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Workshop with Mimi Khalvati

Aren’t we lucky in Lewes? A bona fide A-list poet comes down here from London each month to offer her wisdom and help us improve our writing. And I am finally in! After a year or so of champing at the bit I now have a place, and enjoyed my first ‘official’ workshop on Saturday at the salubrious venue of Lewes Bus Station. As well as Mimi there’s also a fantastic line-up of poets in the group, so I feel really privileged.

Here are a few extracts from my frantic note-taking of Mimi-isms, in no particular order… (I know these sound completely random and out of context they probably are, but I’m partly doing it to remind myself of what was said)

  • Don’t say the same thing several times
  • Be careful when editing not to lose the tone, if it’s crucial to the poem
  • On line length, if you’re unsure: find an important line and try using that as your line length
  • Ask yourself “am I going this way or that way?’
  • If you aim high you have more work to do
  • Writing formal poetry is 50 times harder than free verse (I liked this one!)
  • You sometimes need to be bold and not care what readers think/feel
  • Doubt in the mind of the reader is good. Don’t worry about taking things too literally. Sometimes  it’s a sign you need to read more, and read more ‘illogical’ stuff eg Selima Hill. If people don’t understand that’s their problem!
  • Avoid signposting (ie nudging people), plus a few more ‘over used’ words hit the dust (ask me if you really want to know!)
  • Try swapping nouns or noun phrases and see how it sounds – mess things up a bit – to stretch yourself into unfamiliar territory

Happy days!



Published inPoet's TipsWorkshoppingWriting

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  1. This is brilliant advice! Thank you for sharing, I’m going to print it off and stick it on my fridge.

  2. Glad you liked it Josephine, Mimi is such a rich source of good thinking.

  3. […] Mimi Khalvati workshop notes I posted here recently went down well, so I thought I’d share with you some gems from Don […]

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Robin Houghton 2021