by: Diana Richtman
Entertainment Section Writer
It was a Monday night in Athens, and inside the Foundry I clutched my copy of “Calling a Wolf a Wolf” by Kaveh Akbar. Before The Georgia Review Fall Issue Release with Kaveh Akbar began, my sister and I looked at each other. I knew that she must have seen the unrestrained excitement on my face about Akbar taking the stage. The Foundry was a perfect place to hear Akbar read his poems — intimate while still allowing everyone the space they needed to experience his words aloud. Once he got on stage and began to read his poems, I saw firsthand what so many before me had already raved about. Akbar is the type of poet who possesses both talent and a willingness to work hard, and he is as kind as he is engaged with his readers.
Akbar’s poetry has appeared in publications like “The Georgia Review,” “Narrative,” “Tin House” and “The New Yorker.” He is a recipient of the 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. He is a professor at Purdue University and the founder and editor of “Divedapper,” a website devoted to publishing interviews with contemporary poets. Akbar is the author of the chapbook “Portrait of the Alcoholic,” and this past September his first full length book of poetry, “Calling a Wolf a Wolf,” was published.
Akbar was born in Tehran, Iran and immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was around 2 years old. Akbar’s personal experiences often influence his writing. A good deal of his poems reflect on growing up as an immigrant and his search for his identity. His chapbook and full length collection both largely center around his recovery from alcoholism.
Akbar never seems to shy away from talking about poetry, whether it’s on his Twitter, or at a public event. After his reading, he opened up the audience to a Q&A session. When asked what advice he’d give to young poets wanting to see themselves published, he spoke a lot about his own experiences as a young writer, “The most salient advice that I could have given myself would be to just be patient, and I know that would have been an excruciating thing for me to hear.”
Akbar has taken to Twitter on more than one occasion to talk about his experiences of first trying to get his poems published, and he spoke to me a great deal on the subject. His advice? Send your writing to the places you like to read. Even if you get rejected, at least you know where you stand.
He touched on an important point during the event, which is that sometimes young poets need to step back and learn from the other writers around them. “I remember 17 year old me just wanting to be everywhere, and I just wanted to be talking to every editor and just wanted conversations. I was so hungry for it, but those conversations didn’t necessarily need to be centered around my own poetry,” Akbar said.
Concerning where his poems are headed next, he said, “There will be a time in the organizational process of the poems that I am writing right now where I’ll sort of gather them on a table and hold a metaphorical magnet over them and see what goes up.” He continued and said, “I don’t know. I’m excited to find out.”
Wherever his poems are headed, there is a sense that his readers are ready to follow him. We, too, are excited to find out.