Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan. She was the daughter of a Pakistani father and an English mother. Her father moved to Hatfield, Hertfordshire in England when she was a few months old. She did not revisit Pakistan until after the publication of her first book of poems - The Country over my Shoulder. She worked for several years as a high school teacher, but is now a freelance writer and tutor for the Open College of the Arts, living in London. She and her husband, Robert, have a daughter named Alice.
Alvi 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.
"I found it was important to write the Pakistan poems because I was getting in touch with my background. And maybe there's a bit of a message behind the poems about something I went through, that I want to maybe open a few doors if possible."
Peacock Luggage, a book of poems by Moniza Alvi and Peter Daniels, was published as a result of the two poets winning together the Poetry Business Prize in 1991, in Alvi's case for 'Presents from my aunts in Pakistan'. That poem and 'An Unknown Girl' have featured on England's GCSE exam syllabus for young teenagers.
Since then, Moniza Alvi has written four poetry collections. The Country at My Shoulder (1993) led to her being selected for the Poetry Society's New Generation Poets promotion. She also published a series of short stories How the Stone Found its Voice (2005), inspired by Kipling's Just So Stories.
In 2002 she received a Cholmondeley Award for her poetry. In 2003 a selection of her poetry was published in a bilingual Dutch and English edition. A selection from her earlier books, Split World: Poems 1990—2005, was published in 2008.