312-7


Creative Work

so big- they said you shouldn’t really be moved
so fragile you might break

you could be from anywhere pot
styles have travelled just like terracotta
you could almost be an english pot

but I know you’re not.

I know halfof the story pot
of where you come from of how you got here

but I need you to tell me the rest pot

tell me

did they say you were bought pot
a looters deal done the whole lot sold
to the gentleman in the grey hat

or did they say you were lost pot
finders are keepers you know pot

or did they say they didn’t notice you pot
must have slipped onto the white sailing yacht
bound for england.

somewhere will have missed you pot
gone out looking for you pot because
someone, somewhere made you finger nails pressed
snake patterned you pot washed you pot used you
pot loved you pot

if I could shatter this glass
I would take you back myself pot.

you think they wouldn’t recognise you pot
say diaspora you left now you’re not really one of us.

pot I’ve been back to where my family’s from
they were happy to see me
laughed a lot

said I was more asian than the asians pot
I was pot
the hot sun on your back
feel flies settle on your skin
warm grain poured inside

empty pot
growl if you can hear me

pot? pot? pot.

Dedicated to all museum artefacts, in particular a Nigerian pot currently incarcerated in The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, without charge or access to legal representation.



“Pot” from the collection “Megalomaniac” was chosen as it has a direct link with Manchester. It was written as a commission for the Manchester Museum. The poem is written in a conversational style as though I, the performer/poet am speaking directly to the pot.

In writing the poem I imagined how the pot might have felt being taken from its home in Nigeria and being and brought to a strange place (the Manchester Museum). I speculate about how that journey might have been made, and the lack of choice the pot is likely to have had. I use the plight of the pot as a way to comment on the issues of identity, colonial practices, migration and the slave trade.

There is a sense of tenderness and empathy towards the pot’s fate. I identify with its pain and dislocation, drawing on the experiences of my parents who were born in Pakistan and my own as a second generation British Asian. A familiarity develops in the imagined conversation between myself (the poet) and the pot with a little self deprecating humour: “I’ve been back to where my family’s from, they were happy to see me/ laughed a lot/ said I was more Asian than the Asians/ I was pot”. The poem ends with a lighter tone. There is optimism that the pot is alive and well and that the poet has been able to get through to it. If you concentrate you can hear the pot’s reply.

The dedication at the end of the poem makes a further political comment in equating the placing of the pot in a museum with the incarceration of prisoners without access to legal representation and without charge. I chose not to name particular prisons, but the wording and time of publication make strong allusions to current practices.

It is interesting to note that in performance I usually make the dedication before performing the poem, so the audience is able to contextualise the poem and the ending is lighter. In publication it seemed more appropriate to end with it, the opportunity to re-read the poem being there for the reader. The reader may also note that the published form in the collection “Megalomaniac” has different line breaks. As a poet who more often performs my work the rearranging of line breaks to fit into the 40 line guideline didn’t pose much of a dilemma, but will possibly be something academics might ponder.



Solo collection:
Megalomananiac (Salt Publishing 07)

Poetry in anthologies includes:
Hair (Suitcase Press, 2006)
Healing Strategies for Women at War (Crocus, 1999)
Bittersweet (Women's Press , 1998)
The Firepeople (Payback Press, 1998)

Short stories in anthologies include:
Market Forces in ‘Leeds Stories’ (Comma Press, 2007)
The Woman and the Chair in ‘Flaming Spirit’ (Virago, 1994)


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