Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar

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...

Title:Calling a Wolf a Wolf
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Edition Language:English

Calling a Wolf a Wolf Reviews

  • Alejandra Oliva

    This book filled my heart all the way up. God and bodies and becoming better.

  • Book Riot Community

    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 Attig

    from Buy, Borrow, Bypass: Second Book Edition:

  • Roxane

    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.

  • Kathleen

    "Like the belled cat's // frustrated hunt, my offer to improve myself / was ruined by the sound it made."

  • Ace Boggess

    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 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.

    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.

  • Ellie

    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.

  • Liz Janet

    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.

    -Soot

    Yet 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. 

    - Do You Speak Persian?

    An entertaining read, but much like the previously mentioned book, perhaps read first from the library before buying. 

  • Ken

    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

    .

    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

    .

    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!

  • anna (readingpeaches)

    easily one of the best poetry collections i've read this year. it's so very 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)

    easily one of the best poetry collections i've read this year. it's so very 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)

  • John Madera

    Kaveh Akbar's

    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

    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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