Kaveh Akbar

Calling a Wolf a Wolf

Calling a Wolf a Wolf


I could not be held responsible
for desire
he could not be held at all

In Calling a Wolf a Wolf, the reality of love can all too often prove disappointing at best, and life-threateningly ineffectual at worst. As Kaveh Akbar puts it in 'Heritage', a poem dedicated to an Iranian woman executed for killing the man who was attempting to rape her: 'in books love can be war-ending/...in life we hold love up to the light/ to marvel at its impotence.' Yet, as it brings us along on its author's struggle with addiction, this darkly sumptuous first collection by an award-winning poet also shows us that there can, after all, be a power and a beauty to our desires, in the strength of their flow, in their achievements and frustrations, and in the pain and joy of denying oneself for one's own sake.

These are poems of thirst: for alcohol, for other bodies, and for knowledge. They find the speaker poised between life's clatter and rattle, wanting to retreat yet hungering for more; and, though they rush forward at full tilt through a stream of reflections, memories and emotions, they are never simply indulgent. This refreshingly honest and often breathtaking addition to the canon of addiction literature will carry readers with it just as the poet is carried, and leave behind indelible images of an existence richly felt.