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Mimi Khalvati is awarded the King's Gold Medal for Poetry

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Mimi Khalvati is to be awarded the King’s Gold Medal for Poetry, it has been announced. The Poetry Medal Committee, chaired by the poet laureate Simon Armitage, recommended Mimi Khalvati as the recipient of the medal for 2023 and cited her ability to draw on diverse cultural traditions – Iranian, English and American. This is seen in her book In White Ink which includes ‘Rubaiyat’, a commemorative poem written for her grandmother, Telajune, who lived and died in Tehran, and intertwines Khalvati’s reflections on modern-day London.

Mimi Khalvati’s initial publication Persian Miniatures (1990) was a joint winner of the Poetry Business prize and In White Ink (1991) revealed her talent and highly individual voice. Since then, Khalvati has published nine thematically and formally varied collections of poetry. Many have won accolades with The Meanest Flower shortlisted for the 2007 TS Eliot Prize. Mimi Khalvati also has a Cholmondeley award and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Mimi Khalvati said: “When I first received news of my award, I felt amazed, incredulous, thrilled and not a little terrified. But more than that, I just felt happy. To receive such an affirmation of my work and to be numbered among the wonderful poets who have been previous recipients is an honour and privilege I am deeply grateful for. My warmest thanks go to Simon Armitage, our poet laureate, and the committee, for reading and responding to my poetry, and for their recommendation.

“I started writing late in life and have always felt myself to be serving an unending apprenticeship, steeped in the process of becoming a poet, and never actually being one. But now, in my eightieth year, I am! And through my writing years I have been lucky enough to see many barriers of gender, age, ethnicity, fall, and to be welcomed into a community of poets, many of whom I have worked with, shared poems with and learned from. Having lost ties to my country, Iran, but finding a home in English poetry, often universal in outlook and excitingly porous to other cultures, has been made all the more precious to me by this generous recognition.”

The poet laureate, Simon Armitage, said: “Since the early 1990s Mimi Khalvati has been a pioneering and adventurous voice in the mainstream of British poetry, bridging cultural and linguistic traditions between her native Iranian heritage and the country where she came to live. 

“Endlessly imaginative and playful, her work weaves social and political concerns with personal history and private experience. She is a highly respected teacher and supporter of new writers, especially of women poets who have been inspired by her example, her natural talent and her encouragement.  Mimi receives the King’s Gold Medal for Poetry in respect of a body of published work that includes eight outstanding full-length collections, and in recognition of her tireless work as a tutor and as one of the founding members of the Poetry School.”

Mimi Khalvati was born in Tehran in 1944 and spent much of her childhood at boarding school on the Isle of Wight, only returning to Iran at 17.

A pioneering woman poet, Khalvati also employs set forms such as the sonnet and the villanelle as well as the Persian ghazal that she helped establish in contemporary British poetry. Her exile from Iran influences a sense of dislocation and sadness that runs through her work, though it is countered by her love of life and fascination with its daily minutiae. In the 1990s, Khalvati co-founded the Poetry School in London, which continues to help students of all ages and backgrounds to develop their poetry writing.

Her Collected Poems is due out from Carcanet at the end of this year. 


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