Review: Discovery and Rediscovery
Mimi Khalvati, Michael Laskey and Michael Schmidt, The Very Selected (smithdoorstop, The Poetry Business, 2017)
These pamphlets are beautifully presented in a slip-case, and are available individually or as a trio. They provide an opportunity to discover, or to rediscover, the poetry of these highly acclaimed and widely published writers. The work of three vastly different poets is possibly unified by their cover designs, in that each image indicates the essence of their selections.
Mimi Khalvati is a fabulous formalist, writing with all the lightness and brilliance of the butterfly’s wings depicted on her pamphlet’s cover. My particular fascination is with formalism, and how delightful it is to discover previously unknown forms, and to rediscover familiar structures employed with such delicacy. Khalvati flits as easily between formal structures as she does between cultural, spatial and temporal zones. The pantoum, originally a Malayan form, later translated into French and then English, is a complex variant of the villanelle, and Khalvati’s chosen vehicle for delivering ‘On Lines from Paul Gauguin’. The pantoum’s repetitive nature facilitates the tension building within the prophetic nature of this poem. Foretelling Gauguin’s eventual blindness, brought-on by ‘lust’, is cleverly encoded in the opening and closing, (i.e. repeated), line, ‘How do you see this tree? Is it really green?’ Other titles refer directly to their form, and Khalvati’s selection contains four ghazals, for which the poet draws on her Iranian roots. The ghazal consists of autonomous couplets with a refrain, and Khalvati thoughtfully explains ...
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