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Mimi Khalvati, The Meanest Flower, Carcanet

The ghazal is a lyric poem shared by Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Uzbek, Pashto and Urdu cultures and probably best known in the west through translations of one of its greatest poets, Hafez, who inspired the German Romantics Goethe and Platen and, more recently, Adrienne Rich and Jila Peacock. Hafez is a significant presence in Edwin Morgan’s The New Divan. Mimi Khalvati’s ghazals beautifully capture the bittersweet qualities of the form. The single rhyme that becomes a refrain is both a plaintive solitary cry and an encouragement for a listener to join in, a kind of torch-song “hook”. They are lonesome but sociable poems – traditionally about romantic (and mystical) love, but here, in addition to love poems, adapted extremely well to the themes of motherhood and family: “May the rarest editions of love / bring us both to a shop with a nook of ghazals.”

Also try: Jila Peacock, Ten Poems from Hafez, 2006

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