cover image Calling a Wolf a Wolf

Calling a Wolf a Wolf

Kaveh Akbar. Alice James, $16.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-938584-67-1

“Regarding loss, I’m afraid/ to keep it in the story,/ worried what I might bring back to life,” writes Akbar as he opens his much-anticipated debut collection. Though loss infuses the Divedapper founder and editor’s work, he animates myriad human struggles—addiction, estrangement from one’s body and language, faith and its absence—with empathy, intimacy, and expansive vision. These poems define life as an act of faith; “so much/ of being alive is breaking,” yet we choose to go on. Addressing God, he pleads: “Do you not know how scary// it can get here?” Discussing embodiment, Akbar writes that “everyone/ looks uglier naked or at least/ I do,” while elsewhere exalting the body and its complex wants as “a mosque borrowed from Heaven.” A breathtaking addition to the canon of addiction literature, Akbar’s poetry confronts the pain and joy in denying oneself for the sake of oneself. He suggests redemption without ignoring the violence that attends it: “it’s never too late to become/ a new thing, to rip the fur// from your face and dive/ dimplefirst into the strange.” Akbar’s poems offer readers, religious or not, a way to cultivate faith in times of deepest fear: “it is not God but the flower behind God I treasure.” (Sept.)