Mimi Khalvati was born in Tehran, Iran. She grew up on the Isle of Wight, where she attended boarding school from the age of six, and has lived most of her life in England. She trained at Drama Centre London and has worked as an actor and director in the UK and Iran.
She has published six collections of poetry with Carcanet Press and her most recent book, The Meanest Flower, was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, a Financial Times Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. Her work has been translated into nine languages and she received a Cholmondeley Award in 2006.
Mimi is the founder of The Poetry School and was the Coordinator from 1997-2004. She is a core tutor for the School and has co-edited its three anthologies of new writing published by Enitharmon Press.
She is also a freelance poetry tutor and has worked with arts organisations such as the Arvon Foundation and the South Bank Centre and has taught at universities in the UK, Europe and America.
Picking Raspberries with Mowgli
It was when he leant close to me,
his little naked torso, brown and thin,
reaching an arm into the cage
of raspberries, that I snatched a kiss.
The raspberries smelled of rosemary
and among them grew the odd sweetpea.
Do you know why they’re called sweetpeas?
Mowgli asked – No, I said, why?
Because look, he said, fingering
a thin pale pod, this is the fruit
and this is the flower and inside the pod
are peas. Mowgli looked inside things.
Inside the sieve, a baby spider
trailing a thread his finger trailed
up, over, under the mounting pile
he prodded. Inside the fruit, the seed.
Don’t pick the ones with the white bits,
Mowgli ordered, they taste horrid.
Sun tangled in the row of canes,
cobwebs blurred the berries. Mowgli
progressed to the apples – small
bitter windfalls. I’m going to test them,
he said, for smashes. And again,
I’m going to test them for bruises. Mowgli
throwing apples against the wall,
missing the wall, high up in the air;
Mowgli squatting, examining
for the smallest hint of decay
and chucking them if they failed the test,
healthy raspberries; Mowgli,
balancing on a rake, first thing
in the morning, grinning shyly.