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Book Review: Tim Wirkus’ The Infinite Future

by Sarah Leamy

The Infinite Future likes to mix its genres, stories, and narrators. Released in January 2018 by Penguin Press, Tim Wirkus’ work is a novel that is broken into two sections. There is the search for an ancient manuscript, and the manuscript itself: Two tales live within this one book.

In the first story, Danny, a Mormon student and struggling writer, joins the obsessive librarian, Sergio, and a disgraced Mormon historian, Madge, in the search for a lost text—the novel’s second story. The second half of the book is pure science fiction, a very different literary experience compared to the first part of the novel, which takes on the form of the missing text these three characters have searched for throughout their travels in Utah, California and Brazil.

The Infinite Future is laden with stories told within stories and told by narrators who often switch-off within the chapters. Often, a new voice is simply introduced by a first line of the following storyteller’s montage, which then relays another incident to the listeners. As readers are told of one tale, another emerging tale soon blends into one after another, and so on. Throughout the novel, the overall tone of the first part of The Infinite Future varies from conversational to formal, often sounding quasi-academic and tinged with a regionalism derivative of Idaho and Utah.

Within these stories, and the tales within tales within them, the settings range from the tight knit world of Mormonism to the cities and landscapes of Brazil, both richly descriptive and inviting places while with Danny, Sergio and Madge’s continuing search for the lost text.

The second half of the book is quite different, in terms of style and tone; it is the discovered manuscript, which starts off with an entirely different narrator and begins with her saying “I was emptying rat traps in our convent’s dusty under croft.” This narrator is a nun, a sensible-sounding storyteller whose voice of reason informs readers of the novel’s world being under threat. The narrative style of the manuscript reverts to Wirkus’ stylistic telling of a story within a story. This technique seems to be an element that Wirkus is happiest working in, especially given his use of spinning all these tales within tales together. Readers will be left admiring Wirkus’ ability to keep track of the many details threading the novel’s manifold genres and voices.

Tim Wirkus’ The Infinite Future may be appreciated for its original use of weaving and enjoyed as a literary-journey suited best for those who love to sit back and be told of tales marauding within tales, from a safe distance.

*Advance Reader Copies were generously provided to Vermont College of Fine Arts  literary publication, Hunger Mountain, by Bear Pond Books.

Bear Pond Books, 77 Main St, Montpelier, VT 05602 

 http://www.bearpondbooks.com

Hardcover, 390 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Penguin Press

Book Review: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill

by Cameron Finch

Fusing fantasy, horror, gothic romance, and the supernatural, the stories of Minnesota-based Kelly Barnhill host a menagerie of undead magicians, poetic corpses, haunted witches, and evasive female pirates. These stories are not set in our modern time, and yet their landscapes feel strangely familiar, as if recalling and revamping fairy tales whispered to us long ago. The stories collected in Barnhill’s newest book, Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, are at their best when the heartbreakingly bizarre is juxtaposed against quaint, domestic charm.

The name Kelly Barnhill may ring a bell due to her success in the children’s literature community last year. Her tenderly magical novel, The Girl Who Drank the Moon, won the 2017 Newbery Medal, and tells the story of a girl who is accidentally given magical powers as a baby and must wrangle her gift before others try to destroy her. Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories, published by Algonquin Books in February 2018 as a short story collection for “adult readers,” will surely appeal to young adult readers, too, or anyone who enjoys good old fantasy and magic in the same vein as Kelly Link and Neil Gaiman.

In the story, “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch,” the widow Mrs. Sorensen becomes the talk of the town when she shows up to church with an unexpected date, a Sasquatch. It is obscene, it is a scandal, and yet, Mrs. Sorensen has never looked happier in her life. You, the reader, are instantly pulled into the incredulous scene as an observer and you may even begin to doubt what you are reading! In fact, when I looked into her window the other day, I saw her around the dinner table with two dogs, one raccoon, one porcupine, one lynx, and one black bear? The priest will have a ball about that, won’t he? A bear drinking wine out of a goblet! How absurd!

Against the well-observed small town unraveling into gossip is set the depiction of a woman on the hunt for companionship and sexual pleasure. Despite its fantastical exaggerations, the aging woman’s desires and fears give weight and pathos to an otherwise quirky tale. Similarly, “The Dead Boy’s Last Poem,” the story of a girl, who obsesses to the point of starvation over poems bequeathed to her by a dead boy poet, is also a tender portrait of grief, passion and social-rule-bending.

The material is often morbid but the writing is always elegant, witty, and laced with sharp philosophical observations and sometimes startling descriptions. In “Dreadful Young Ladies,” a child riding down a slide grips the burlap sack beneath him “the way a skydiver hangs onto his defective parachute before his final bounce upon a pitiless ground.” In “Elegy for Gabrielle—Patron Saint of Healers, Whores, and Righteous Thieves,” the narrator, Gabrielle’s father, preaches truths: “To be human is to lie, after all. Our minds tell lies to our hearts and our hearts tell lies to our souls.” Confrontations with the lies we tell ourselves and the consequential results of our decisions are at the heart of many of the stories, and Barnhill has an acute eye and ear for the pleasures, pains, and confusions of being human, even in the most magical of settings.

The pièce de résistance, which takes up over one-third of the book’s real estate, is the novella “The Unlicensed Magician,” which won Barnhill the World Fantasy Award in 2016. The story introduces readers to the secret life of an invisible girl named Sparrow, who was once left for dead and can heal others’ pain in an instant. Previously sold separately as an individual story, the novella’s book jacket explains, “There were twenty magical children born that year. Nineteen, if you count the one that died. The Minister ordered that the nineteen children be shipped to the Tower to be worked and drained to nothing, and that the dead child be thrown on the rubbish heap, and never spoken of again. But the dead baby had other plans. When the half-drunk junk man witnesses the half-decayed corpse becoming a living, breathing, healthy baby, he knows at once that he must protect the child from the clutches of the Minister. Enlisting the help of the formidable egg woman and the sagacious constable, he manages to keep the existence of the child a secret. But children grow. And so does magic. And secrets long to be told.”

So goes the modern fairy tale, told in alternating chapters of a dystopian present day and a long- forgotten past of freedom and dreams. Through the unique characters’ heroism, heartbreak, and wit, Barnhill poetically reveals humanity’s hunger for language, for connection, for visibility, and for love.

In her acknowledgments, Barnhill says she finds it a miracle “that in this frenetic and bombastic and self-centered age, [there are] legions of people who can and do return to the quietness of the page.” Yet, she makes it so easy for readers to tumble headfirst into her stories, because she writes of worlds so unlike our own. There are no cell phones, traffic jams, or social media to distract her characters from living, from dying, from navigating the turbulent trials and tributaries of the places they call home. Perhaps it is this lack of distraction which enhances the magic Barnhill conjures within—the magic that happens when you are pulled into the present fully; when you are beckoned through portals and trapdoors; and flung to the far-reaching quietude of a hushed forest. Dreadful Young Ladies is where Barnhill’s stories wait to be discovered by you.

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (February 20, 2018)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616207977
  • $18.99

 

 

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VCFA’s Hunger Mountain gives a special thanks to our local branch of Bear Pond Books for providing our book reviewing staff members with Advance Reader Copies of Pre-Released titles! Montpelier’s local branch of Bear Pond Books is located on 77 Main St, Montpelier, VT 05602. Bear Pond Books’ selection is also available online: http://www.bearpondbooks.com/.

 

Book Review: Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation

by Paul Daniel Ash

The literary world has been applying the “-punk” suffix to science fiction sub-genres so frequently and for so long that it sometimes verges on self-parody. It all began with cyberpunk, a description of the 80s noir-esque SF of Bruce Sterling, Rudy Rucker, and of course William Gibson. This was soon followed by steampunk, a term which came to refer to both retrofuturistic SF and a fashion style that mashes up Victorian and post-industrial elements. In the wake of that has come biopunk, dieselpunk, nanopunk and a host of other -punks: tags for sub-genres and sub-sub-genres proliferating, spread by fans and book marketers but not always universally recognized throughout the industry.

The idea of solarpunk as a distinct genre has only emerged in the last few years. Mostly self-applied by writers of speculative eco-fiction, solarpunk has become as much a philosophical and esthetic stance as it is a term of critique. The proponents of solarpunk present to us a future that works, as much as it may still struggle with the consequences of climate change and rapacious capitalism. What, then, is there to distinguish it from techno-utopianism or post-hippie fantasies like Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia? “There’s an oppositional quality to solarpunk,” wrote Adam Flynn in 2014’s Solarpunk: Notes Toward a Manifesto. “But it’s an opposition that begins with infrastructure as a form of resistance.”

A new anthology, consisting of 19 short stories, ten poems and seven pieces of artwork, is the most recent vehicle to give voice to this nascent movement. Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation came together as the collaboration of Phoebe Wagner and Brontë Christopher Wieland, two MFA candidates in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. When they came to Iowa in 2015, as avid readers as well as writers of SF they both lamented the fact that “the environment was an antagonist” in that genre, “already destroyed to the point of no return, or simply not a consideration” (from the “Editors’ Note”). They saw in what was then a small Tumblr coterie the roots of a different kind of near-future SF. And given that near-future SF virtually always means dystopian SF these days, these writers were (to paraphrase William F. Buckley’s description of conservatives) standing athwart science fiction, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it. In 2015, there was as yet no anthology of solarpunk works in English. So, working in what little spare time was available to them as graduate students, Wagner and Wieland commissioned pieces that exemplified the qualities they were seeking, and reviewed over two hundred submissions from around the planet. They launched a successful Kickstarter to complete the project, which was published in August 2017.

The selection of short stories is as eclectic and diverse as the authors, drawing from multiple styles and languages. The masterful Daniel José Older, author of the Shadowshaper and Bone Street Rumba fantasy series, contributes “Dust,” a tale of uprising that plays with fluidity of gender and space-opera tropes to tell an ultimately hopeful story. “The Road to the Sea,” by the Israeli author and Campbell Award laureate Lavie Tidhar, is both elegiac and uplifting. “Boston Hearth Project” by T. X. Watson is an action-packed, propulsive story that imagines a near-future Occupy with augmented reality tech. Iona Sharma’s “Eight Cities” explores faith and consciousness against the backdrop of a Delhi inundated by rivers swollen as a result of a changing climate. And “Speechless Love” by Yilun Fan (translated from Mandarin by S. Qiouyi Lu) tells the story of a relationship between two “stratospherians” in a future where “atmosphere colonization replaced space colonization.”

The inclusion of poetry and visual art in the anthology emphasizes the vision of solarpunk as a movement rather than merely a literary genre. The language in the poems runs the gamut from the technospeak of “Strandbeest Dreams” by Lisa Bradley and José M. Jimenez, to the more traditional SF imagery in “light star sail bound“ by Joel Nathanael, to the flowing lyricism of “The Seven Species” by Aleksei Valentin. The artworks, like the poetry interspersed throughout the anthology, are intricately detailed and somewhat reminiscent of art nouveau: a movement not entirely dissimilar in its evocation of the natural world, its ease with the romantic, and its insistence on being of its historical moment.

In their Note, the anthology’s editors emphasize the importance they placed on including a diversity of voices. Solarpunk is very much a global movement: indeed, the first anthology of solarpunk fiction was published in Brazil in 2012 (with a Kickstarter currently underway to publish an English translation). The true genius of this work lies in its essence as a community project, as a labor of love by writers, artists and editors. It takes more than a buzzy label to make a movement, and the energy of these student-editors – coupled with the outpouring of interest and involvement across national boundaries – suggest that solarpunk may be finding resonance in this often-fearful age.

 

Publisher: Upper Rubber Boot Books (August 29, 2017)

ISBN 978-1937794750, 254 pages

$13.99

 

My Darling Detective by Howard Norman

by Sarah Leamy

The novel opens with Jacob Rigolet, a young man who’s employed by a wealthy art collector, sitting at an auction in Halifax. The photograph by Robert Capa’s Death on a Leipzig Balcony is placed up for bidding, but before anyone can say anything, his mother, Nora, walks up the aisle and throws a bottle of ink across the famous image. Jacob had thought his mother, Nora, was “safely tucked away” at the Nova Scotia Rest Home. Jacob’s fiancé, Martha, is the lead investigator, the “interlocutrix,” and she discovers that Jacob’s father is not who he’d thought.

Norman plays lightly with classic film noir with a mix of romance and an old-fashioned crime story with snappy dialogue and a certain melancholy that we expect from him. The noir genre is suspense driven, and in My Darling Detective there is a subtle yet mounting sense of impending threat. The language remains simple as we’d expect from the film noir but is less lyrical than usual for Norman.

A cold case of two unsolved murders dating back to 1945 is lead by Detective Tides and Hogdon, archetypal and clichéd bad cop and good cop. Their working relationship and dialogue is another nod to the 1940s, with a back and forth of one liners, creating a lighter tone than we usually expect from Norman, but it was one that didn’t always work, The two detectives were too much of a stereotype for the novel’s realism yet they grew on me, and the image of one of the detectives singing and dancing during a tense interrogation sticks with me. These supposedly hard-boiled and cynical detectives ended up playing well in contrast to the gentle innocence of Jacob, a bookish and somewhat lost narrator: “Look Jake, sorry if my sense of irony might not be as refined as yours,” Detective Hogdon said.

Howard Norman brings his usual preoccupations of Nova Scotia, WWII, photographs and libraries but with a lighter touch this time, yet the overlying atmosphere is again melancholic. Whimsical and bizarre events such as two children born in the library are held in check with the emotionally raw and realistic letters from the trenches in 1945 Germany, from Nora’s husband, the man in Capa’s photograph, Bernard Rigolet.

Norman’s works are often rich with historical details that give a depth and weight to the narratives. They are rooted in reality such as here when we learn that the “Region of Delay” was “a term that applies to journeys, not always perilous ones, but journeys at seas.” Bernard Rigolet writes letters to his wife from the 1940s, describing the journey from Canada to Europe to fight in the WWII. One of the other soldiers, a Greek and philosophical man, warned them that they “have to have some perspective, some philosophy about what we’re entering into or else it’s all going to seem useless.” Yet war is hard to understand or rationalise and through Rigolet’s letters we witness his slow decline into violence and the inevitability of terror during combat.

Norman is a master of atmosphere and despite the levity of the parallel detective stories, My Darling Detective has these touches of such realism that we, the readers, leave with a stronger sense of the anti-Semitism of the era, the threat of violence, and the trauma of war on a personal level.

Norman’s signature setting of Nova Scotia is less well-described in this novel, without enough of the physical context; it’s as if Norman trusts us to have read his other novels and that we remember and can imagine Halifax fully. There are less sensory details than needed to bring the town and community alive.

Consistently, Norman brings to his novels the importance of books and art, of photographs, letters and libraries, and as usual he evokes those well. These themes offer a hope for humanity, implying that the arts are a sanctuary, an idea that resonates with me.

Jacob, the narrator, turns to the library as it’s familiar; he was born there, grew up there, and after his mother’s breakdown, he decides to become a librarian for mixed reasons. The Halifax Free library is his safe space during the investigations into who his biological father might be and the search into the murders of the cold case from all those years ago. Norman keeps us turning pages as we try to make sense of the various threads.

One of the images that linger with me is when Norman wrote that how feeling disjointed and unprepared can be “like when an orchestra is warming up. All those disparate sounds – oboe, violin, bassoon, French horn, tympani – you can’t imagine how it will all turn into something beautiful.”

My Darling Detective is very much the same for me: The layered plot, the clichéd touches of the ‘homage to noir’ and characters didn’t immediately grab me, persuade me to keep reading, yet I’m glad I did. The lasting impression is one of a cohesive novel, and the lives and deaths of the characters touched me. Jacob and Martha are such an odd detective and librarian couple in a world and culture unfamiliar to me except through Norman’s novels.

Where Norman will takes us next? Is this the start of a lighter body of work within the darker themes he often deals with?

Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 243 pages. $26.

 

Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker

by Ian Haight

Blackbirds in September: Selected Shorter Poems of Jürgen Becker.

Selected and Translated by Okla Elliott.

Black Lawrence Press, 2015

There was a person I sat with on grant review panels who would get in a huff over translated works that sat before him. Always there was something wrong with a translation, something missing from a poem that a translator did not get.  And so for five years, no awards were given for a certain translation contest he presided over. After a letter to the foundation sponsoring the contest, awards for translations were given for the contest’s many tiers of prizes, yielding a range of writing I hadn’t realized existed in Korean. Translation fidelity matters, but it is sometimes expressed by the mechanical cohesion of the translation, as well as unity of voice and vision.

This is not to say fidelity is less important than how well a translation works as a poem. It is to say that when reading a collection of translated poems, singular elements of an author’s style, voice, structural practices, and themes—in short, how well a poem is translated in addition to how well a collection of poetry functions mimetically—are easier to evaluate. Blackbirds in September, a collection of poems by German writer Jürgen Becker, selected and translated by Okla Elliott, is an accomplished work, rendering Becker’s voice and aesthetic vision into fluid English.

Blackbirds opens with “In the Wind” (“Im Wind”) from 1993’s Foxtrot in Erfurt Stadium (Foxtrott im Erfurter Stadion):

In the Wind

 

Blackbirds, then other voices. It doesn’t stop

when it snows, when with the snow

a newness comes that is entirely essential this morning. Or how

do you see it? I see the pear tree and how it

(the pear tree) reacts to the wind (to the

wind). This morning, yet again,

the decision fell. War between magpies and crows, only this war,

no trappings, only this clear understanding.

Yet another voice, the next commentator; it’s all about

(yet again) the whole. Are you standing

in the garden? Then you know, tsk tsk, the blackbird

warned above all else, you know, I’ll say it yet

again, in war, in the snow, in the wind.

 

Becker emphasizes the need for clarification in the language: “I see the pear tree and how it/(the pear tree)…”; “it” obviously refers to the pear tree, so clarifying the reference turns “it” into an empty semantic gesture. The “it” is forced into a kind of hollow representational repetition, unlike the recurrence of “to the wind,” which has a rhythmic value.

“Once Again” (“Nochmals”), like many of the poems in Blackbirds, enacts the mind’s search for meaning: “Too much already betrayed. Immediately and later/an eternal searching, and mostly/what’s found: the false.” What’s mostly found is the false, suggesting the potential for the discovery of truth.

In these selected poems, there is no clear indication of what that truth might be, but there is a proposal—made through opposition—of a way to peace in “Soliloquy” (“Selbstgespräch”):

                           …By the shore,

a man, soliloquizing

back and forth—that’s not how

peace is found.

 

Perhaps peace is found in the tranquil iteration of lulling syntax, as in the poem “Renaissance”:

                  Now observe the meadow, not

the photograph, the meadow.

 

The cat, no movement,

and no movement, the blackbird.

 

Rust-colored leaves below the fence.

 

Rust-colored leaves below the fence.

 

And twilight, and wild snow.

 

The quiet snow. In twilight,

the snow falls.

 

Though there is a peacefulness in this language, maybe earned through repetition of imagery, there is far less doubt in subjectivity, and so a primacy seems to be given to objective reality—an important move beyond the representational failings of language. Doubt exists, but its outcomes are clearer. “Tell Me How You’re Doing” (“Sag mir, wie es dir geht”) defines it this way:

Sometimes to smell the nearness of water, or to see

the green sky. But these are just words;

not things or experiences.

 

Finally, language comes to fulfill its practical use of portraying empirical reality and experience. The last poem in the collection, “The Year 1932” (“Jahrgang 1932”)—1932 being the year Becker was born—offers, without any skepticism or hesitation:

                                             …Buried

in the sand, my head, a tower of consciousness;

dig it out,

tracks leading to the Zeitgeist; later

delight, horror—

these are photos:

sea and sand return. Children, new

and blond, run and build in the muck.

 

I am grateful for Elliott’s choice in selecting this poem to end the collection, and for his skillful creation of these poems into English translation. Becker’s belief in reality, his faith in meaning, and his understanding that meaning can be communicated, has value, and originates in consciousness; are all affirmations of human life. These are ideas worthy of gratitude.

 

Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar

by Genevieve N. Williams

Portrait of the Alcoholic – Kaveh Akbar

Sibling Rivalry Press

2017


Kaveh Akbar in Portrait of the Alcoholic writes with such spiritual risk and honesty that we as readers are brought into the liminal spaces of language, addiction, and displacement. Sobriety is maintained through community, and empathy is written into every poem of this collection. These poems explore relationships between addict and drink, between people, cultures, and languages. From the opening poem, “Some Boys Aren’t Born They Bubble,” we are pulled in by Akbar’s wild metaphors and similes: “sometimes one will disappear into himself / like a ram charging a mirror when this happens / they all feel it.” When I ordered my copy of Portrait of the Alcoholic, I’d recently been released from probation for a DUI, was working fewer and fewer hours at the bar where I’d worked for nine years, and was easing into the realization that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. At weekly, court-mandated AA meetings, I listened to people’s stories and contributed my own. We felt collective pride when someone maintained sobriety and collective worry when another relapsed. This sense of community and shared recovery comes through Akbar’s opening poem and is maintained throughout this gorgeous collection.

Empathy is central to Portrait of the Alcoholic, as are moments of profound vulnerability. “When I wake, I ask God to slide into my head quickly before I do,” Akbar writes in the poem “Being in this World Makes Me Feel like a Time Traveler.” When the court mandated I attend AA meetings, I feared being inundated with religious dogma. That wasn’t my experience. Attending a small meditation group Saturday afternoons, I was grounded by our discussions and weekly repetition of the Serenity Prayer. We talked about spiritual fitness. We practiced mindfulness. The disease of alcoholism is tricky — Akbar beautifully articulates its complexities and the necessity of vulnerability in maintaining sobriety.

It’s not only alcoholism that these poems grapple with, it’s also immigration, language, memory, displacement, and the realities of a life lived in the margins and with resilience. These themes are woven together seamlessly in the poem “Do You Speak Persian?” Akbar writes,

I don’t remember how to say home

in my first language, or lonely, or light.

 

I remember only

delam barat tang shodeh, I miss you,

 

and shab bekheir, goodnight.

 

How is school going, Kaveh-joon?

Delam barat tang shodeh.

 

Are you still drinking?

Shab bekheir.

 

For so long every step I’ve taken

has been from one tongue to another.

From his childhood in Iran to his life in the United States, Akbar has carried not only memory but also the loss of memory, not only language but also the loss of language.

Language is also a means for resistance, for gaining control over craving. Step one of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit we were powerless over alcohol, that our lives had become unmanageable. By naming a thing, by admitting to the disease of alcoholism, there’s some power regained in an otherwise powerless situation. Akbar’s tone is tender even as it’s regretful. “I am less horrible than I could be,” he writes in the poem “Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient),”

I’ve never set a house on fire             never thrown a first-born 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 if it had a name it would have a solution             thinking if I called a wolf a wolf I might dull its fangs

Vulnerability is in this honest examination of self, an attempt to gain control of craving in its naming.

In the poem “Portrait of the Alcoholic with Craving,” Akbar writes in stanzas that zigzag across the page,

 

I’ve lost the unspendable coin I wore around

my neck that protected me from you, leaving it

bodyhot in the sheets of a tiny bed in Vermont. If you

could be anything in the world

 

you would. Just last week they found the glass eye

of a saint buried in a mountain. I don’t remember

which saint or what mountain, only

how they said the eye felt warm

 

in their palms. Do you like

your new home, tucked

away between brainfolds? To hold you

always seemed as unlikely

 

            as catching the wind in an envelope. Now

you are loudest before bed, humming like a child

    put in a corner. I don’t mind

much; I have never been a strong sleeper, and often

 

the tune is halfway lovely. Besides, if I ask you to leave

you won’t.

The poem continues this mindful attention to addiction, and is true to the experience of recovery. The addiction doesn’t go away. Here, Akbar addresses alcoholism as though it was a person, and this heightens the intimacy between alcoholic and alcoholism. We readers feel the persistence of craving, as we experience it through Akbar’s rich language and sensory detail.

As someone who has struggled in my own relationship with alcohol and alcoholics, I related to Akbar’s beautiful articulation of desperation and need, and of recovery. The willingness in these poems to express a raw vulnerability and to name an experience we often keep secret is as healing as it is artistically rewarding. Kaveh Akbar’s Portrait of the Alcoholic is a collection that sings of experience, that evokes vulnerability, and that implicitly asks us as readers to look honestly at our lives.


Kaveh Akbar’s poems appear recently or soon in The New Yorker, Poetry, Tin House, PloughsharesFIELD, Georgia Review, PBS NewsHour, Harvard Review, American Poetry Review, Narrative, The Poetry Review, AGNI, New England Review, A Public Space, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry International, Best New Poets 2016, Guernica, Boston Review, and elsewhere. His debut full-length collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, is forthcoming with Alice James Books in Fall 2017, and his chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic, is out with Sibling Rivalry Press. The recipient of a 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and currently lives and teaches in Florida. 

Kaveh founded and edits Divedapper, a home for dialogues with the most vital voices in contemporary poetry. Previously, he ran The Quirk, a for-charity print literary journal. He has also served as Poetry Editor for BOOTH and Book Reviews Editor for the Southeast Review. Along with Gabrielle Calvocoressi, francine j. harris, and Jonathan Farmer, he starred on All Up in Your Ears, a monthly poetry podcast.