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This interview is taken from PN Review 221, Volume 41 Number 3, January - February 2015.

In Conversation with Mimi Khalvati Maitreyabandhu
This conversation took place on 23 July 2014 in Mimi Khalvati’s London flat, a flat crowded with pictures (some of them small, brightly coloured paintings by her mother), Persian rugs and carefully ordered bookcases – Jackie Kay once described it as being like the inside of a sewing basket. I have known Mimi since 2010. I was fortunate enough to twice ‘win’ her as my poetry mentor. I have also interviewed her about her life and work for Poetry East.

maitreyabandhu: Your poem ‘Writing Home’ begins ‘As far back as I remember, “home” / had an empty ring’. This question of ‘home’ and what home means seems central to your work. Although you were born in Tehran, you grew up on the Isle of Wight away from your family, native language and history. So I wanted to ask you about that first. I can’t help feeling there’s been too much made of you being ‘between two cultures’ – an Iranian poet in exile. In many ways your poetry seems very much ‘at home’ within a British, even English, lyric sensibility.

mimi khalvati: Yes. The poem ‘Writing Home’ came out of my residency at the Royal Mail and since I was unable to write about postmen and post offices, I wrote a couple of poems that came out of remembering having to write letters home while at boarding school. I wrote in English to my Iranian family back in Tehran. I was trying to remember what it was like as a young child being between two languages ...

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