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Magma Poetry: The Child Inside
by Zöe Brigley

Mimi Khalvati
Child: New and Selected Poems 1991-2011

Freshness is a theme of Mimi Khalvati’s poems too: the freshness of childhood recollections, the freshness of the world around us, the fresh wounds which we inflict on one another, and the ability of words to let us see identities, settings, cultures afresh. Reading this collection made me ashamed that I had not read more od Khalvati’s work before now. Child collects poems from her six previous collections alongside new poems. There is so much to unpack and unravel in these poems that cannot be expressed in the small space of this review but it is sufficient to say that watching Khalvati’s growth and the echoes or chimes of themes that reoccur through the poems is fascinating. Her beautifully phrased and decorous poems fuse sensibilities of Persian and English poetry, and her wording has a satisfying preciseness. She has mastered both short poems and longer sequences. She has produced numerous graceful examples of the ghazal form, but she is also expert in English forms like the villanelle and sonnet. She is Romantic in sensibility and sometimes restrained in that peculiarly English way, but her poetry also expresses a gorgeous sensuality. Her poems not only represent the specific angles of light, land and human perception, but the powerful symbolism of flowers, weaving, water and youth. Titling the collection Child makes a great deal of sense, because childhood is such a preoccupation for Khalvati. There are poems that explore her relation to her Iranian forebears such as 'The Bowl' or 'Plant Care'. There are uncompromising poems about motherhood and the tension between parents and their children, such as 'The Inwardness of Elephants'. There is the desire to re-find lost youth in poems like 'Love in an English August' and 'The Meanest Flower'. There are poems too about Khalvati’s childhood on the Isle of Wight, such as 'The Chine', and it is 'The Chine' perhaps expresses Khalvati’s use of childhood as poetic inspiration most beautifully:

Childhood has its railings too. And its catches
of glove on rust, twisted wire with a slight give.
Playthigns. But in an upper world that turns
beachfront into toytowns, patches of moss
into stands of miniscule trees, no railing
is not harp, no rung a wind might play on
something other than its maker intended.

© Magma Poetry/Zoe Brigley

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