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Entries on Light
One is the glory of the yet-to-be, one
of a past that reminds us
how we've seen it in our own lives exactly
as it used to be but were
blinded by those lives, distracted from our own
Holderlin, `To Zimmer'
Entries on Light, Mimi Khalvati's third book, is a single poem, a series of meditations on light, on what light is and does, how --as it changes -- it invents and reinvents the things we see, are and were, how it inscribes our shadows and our feelings. The sea- and sky-scapes of these poems are vivid: dawn, storm, dusk, the pewtery or the bright mid-day. Each demands a different syntax, a distinctive rhythm and rhyme. Mimi Khalvati has always had a well-trained eye; she is also formally among the most resourceful poets writing today, able to close her lyrical moments with resonance and, when necessary, to leave a stanza open to the changes of the weather. If at times we think of Constable in the billowing movement of her fuller stanzas, we also -- in short-phrased sections -- are put in mind of the flat skies of Hokusai. She is a poet in whose vision east and west join.
It would be wrong to suggest that this poem is merely painterly or imagistic. Through images of light it engages the whole woman and implicates her world, in which children have grown up and gone away, and the business of living and repose needs to be reinvented, now ruefully, now joyfully, for the new life ahead.
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 '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
'Khalvati's method is never formulaic and is always open to experience.'
W S Milne, Agenda
'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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