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Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 121, Volume 24 Number 5, May - June 1998.

MAKING DO WITH LIGHT MIMI KHALVATI, Entries on Light (Carcanet) £6.95

Emerson believed that 'every appearance in nature corresponds to some state of the mind' which can 'only be described by presenting that natural appearance as its picture'. Light and darkness, for instance, are 'our familiar expression for knowledge and ignorance'. Emerson allowed for the possibility that movements of the mind, in all their complexity, could be articulated in relation to the natural world, with chiaroscuro as the index of a poet's examined life. Emil Cioran, however, claimed that light and darkness, by virtue of their daemonic power, did not permit anyone to express the 'shadows and sparks' of mystical experience, since 'ecstasy wipes out surrounding objects, familiar forms of the world, until all that is left is a monumental projection of shadow and light'.

Many poets have tried, often to the detriment of their work, to explore the enslavement of darkness and light's liberation, but in her third Carcanet collection, Entries on Light, Iranian-born Mimi Khalvati wisely rejects those finding despair or transcendence in every flicker:

Some will look for immanence
        in a shadow on the wall sinking
through water, or focus where the shadow ends
        on a bricked diagonal of gold
and remember how sun warms brick and linen
        in offices and houses
how a glory that was general
        is particular to them.

She knows that to be 'blinded' by the blinding, solipsistic revelations of others is to be 'distracted from our own ...


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