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About Kaveh Akbar
Kaveh Akbar's poems appear in the New Yorker, Paris Review, the New York Times, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the author of two books of poetry—Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf 2021) and Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James 2017), and the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry 2016)—and the editor of The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse. Born in Tehran, Iran, Kaveh teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph and Warren Wilson college. Currently, he serves as Poetry Editor for The Nation.
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A POETRY BOOK SOCIETY RECOMMENDATION
I could not be held responsible
he could not be held at all
Tracking the joys and pains of the path through addiction, and wrestling with desire, inheritance and faith, Calling a Wolf a Wolf is the darkly sumptuous debut from award-winning poet Kaveh Akbar. These are powerful, intimate poems of thirst: for alcohol, for other bodies, for knowledge and for life.
'The struggle from late youth on, with and without God, agony, narcotics and love, is a torment rarely recorded with such sustained eloquence and passion as you will find in this collection'
'Compelling . . . strange . . . always beautiful'
ROXANE GAY, AUTHOR OF BAD FEMINIST AND HUNGER
JOHN GREEN, AUTHOR OF THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
'A breathtaking addition to the canon of addiction literature'
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (STARRED REVIEW)
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Poets have always looked to the skies for inspiration, and have written as a way of getting closer to the power and beauty they sense in nature, in each other and in the cosmos. This anthology serves as a truly holistic and global survey to a lyric conversation about the divine that has been going on for millenia.
Beginning with the earliest attributable author in all of human literature, the twenty-third century BC Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna, and taking in a constellation of voices - from King David to Lao Tzu, to the fourteenth century Ethiopian national religious epic, the Kebra Nagast - this anthology presents a number of canonical voices like Blake, Rumi, Dickinson and Tagore, alongside lesser-anthologized diverse voices that showcase the breathtaking multiplicity of ways in which humanity has responded to the divine across the centuries.
These poets' voices commune across the centuries, offering readers a chance to experience for themselves the vast and powerful interconnectedness of these incantations orbiting the most elemental of all subjects - our spirit.
'Kaveh Akbar is the sorcerer's sorcerer, masterful in the way he wields language . . . Profound and singular, smart and sad and funny, but most of all truth's beauty and beauty's truth sung . . . We need Pilgrim Bell. We need Kaveh Akbar' TOMMY ORANGE
America, I warn you, if you invite me into your home
I will linger,
kissing my beloveds frankly,
pulling up radishes
and capping all your pens.
There are no good kings,
only burning palaces.
Lose me today, so much.
-from 'The Palace'
With formal virtuosity and ruthless precision, Kaveh Akbar's second collection takes its readers on a spiritual journey of disavowal, fiercely attendant to the presence of divinity where artifacts of self and belonging have been shed. How does one recover from addiction without destroying the self-as-addict? And if living justly in a nation that would see them erased is, too, a kind of self-destruction, what does one do with the body's question, "what now shall I repair?" Here, Akbar responds with prayer as an act of devotion to dissonance - the infinite void of a loved one's absence, the indulgence of austerity, making a life as a Muslim in an Islamophobic nation - teasing the sacred out of silence and stillness.
Richly crafted and generous, Pilgrim Bell's linguistic rigour is tuned to the register of this moment and any moment. As the swinging soul crashes into its limits, against the atrocities of the American empire, and through a profoundly human capacity for cruelty and grace, these brilliant poems dare to exist in the empty space where song lives - resonant, revelatory, and holy.