Calling a Wolf a Wolf
"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." —Fanny HoweThis highly-anticipated debut boldly confronts addiction and courses the strenuous path of recovery, beginning in the wilds of the mind. Poems confront craving, control, the constant battle of alcoholism and sobriety, and the questioning of the self and its instincts within the context of this never-ending fight.“In Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Kaveh Akbar exquisitely and tenaciously braids astonishment and atonement into a singular lyric voice. The desolation of alcoholism widens into hard-won insight: ‘the body is a mosque borrowed from Heaven.’ Doubt and fear spiral into grace and beauty. Akbar’s mind, like his language, is perpetually in motion. His imagery—wounded and resplendent—is masterful and his syntax ensnares and releases music that’s both delicate and muscular. Kaveh Akbar has crafted one of the best debuts in recent memory. In his hands, awe and redemption hinge into unforgettable and gorgeous poems.” —Eduardo C. Corral

Calling a Wolf a Wolf Details

TitleCalling a Wolf a Wolf
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 12th, 2017
PublisherAlice James Books
ISBN-139781938584671
Rating
GenrePoetry

Calling a Wolf a Wolf Review

  • Roxane
    January 1, 1970
    An outstanding book of poetry. I was particularly impressed by the imagery and deftness with language. The title poem is by far my favorite but every poem offers something compelling or strange or unknowable and always beautiful.
  • Ken
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes fast starts work against you. It's the "Billy Collins Rule" to always start with your best poems (like they're easy to identify) but I felt like the collection sagged a bit and slouched over the finish line. Still, some strong stuff in the first half made it worth reading. Akbar is one of the young Turks (even though he's Iranian) getting a lot of press lately, including the cover of the latest Poets & Writers.What's up with the cover? Maybe it's a friend of the author's, but easil Sometimes fast starts work against you. It's the "Billy Collins Rule" to always start with your best poems (like they're easy to identify) but I felt like the collection sagged a bit and slouched over the finish line. Still, some strong stuff in the first half made it worth reading. Akbar is one of the young Turks (even though he's Iranian) getting a lot of press lately, including the cover of the latest Poets & Writers.What's up with the cover? Maybe it's a friend of the author's, but easily one of the most regrettable covers I've ever seen and poetry books are known for regrettable covers. Where's Chip Kidd when you need him? A close-up of a wolf's eyes, man! Yeah. Worth an extra five (of any poetry book's 32) readers right there!
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  • Ellie
    January 1, 1970
    It took me awhile to really grab hold of these poems: I was reading too tentatively. When I finally dove in, I was amazed by what I found. Beauty amidst addiction, pain, loss. Craving not only alcohol but life itself. There were lines that took my breath away (it slowed my reading, all those lines that demanded deeper attention).There is also a struggle with faith, a craving for a God who often seems absent from His creation.This is a book that anyone who cares about poetry should read.
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    "Like the belled cat's // frustrated hunt, my offer to improve myself / was ruined by the sound it made."
  • Book Riot Community
    January 1, 1970
    Earlier this year, I urged Book Riot readers to follow Kaveh Akbar (and a few other poets) on Twitter, in part on the power of his chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic, which was published in January. Beating everyone on this list for turnaround time, Akbar is about to publish another book, this one full length, not even 9 months later. This book continues Portrait‘s examination of addiction and recovery (“everyone wants to know / what I saw on the long walk / away from you”) but expands that foc Earlier this year, I urged Book Riot readers to follow Kaveh Akbar (and a few other poets) on Twitter, in part on the power of his chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic, which was published in January. Beating everyone on this list for turnaround time, Akbar is about to publish another book, this one full length, not even 9 months later. This book continues Portrait‘s examination of addiction and recovery (“everyone wants to know / what I saw on the long walk / away from you”) but expands that focus to even more encompass the whole ragged, lovely space where one’s self meets one’s world (“the geese are curving around the horizon drawing maps / a curve is a straight line broken at all its points so much / of being alive is breaking”). Akbar’s poems are somehow and always striking, sensual, abstract, and exploratory. And Calling a Wolf a Wolf has one big advantage over Portrait: it simply has more of those gorgeous poems for you to dive headfirst into.–Derek Attigfrom Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Second Book Edition: https://bookriot.com/2017/08/21/secon...
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  • Catherine
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars Poetry books are always difficult reads for me without the structure of an English lit class, allowing me to really analyse them with the help of others. This collection, however, is extremely beautiful and gut-wrenching. I had many favourite lines and moments that made me wish I wasn’t reading a library copy so that I could underline them. The minus half star is really just my own failing, and my wish that I could be in a group to discuss these poems more.
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  • anna (readingpeaches)
    January 1, 1970
    "I’m becoming more a vessel of memories than a person it’s a myth that love lives in the heart it lives in the throat we push it out when we speak when we gasp we take a little for ourselves"easily one of the best poetry collections i've read this year. it's so raw & poignant - from the very first poem, it rips out ur bones, leaves u hollow and aching. only to then delicately share w u its own journey to recovery, its own tricks for learning to love urself. (they don't always work)"I hold my "I’m becoming more a vessel of memories than a person it’s a myth that love lives in the heart it lives in the throat we push it out when we speak when we gasp we take a little for ourselves"easily one of the best poetry collections i've read this year. it's so raw & poignant - from the very first poem, it rips out ur bones, leaves u hollow and aching. only to then delicately share w u its own journey to recovery, its own tricks for learning to love urself. (they don't always work)"I hold my breath. The boat I am building will never be done."
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  • Athena Lathos
    January 1, 1970
    One of the most beautiful collections I have ever read. So many of these poems tore my heart out piece by piece, but in the very best way possible. In fact, because of the powerful emotional pull I felt toward this collection, I don't feel like I can write a full critique like I usually do. I will just say that that I think that this book is very much worth reading, especially if you are going through a process of recovery or a period of loneliness. Along with Danez Smith, I think that Kaveh Akb One of the most beautiful collections I have ever read. So many of these poems tore my heart out piece by piece, but in the very best way possible. In fact, because of the powerful emotional pull I felt toward this collection, I don't feel like I can write a full critique like I usually do. I will just say that that I think that this book is very much worth reading, especially if you are going through a process of recovery or a period of loneliness. Along with Danez Smith, I think that Kaveh Akbar is one of the most courageous, talented, and unpretentious young poets today.
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  • Liz Janet
    January 1, 1970
    I'm very careful with the poetry I read, as I'm used to classics instead of new collections, but the clever title caught my attention, it is straight to the point even if seen as hidden in metaphor, and for that I had to give it a chance. The book is mostly based on him and his alcoholic addiction, represented as the wolf. Calling it what it is, he is able to express how he, and his family members and friends feel about this problem, and his constant struggle between drowning his sorrows and sob I'm very careful with the poetry I read, as I'm used to classics instead of new collections, but the clever title caught my attention, it is straight to the point even if seen as hidden in metaphor, and for that I had to give it a chance. The book is mostly based on him and his alcoholic addiction, represented as the wolf. Calling it what it is, he is able to express how he, and his family members and friends feel about this problem, and his constant struggle between drowning his sorrows and sobriety."Blood from the belly tastes sweeterthan blood from anywhere else. "-SootYet the poems I prefer in this collection had nothing to do with his addiction, but rather with his identity, of being spiritual or irreligious, of being Iranian, or becoming too American, even forgetting how to speak his mother tongue. "I don't remember how to say homein my first language, or lonely, or light.I remember onlydelam barat tangshodeh, I miss you. "- Do You Speak Persian?An entertaining read, but much like the previously mentioned book, perhaps read first from the library before buying. 
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  • Ace Boggess
    January 1, 1970
    This is as close to a perfect collection of poems as I can imagine. I normally consume a book of poetry in a day or two, stopping every now and then to reread a piece if I connect with it in some way, but with Calling a Wolf a Wolf, it took me more than a week because I kept going back to reread every piece. Akbar fills his poems so densely with image and idea that each line contains both suffering and joy. The themes include addiction, hunger, cultural disconnection, family, and ultimately or s This is as close to a perfect collection of poems as I can imagine. I normally consume a book of poetry in a day or two, stopping every now and then to reread a piece if I connect with it in some way, but with Calling a Wolf a Wolf, it took me more than a week because I kept going back to reread every piece. Akbar fills his poems so densely with image and idea that each line contains both suffering and joy. The themes include addiction, hunger, cultural disconnection, family, and ultimately or sort of hard-fought hope. I found these poems compelling, insightful, inspiring. There is something to be savored in all of them. Just for a taste, here are a few lines from "Neither Now Nor Never":I remain a hungry childand the idea of a land flowing with milkand honey makes me excited,but I do wonder what gets left out--least favorite songs on favorite albums,an uncle's conquered metastasis, or the girl whose climaxes gave way to panic,whose sobs awakened the feeling of prayer in me.I must have read those lines half a dozen times, overcome by the beauty of them, and also the narrator's interesting way of questioning the Grand by delving into the Small. That's the way this book is: filled with the extremes, guiding a meditated search of self, others, the universe. Magic. Definitely makes my top-5 list for the year.
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  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    When I read poetry collections, I either highlight in my e-reader, or tear tiny scraps of paper as markers in my hard copies to revisit phrases or copy down a line or stanza to remember.I read Calling a Wolf a Wolf on my e-reader, and once I realized I was highlighting every single poem, I knew this was a Best of 2018 collection.Akbar's work has received a lot of praise already, and I am just heaping it on. It was a stunning collection and one I will revisit. I hope to see more work by this amaz When I read poetry collections, I either highlight in my e-reader, or tear tiny scraps of paper as markers in my hard copies to revisit phrases or copy down a line or stanza to remember.I read Calling a Wolf a Wolf on my e-reader, and once I realized I was highlighting every single poem, I knew this was a Best of 2018 collection.Akbar's work has received a lot of praise already, and I am just heaping it on. It was a stunning collection and one I will revisit. I hope to see more work by this amazing poet.From "Exciting the Canvas"Some people born before the Model Tlived to see man walk on the moon.To be strapped like that to the masthead of historywould make me frantic.At parties I'd shout I'm frantic, and you?Like a fire, hungry and resisting containment,I'd pound at the windows, my mouth full of hor d'oeuvres.--For as much as I loved this book, I really disliked the cover art. So, this fits in pretty well for the highly subjective Book Riot Read Harder challenge category of "book cover you hate" (although I feel like "hate" is pretty strong overall.)
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  • Paige Pagnotta
    January 1, 1970
    Favorite poems: Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient), Desunt Nonnulla, Portrait of the Alcoholic Three Weeks Sober, Unburnable The Cold is Flooding Our Lives, Everything That Moves is Alive and a Threat - A Reminder"It's difficult to be anything at all with the whole world right here for the having.""...I carried the coldness like a diamond for years holding it close near as blood until one day I woke and it was fully inside me both of us ruined and unrecognizable two coins on a train track the tra Favorite poems: Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient), Desunt Nonnulla, Portrait of the Alcoholic Three Weeks Sober, Unburnable The Cold is Flooding Our Lives, Everything That Moves is Alive and a Threat - A Reminder"It's difficult to be anything at all with the whole world right here for the having.""...I carried the coldness like a diamond for years holding it close near as blood until one day I woke and it was fully inside me both of us ruined and unrecognizable two coins on a train track the train crushed into one""it hurts to even think about the leak in my brain where brackish water trickles in and memory trickles out. with what do I mend a hole like that answer me with what""I finally have answers to the questions I taught my mother not to ask but now she won't ask them"
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  • Alejandra Oliva
    January 1, 1970
    This book filled my heart all the way up. God and bodies and becoming better.
  • Nammy
    January 1, 1970
    The first time I read Kaveh Akbar’s poetry, I wasn’t too keen on it. I thought the internal caesura was jarring and I had trouble following their narratives. I loved The Orchids, but that was the only one I really understood. He did a reading at my college, and I was dubious about going. But the lure of witnessing live poetry tugged me towards his reading on Thursday night, and I’m so glad it did.His mannerisms intrigued me. He bent the mike down too low on purpose, so that he had to hunch over The first time I read Kaveh Akbar’s poetry, I wasn’t too keen on it. I thought the internal caesura was jarring and I had trouble following their narratives. I loved The Orchids, but that was the only one I really understood. He did a reading at my college, and I was dubious about going. But the lure of witnessing live poetry tugged me towards his reading on Thursday night, and I’m so glad it did.His mannerisms intrigued me. He bent the mike down too low on purpose, so that he had to hunch over to be heard. He swayed, feet planted, and his voice was wavering. I didn’t realize what his behavior reminded me of until he had already read a few poems: he read like he was drunk. And sad. As soon as a poem ended, the alcohol slipped off of him and he was laughing, joking, answering questions sincerely. But it was clear he was intoxicated by his own poetry. The feeling was contagious.After his reading, I bought a copy of Calling a Wolf a Wolf and spent the next three days working my way through it. Some poems I had to read out loud; some I had to read repeatedly; others ran through my fingers like a patch of grass. After hearing him read his poetry out loud, I understood how to read their textual forms. I would read them out loud and then imagine how Kaveh would read them. Each of them had an element of rawness, graphic corporal imagery, and the blurring of the mundane with the divine. Kaveh went on to address his use of internal caesura. He said he was trying to get the effect of a line break without having to actually end the physical line on the page. Limited by his choice to eschew punctuation in some poems, he took to spacing out clauses in order to give the reader a little clarity. This knowledge made his poetry much more comprehensible to me. "I remain a hungry child / and the idea of a land flowing with milk / and honey makes me excited, / but I do wonder what gets left out-- / least favorite songs on favorite albums, / an uncle's conquered metastasis, / or the girl whose climaxes gave way to panic, / whose sobs awakened the feeling of prayer in me. / May they be there too, O Lord. / With each second passing over me / may that heaven grow and grow.""there is a pond I leapt into once / with a lonely blonde boy when we scampered out one of us / was in love I could not be held responsible / for desire he could not be held at all""All I want is to finally / take off my cowboy hat and show you my jeweled // horns. If we slow dance I will ask you not to tug / on them, but secretly I will want that very much."
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  • John Madera
    January 1, 1970
    Kaveh Akbar's Calling a Wolf a Wolf renders the invisible visible and vice versa, memory, loss, exile, addiction, and bodies—whether present, absent, or liminal—among the subjects of these evocative reveries, wistful elegies, and attentive studies. Akbar eschews the false logics of so-called realism in favor of a phantasmatic mysticism, a religion without religiosity, where animals yearn, where tiny crystals turn rivers red, where a peach pit spat on a prayer rug becomes a locust, where gods, so Kaveh Akbar's Calling a Wolf a Wolf renders the invisible visible and vice versa, memory, loss, exile, addiction, and bodies—whether present, absent, or liminal—among the subjects of these evocative reveries, wistful elegies, and attentive studies. Akbar eschews the false logics of so-called realism in favor of a phantasmatic mysticism, a religion without religiosity, where animals yearn, where tiny crystals turn rivers red, where a peach pit spat on a prayer rug becomes a locust, where gods, souls, and other dubious entities come to vivid life, where the poet himself becomes "more a vessel of memories than a person." A highly recommended collection, in other words.
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  • BookishDubai
    January 1, 1970
    My dear,how did you end up like this?
  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful! Akbar transforms ordinary moments into communion with the divine. I absolutely loved this collection. My favorite poem is "Against Hell," in which he writes "So much of living is about understanding / scale." That idea appears throughout the book and Akbar does what all great poets do, which is reveal the magic in the everyday. I can't recommend this collection enough. If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!
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  • Alana
    January 1, 1970
    The best book of poetry I've read in 2017. Truly stunning.
  • Ronnie Stephens
    January 1, 1970
    To my knowledge, this is Kaveh Akbar's full-length debut. Though I have not read his chapbook, Portrait of an Alcholic, I suspect that this collection includes the poems from the chapbook, as there are numerous poems which carry titles beginning with "Portrait of the Alcoholic..." It comes as no surprise that this poems are among the most powerful, and they work to contextualize much of the grief, anguish, and yearning evident throughout the collection.What really sets this book apart, for me, i To my knowledge, this is Kaveh Akbar's full-length debut. Though I have not read his chapbook, Portrait of an Alcholic, I suspect that this collection includes the poems from the chapbook, as there are numerous poems which carry titles beginning with "Portrait of the Alcoholic..." It comes as no surprise that this poems are among the most powerful, and they work to contextualize much of the grief, anguish, and yearning evident throughout the collection.What really sets this book apart, for me, is Akbar's willingness to be entirely vulnerable in every stanza. Every poem in this book bleeds, and the author makes no attempt to conceal his wounds. The result is a collection which both haunts and inspires, shouts at the dark and supplicates at the foot of even the smallest joys.2017 was an impressive year for contemporary poetry, and easily 5 collections now have a firm place in my top 10 poetry books of all time. That said, Akbar's may be my favorite yet. The poems have mastered balance, resounding with urgency and patience simultaneously. Every line, every word, feels absolutely essential to the underlying narrative. There's never a wasted breath, which is convenient, as I found myself holding my own for entire poems again and again.Read this book. You won't regret it.
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  • Aran
    January 1, 1970
    if living proves/anything it's that astonishment is possible
  • Margaryta
    January 1, 1970
    **This review first appeared in Alternating Current's review column The Coil**We are living in a time of witnesses, beginning with ourselves. With Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf, we are not only witnessing the rise of a prominent contemporary poet, but we are also challenged to relook at the way we respond to the emotional obstacles faced by ourselves and others. Challenges are the central force of the collection, but they are not necessarily presented as such. Rather than focusing on the d **This review first appeared in Alternating Current's review column The Coil**We are living in a time of witnesses, beginning with ourselves. With Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf, we are not only witnessing the rise of a prominent contemporary poet, but we are also challenged to relook at the way we respond to the emotional obstacles faced by ourselves and others. Challenges are the central force of the collection, but they are not necessarily presented as such. Rather than focusing on the difficulties in the common understanding of the term, Akbar facilitates an atmosphere of observation with a child-like fascination that comes with wanting to figure something out. He carefully leads the reader through an array of verbal tableaux in which the line between happiness and suffering is constantly being pushed and redrawn. These complex composites are pulsing with life as they reflect on it, noting the waya month ago they dragged up a drownedtourist his bloatwhite belly filled with radishes and lamb shank hisentire digestive system was a tiny museum of pleasure compared to him Iam healthy and unremarkable here I am reading a pharmaceutical brochurehere I am dying at an average pace(“Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient),” p 14).Reading Calling a Wolf a Wolf was ritualistic — each time I sat down with the book I could never bring myself to read more than half a dozen pages, afraid that even one more would result in a lesser amount of appreciation than each individual poem deserves. Akbar’s voice has the power of a prophet returning to childhood, to a state of sharp awareness that is concerned with capturing the unadulterated fleeting moment and prolonging it into a miniature eternity, a sentiment shared by the collection’s speaker when proclaiming:I am not a slow learner I am a quick forgettersuch erasing makes one voracious if you teach me somethingbeautiful I will name it quickly before it floats away(“Desunt Nonnulla,” p 23).It is a voice one will want to listen to both out of personal volition and out of the simple inability to stop doing so. Empathy, one of the greatest gifts a poet can give his reader, is found in abundance within the collection’s pages. Akbar doesn’t simply make the reader connect and slip into the situation of the speaker. He elicits a willingness to be present, always requesting and offering in an ongoing dialogue between speaker and reader. There is no feeling of obligation as much as there is a quiet request to remain and listen to howmecca is a mothchewing holes in a shirt I leftat a lover’s house(“A Boy Steps into the Water,” p 30).If the greater, overarching tone of the collection is not convincing enough to make one pick up these poems, then there is an equally convincing case to be made by picking through their minute bones. One will not find anything far-reaching or purposefully convoluted — there are no lines laden with esoteric references, no traces of artifice or exaggeration. Take, for instance, the following passage from the first poem in the first section:I stacked the pears on the manteluntil I ran out of room and began filling them intothe bathtub one evening I slid in as if into a moundof jewels now ghost finches leave footprintson our snowy windowsills(“Wild Pear Tree,” p 5).Akbar not only proves that simplicity can be startling, but that it can also be made to feel, and truly be, new. It is once again an echo of the authenticity Calling a Wolf a Wolf brings to the genre, which it carries over into the poems dealing with spiritual contemplation, poems like the astounding opener “Soot.” These are poems that are, poems that are present and always aware. It isn’t necessary for them to stand on a street corner and loudly scream their intentions as the screaming happens naturally for anyone reading them, filled with a sense of urgency and calm realization.Many more things can be said about these poems, which offer both colorful and emotional lines that link together to form a tapestry of the battleground between creator and destroyer in the context of the self and the spiritual; I will leave this for future readers to discover for themselves. Instead, it is worth adding how much Akbar has also added to the poetry community as a poet to look up to. I will forever remain amazed by “Orchids Are Sprouting from the Floorboards,” simple, cyclical, and moving in its progressive build-up, which has already begun shaping my own writing. Calling a Wolf a Wolf is a humble offering to readers and poets alike, baring its scars and vocal cords as libations to the hungry reader not in defeat, but as a sign of pure, endless courage.
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  • Marne Wilson
    January 1, 1970
    "I am sealing all my faults with platinum// so they'll gleam like the barrel of a laser gun," the poet writes, and that seems like a very fitting description of what is going on in this book. This is raw, visceral poetry dealing with some heavy subjects (most notably alcoholism and other addictions), yet it is often beautiful and always powerful. Some of the imagery in the poems is complex and difficult to unpack, but just when you feel you're getting too tangled up, the poet will drop in a simp "I am sealing all my faults with platinum// so they'll gleam like the barrel of a laser gun," the poet writes, and that seems like a very fitting description of what is going on in this book. This is raw, visceral poetry dealing with some heavy subjects (most notably alcoholism and other addictions), yet it is often beautiful and always powerful. Some of the imagery in the poems is complex and difficult to unpack, but just when you feel you're getting too tangled up, the poet will drop in a simple declarative sentence that clears the air. Here's one: "I like it fine, this daily struggle// to not die, to not drink or smoke or snort anything/ that might return me to combustibility." Or how about this? "Most days I try hard to act human, to breathe/ like a human and speak with the same flat language, but often// my kindness is clumsy." I feel like I'm not doing this book justice at all, but it's one of those books that is almost impossible to review. Just get a copy and find out for yourself.(Note: I received my copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.)
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  • Avery Guess
    January 1, 1970
    Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf opens with the lines “Sometimes God comes to earth disguised as rust, / chewing away a chain link fence or mariner’s knife.” In “Soot,” the poem these lines are from, and in the collection’s subsequent poems, Akbar’s speaker wrestles with both God and demon. God comes in the form of the speaker’s father and religion of Islam, while the demon comes in the form of addiction. The speaker, having encountered loss, knows that “Blood from the belly tastes sweeter / Kaveh Akbar’s Calling a Wolf a Wolf opens with the lines “Sometimes God comes to earth disguised as rust, / chewing away a chain link fence or mariner’s knife.” In “Soot,” the poem these lines are from, and in the collection’s subsequent poems, Akbar’s speaker wrestles with both God and demon. God comes in the form of the speaker’s father and religion of Islam, while the demon comes in the form of addiction. The speaker, having encountered loss, knows that “Blood from the belly tastes sweeter / than blood from anywhere else.” Perhaps due to the ravages of addiction, the speaker finds himself distanced from memories of the past. In “Wild Pear Tree,” he realizes that he has “forgotten even / the easy prayer I was supposed to use / in emergencies” and in “Do You Speak Persian?” he doesn’t “remember how to say home / in my first language, or lonely, or light.” Indeed, the first section of the book is almost exclusively housed in the language of loss in a world where “so much / of being alive is breaking.” There is light here, however, amongst the darkness of the poems about being an alcoholic, and there is beauty. In “Prayer,” the speaker writes that “compared to even a small star / the moon is tiny it is not God but the flower behind God I treasure.” And in “The New World,” “The soul is a thirsty / antelope nervously lapping up / water from a pool / in the hunter’s backyard.” In “No Is a Complete Sentence” Akbar writes: “I fumble toward grace / like a vine searching for a wall.” The poems in this collection act much in the same manner, lush and loose and lost and seeking a stable home.
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  • Samantha
    January 1, 1970
    Y'all, I had to live with this book for a minute. I kept rereading poems and starting over, because I didn't want it to end, and it doesn't even matter now that I am finished because I can go back to these and find something living and new in them each time.Kaveh Akbar makes really messy, beautiful poems about addiction and love and the body. Each one is this dizzying spiral of meandering passion (Is that a thing? I'm calling it a thing) that pans from small, quiet moments to philosophizing, wor Y'all, I had to live with this book for a minute. I kept rereading poems and starting over, because I didn't want it to end, and it doesn't even matter now that I am finished because I can go back to these and find something living and new in them each time.Kaveh Akbar makes really messy, beautiful poems about addiction and love and the body. Each one is this dizzying spiral of meandering passion (Is that a thing? I'm calling it a thing) that pans from small, quiet moments to philosophizing, worldly big ones and back again. What's that candy that has a flavor explosion in the middle? That's what these poems are. They're soft and big, vulnerable and confident, and together they make up this *voice* that's more powerful and cohesive across a collection than any debut poet in recent memory has achieved. Kaveh Akbar has freaking arrived, and poetry is better for it.
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  • Robert
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful and depressing. Here are a few favorite lines:Here I am reading a pharmaceutical brochure / here I am dying at an average pace / envy is the only deadly sin that's no fun for the sinnerI've never set a house on fire / never thrown a firstborn off a bridge / still my whole life I answered every cry for help with a pour / with a turning away / I've given this coldness many names / thinking of it had a name it would have a solution / thinking if I called a wolf a wolf I might dull its fan Beautiful and depressing. Here are a few favorite lines:Here I am reading a pharmaceutical brochure / here I am dying at an average pace / envy is the only deadly sin that's no fun for the sinnerI've never set a house on fire / never thrown a firstborn off a bridge / still my whole life I answered every cry for help with a pour / with a turning away / I've given this coldness many names / thinking of it had a name it would have a solution / thinking if I called a wolf a wolf I might dull its fangs.God loves the hungry / more than the fullAs long as the earth continues / its stony breathing, I will breathe.I had to learn to love people one at a time / singing hey diddle diddle will you suffer me / a little / how could they say no / how could they say anything I always wanted to be a saint / but I thought I’d be one of the miserable ones
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  • Todd
    January 1, 1970
    Kaveh Akbar's Calling a Wolf a Wolf took some time to read fully because I kept getting stopped by images so rich and striking that I simply had to walk away and spend the day contemplating the implications. Even a title, like "Exciting the Canvas," caused me to sit back and wonder. What does a canvas feel when a painter strokes it with a brush? What does it take to make that canvas "excited"? When is it bored? And then, inside that poem, the lines"I like to think of light this way,dispensed in Kaveh Akbar's Calling a Wolf a Wolf took some time to read fully because I kept getting stopped by images so rich and striking that I simply had to walk away and spend the day contemplating the implications. Even a title, like "Exciting the Canvas," caused me to sit back and wonder. What does a canvas feel when a painter strokes it with a brush? What does it take to make that canvas "excited"? When is it bored? And then, inside that poem, the lines"I like to think of light this way,dispensed in attache casesto illuminate as needed"I was also illuminated by Akbar's experience as an Iranian-American Muslim alcoholic man, which all etch their identities into this work.
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  • Kell
    January 1, 1970
    This is difficult to rate: at its best, the writing deserves 5 stars; mixed up as it is (as I'll describe), it is no more than 3.Some of Akbar's lines are startlingly original and deeply beautiful; many of his poems of ideas are overwrought, full of disconnected factoids, grotesque images, and an abundance of references that, I found, take away from the meanings he is trying to convey. There is an excess of beauty and disgust that (as in The Picture of Dorian Gray) melds together and loses inter This is difficult to rate: at its best, the writing deserves 5 stars; mixed up as it is (as I'll describe), it is no more than 3.Some of Akbar's lines are startlingly original and deeply beautiful; many of his poems of ideas are overwrought, full of disconnected factoids, grotesque images, and an abundance of references that, I found, take away from the meanings he is trying to convey. There is an excess of beauty and disgust that (as in The Picture of Dorian Gray) melds together and loses interest: so many images makes it difficult to find intrigue and focus on any specific one, and follow the thread of the poem to its emotional core. I do very much believe that Akbar is a good writer; I found myself with a pencil in hand as I read, crossing out and circling pieces to find the poem I could feel; having done so, reading the book a second time in my own construction of the author's words, I found myself overcome by the sweetness and night blackness and blood and drink and animal smells that washed over me. Might post my favourites later, if I remember.
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    I originally got this book from the library and after reading the opening poem, Soot, I knew I had to own it so I could write in it and dog-ear my favourite poems. the book is dog-eared from front to back. what i loved about this book in particular was that Kaveh Akbar shows vulnerability in his depiction of his struggle with recovery from alcoholism. He writes about faith and sex and family and culture. The poems are liquid and jewelled and wise and heartbreaking. The imagery is unique and unfo I originally got this book from the library and after reading the opening poem, Soot, I knew I had to own it so I could write in it and dog-ear my favourite poems. the book is dog-eared from front to back. what i loved about this book in particular was that Kaveh Akbar shows vulnerability in his depiction of his struggle with recovery from alcoholism. He writes about faith and sex and family and culture. The poems are liquid and jewelled and wise and heartbreaking. The imagery is unique and unforgettable. I know I will be returning many times to Calling a Wolf a Wolf and seeking out more of his poetry in the future.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    My favorite collection of poems. To date. I have never experienced imagery like this. This book is so piercing, cohesive, and visceral. So many little "oh shit"s escaped my mouth while slowly rationing these poems. If a book could be like a slashing hand wound you got in an abandoned wooden church, only to realize you've already had a dream of this terrible wound happening but you still NEED IT, this book would be it.
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  • Adeeb
    January 1, 1970
    I did not love every single poem in this book, but this is truly how poetry should be done. It's not about rhyme or anything like that. It's about imagery. It's about making you feel emotions (sometimes uncomfortable). It's so obvious that there has been so much work put into this collection of poems and I appreciate the author for his work.
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