Image by Caroline Forbes

Mimi Khalvati

b. 1944

Come close the flower says and we come close, / close enough to lift, cup and smell the rose - 'Come Close', Mimi Khalvati

Don't Ask Me, Love, for That First Love

Mimi Khalvati

Overblown Roses

Mimi Khalvati

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About Mimi Khalvati

Mimi Khalvati (b. 1944, Tehran) spent much of her childhood at boarding school on the Isle of Wight, only returning to Iran at seventeen. She has been resident in the UK since the age of twenty-five, where she has published seven collections of poetry, winning an Arts Council Writers' Award for Mirrorwork, one children's book, and edited three anthologies, alongside working in the theatre as an actor and director. She is co-ordinator of the Poetry School and a tutor for the Arvon Foundation, and has been Poet in Residence to the Royal Mail.

Of her residency at the Royal Mail, Khalvati wrote that "Stamps are a miniature art form; so, you could say, is lyric poetry and, like any miniature art, these expand and open into huge worlds." This is an understanding of poetry that is most visible in the facets of a sequence such as the excerpt from Entries on Light, and informs each detail through this recording; details such as the eponymous 'Snails', who "waved their horns, as if in dream", enrich the poet's understanding of life, and joy in it, or 'The Piano' that, being observed, brings a son's struggle with his instrument into contact with wider issues of motherhood, caring and the way such things can be silent.

Khalvati resists being typecast as a Persian poet, working firmly in the current of British poetry; yet she is interested in the tension between her Persian and British influences. One manifestation of this can be seen in 'Writing Letters', with its attention to "countries / we reclaimed, disowned again, caught between / two alphabets"; another is that Khalvati has become one of the foremost exponents of the ghazal in English. This shows her interest in form - this recording includes poems called 'Villanelle' and 'Rubaiyat', each fluent examples of these forms - and the attention to the cadences in the freer poems shows the effect of Khalvati's experience that, in writing poems, "the poetry's not there until it's audible in some way."

This interest in sound carries into Khalvati's reading style, which combines a melodic understanding of the lines and rhymes with the theatrical training to do them dramatic justice. This creates a revealing performance that opens the very hearts of these poems, that brings them as close as the rose comes in Khalvati's poem 'Come Close'.

Her recording was made on 28 July 2005 at the Audio Workshop, London, and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Mimi Khalvati's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"The true subject of poetry is the loss of the beloved." - Faiz Ahmed Faiz

"The imagination's cry is a sexual cry." - Adrienne Rich

Additional material and useful links

The Poem Show: Aldeburgh Poetry Festival highlights

On the Poetry Trust website, the first edition of the Poem Show features highlights from the 20th Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. With stunning readings from Tiffany Atkinson, Alan Brownjohn, and Mimi...

Aldeburgh Craft Talk 1

From the 2008 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Mimi Khalvati takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the line break - its power and how to employ and enjoy this most visible distinction between poetry and prose.

Mimi Khalvati at the Manchester Literature Festival

YouTube - At the International Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester, Mimi Khalvati reads 'Ghazal' (after Hafez) from her latest collection, Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011.

Selected bibliography

Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011, Carcanet, 2011

Saudade: An Anthology of Fado Poetry, Calouste...

Selected Poems, Carcanet 2000


I am Twenty People! Enitharmon 2007


Poetry to Calm Your Soul, MQP 2005


Entering the Tapestry (editors Mimi Khalvati...


Tying the Song (editors Mimi Khalvati...


Persian Miniatures / A Belfast Kiss (Mimi Khalvati /...

The Meanest Flower, Carcanet 2006


The Chine, Carcanet 2002


Entries on Light, Carcanet 1997


Mirrorwork, Carcanet 1995


In White Ink, Carcanet 1991


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