My review of ‘Afterwardness’ by Mimi Khalvati reproduced here, was published in The High Window in January, 2020.
Mimi Khalvati’s new book is a sustained series of meditations on the theme of exile. For its eloquent deployment of form and the depth of its emotional excavation, I consider it poetry of the highest order.
Though autobiographical, the book never gives us personal history for its own sake, but always in the service of its theme: life in the perennial ‘afterwardness’ of exile.
The fifty-six sonnets – the Italian form invokes Petrarch’s ‘Rime Sparse’, his great document of unappeasable longing – begin with ‘Questions’. A child, in flight on a plane, discovers itself to be ‘smaller than you were…Something has made you shrink/or else something has made the seatback grow’, travelling ‘away from all you know’ as the sky darkens. The child, with its unknown companion are ‘the only ones not gone or disappearing’, and it struggles ‘to push the feelings down, the questions/the stillborn questions never to be answered’. This literal flight from home is disorienting, hallucinatory – to be up in the air with no familiar ground, nothing to rely on but a ‘seat-belt’ of trust. Continue reading