POETS @ STANZA 2020: A SELECTION OF REVIEWS BY DURA - Mimi Khalvati

Thursday 5 March 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

Mimi Khalvati, Afterwardness, reviewed by Heidi Dore

Sigmund Freud coined the phrase ‘afterwardness’ to describe the belated understanding that occurs with the passage of time. It is the ripening of past events by age and experience - a form of alchemy. The concept has inspired the title of a new book of poetry by Iranian born, British poet Mimi Khalvati.  Her collection of sonnets, published by Carcanet Press, touches on loss, trauma and ageing but is overwhelmingly a tribute to the restorative power of language and imagination.

In ‘Afternwardness,’ an 11-year-old boy from Aleppo resurrects the bombed-out world of childhood in his ‘thousand yard stare’ marvels at the mind’s ability to conjure ‘through the long tunnel of that gaze,’ ‘a yard, a pond and pine trees that surround as in a chaharbagh…’

The humour and pathos of a child’s point of view, at a birthday party or playing hide and seek, permeates the collection. In ‘Questions' a young child dwarfed by a huge seat morphs into older consciousness diminished by age and frailty. The result is an uncanny overlap of past and present.

You’re smaller than you think you were or so you think.
You don’t remember sinking quite so low
on other seats. Something has made you shrink
or else something has made the seat back grow.

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