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Categories: 20th Century, BAME, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (80 pages)
(Pub. Jan 1995)
While journeys made, or broached,
are left hanging in their harbours,
left hanging in farewells,
journeys daydreams sail on
surprise themselves with atolls:
an atoll in an Indian ocean
where birds that have lost their power of flight
because they have no enemies
make scissor-runs across sand and tide --
poignant, being flightless,
more poignant, being safe.
In Mirrorwork, her second collection, Mimi Khalvati takes the Islamic art of mirror-mosaic – found in palaces, barber shops, kebab houses – as metaphor. The shorter poems refract one another, the three long sequences act as a mirror triptych, their themes – of art, nature, domestic life and memory, east and west – drawing the other poems together.
In a mirror-mosaic you search for your reflection but can't find it whole, only flickering, variegated, fragmented, as on television when a pattern is played across a face to preserve anonymity, while the voice discloses what the picture conceals. In Mirrorwork Khalvati at once establishes a voice and questions its integrity. It is a book about becoming, as the poet's children leave home and she must find a changed self and purpose, a new space.
Awards won by Mimi Khalvati Winner, 2019 Poetry Book Society Winter Wild Card (Afterwardness) Winner, 2014 Poetry Book Society Recommendation (The Weather Wheel) Winner, 2011 Poetry Book Society Special Commendation (Child) Short-listed, 2007 The T.S. Eliot Prize (The Meanest Flower)
Praise for Mimi Khalvati 'Khalvati's method is never formulaic and is always open to experience.'
W S Milne, Agenda
'What I find remarkable is how little ego there is in this exploration, how sensitively and empathetically Khalvati looks out to the experience of other people, mixing hers with theirs so that the two often become indistinguishable'
Edmund Prestwich, The North
'This collection has so many layers and cross-currents. There are rich memories hiding here'
D A Powell, Under the Radar
'Poetry of the highest order'
John Wheway, The High Window
'What is particularly striking throughout the collection is how the poems are able to move through time in relation to one's age, life or nationality.''In so many of these poems, the images frame and enunciate the character of an exiles life with tremendous resonance. The recurrent, deeply traditional formal design of the Petrarchan sonnet grounds the collection and provides a containing experience of consistency and reliability that contrasts with all the disorientation, the displacement, the endless efforts to make a new home that never quite yield a secure sense of belonging....This is a collection in which I have been grateful to immerse myself.'
Anthony Anaxagorou, PBS Winter Selection 2019
John Wheway, The High Window
'This book feels a little like an act of self-haunting ... like tender postcards from afar, addressed to the poet herself'
Michael Glover, The Tablet
'Colour combines with contemplation [...] The symmetry is elegant, and the collection is a sophisticated, original exploration of a self made in and by the new language'
Fiona Sampson, The Guardian
'I found these sonnets to be exquisite and remarkable, not only for Mimi Khalvati's formal virtuosity but also for her bold and brilliant charting of new ground, in exploring the energies of absence, silence and unknowing. The poet's ear in these poems is attuned not to obvious noise but to night sounds, faint traces, on those whose lives lack narrative or 'underscript'. These poems are playful, moving and brimming with a fierce intelligence., and in this collection, her ninth, Mimi Khalvati is writing at the very height of her lyric power.'
'Poems of extraordinary rigour and sensitivity. I know of no other contemporary poet who combines, so consistently and so deftly, the formal requirements of metre and rhyme, with the poets' demand for truth-to-experience expressed in natural, unaffected speech.'
This brilliant poet's crab-apple tree imparts the same kind of gorgeous and devastating self-knowledge granted Eve by the biblical Tree of Life.
Rafel Campo, Boston Review
This open and generous readiness to engage with all realities and see their worth gives Khalvati her power... graceful accomplishment is always in the service of a fundamental seriousness.
Bernard O'Donoghue, Poetry London
A lovely book, so accomplished, various, comprehensive and abundant. The poems are quick and touching, joyfully and sorrowfully open to the phenomena of the real world, they say what it feels like being human, the good and the ill of it, with passion, tact and lightness.
David Constantine Khalvati's writing draws on diverse worlds and poetic traditions, and enriches the dominant culture of British poetry...Intricate, sensuous and vulnerable...Mimi Khalvati's work will endure.
Moniza Alvi, Poetry Wales
Mimi Khalvati is one of the most poignant and graceful poets writing in England currently. The Meanest Flower speaks often of grief and loss but also of great pleasure in the world, in gardens, in loves, in other people. Under the lyricism there is an iron control that achieves its grace through subtlety. There reader is aware one is in the presence of a mind, a heart and an ear that has been schooled in depth, that finds it as naturally as do the flowers of the title.
Khalvati writes exquisitely nuanced lyrics of love and loss, which draw on childhood, motherhood and the natural world. These [The Meanest Flower] are tender poems in the English Romantic tradition.
No. 3 in 'The Ten Best New poetry collections' - Independent, 2007
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