Paperback Price: $16.95
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938584-67-1

Selected Poem


None of my friends want to talk
about heaven. How there is this eternity
and the one for those
more clerical with their faith.
I spend hours each week
saying “I can’t hear you”
into a phone and courting the affections
of neighborhood cats, yet
somehow never find time to burn the thigh
of an ox or a stack of twenties. Thought,

penetrate my cloud of unknowing.
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.

Calling a Wolf a Wolf

A 2017 NPR Best Book of the Year

A 2017 Library Journal Best Book of the Year

A 2017 Entropy Magazine Best Book of the Year

A 2017 The Coil Best Book of the Year

A 2017 Sundress Publications Best Book of the Year

A 2017 Indianapolis Monthly Best Book of the Year

A 2017 Largehearted Boy Best Book of the Year

A 2017 Volume 1 Brooklyn Best Book of the Year

A 2017 Interview Best Book of the Year

September 2017

“A breathtaking addition to the canon of addiction literature, Akbar’s poetry confronts the pain and joy in denying oneself for the sake of oneself…Akbar’s poems offer readers, religious or not, a way to cultivate faith in times of deepest fear.”
Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

“…Akbar proves what books can do in his exceptional debut, which brings us along on his struggle with addiction, a dangerous comfort and soul-eating monster he addresses boldly…”
Library Journal, STARRED review

“…Akbar is a sumptuous, remarkably painterly poet.”
—Benjamin Voight, The Kenyon Review

“Akbar’s poems—which explore addiction and arrested development and the starts and stops of desire—are psychic travelogues that are tiny and expansive at once.”
The Atlantic Magazine

“Akbar’s poems—which explore addiction and arrested development and the starts and stops of desire—are psychic travelogues that are tiny and expansive at once.”
—John Green, The Wall Street Journal

“Particularly in this time where addiction is destroying whole communities of people, especially youth communities, Akbar’s collection provides a beacon through a nightmare, and a salve for the wounded.”
Fork & Page

“In [Akbar’s] speaker’s voice, language is held in tension, and the blend of familiar and strange imagery strikes emotional high notes again and again.”
Stirring Lit

“[Calling a Wolf a Wolf] is not a book asking for forgiveness, but rather a book about the slow and complicated process of forgiving and being forgiven.”
—Drizzle Review

“Akbar writes with frank and necessary transparency about the nature of addiction, the ball-and-chain drag of it, the strange and painful want for the shackle the speaker is simultaneously working so hard to unclasp.”
—Southern Humanities Review

“Akbar’s alchemy of remembering and forgetting maps a roving, rich, and sometimes violent search for self.”
Boston Review

“[Akbar] demonstrates with otherworldly imagery that those who suffer possess an astonishing sensitivity to beauty, able to find it in even the saddest places. Indeed, Calling a Wolf a Wolf does precisely that.”
Fields Magazine

“With electric tempo, Calling a Wolf a Wolf moves swiftly to execute awesome feats of language, leaving our perception of the world marvelously warped in its wake.”

“The body becomes more than mystical in [Calling a Wolf a Wolf], as the boundaries between flesh and world are not merely blurred, but shattered—bodies are thrown upon all the sharp crooked edges of life and Akbar diligently records every detail of the aftermath. . .”
Frontier Poetry

“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.”
The Coil

“Akbar’s poems are liminal rides, earnest and authentic considerations of what it truly means to exist in this world.”
The Millions

“Kaveh Akbar’s highly-anticipated debut is bold and deeply personal. He takes us on a journey through his mind, confronting addiction, battling alcoholism, fighting for control, and keeping the course on the road to recovery.”
Hello Giggles

“Here, in his forthcoming Calling a Wolf a Wolf, more than any other lens of identity, the alcoholic steps into the spotlight. But the genius is his allowing all the many cultures that are contained and challenged within the identifier of addict to play well together. In this way gender, sexuality, ethnicity even, are subverted, bypassed, and somehow also honored.”
VQR Online

“This debut collection 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.”
The Rumpus

“Akbar has what every poet needs: the power to make, from emotions that others have felt, memorable language that nobody has assembled before.”
—Steph Burt, The Yale Review

“Kaveh Akbar’s poems are packed in salt, his language a wild arrangement of brine dredged from the pool of consciousness ensconced in a personal anguish, poured through the filter of this world…”
Poetry International

“This highly anticipated debut boldly confronts addiction and traces the strenuous path of recovery. Akbar details craving, control, the battle for sobriety, and the questioning of the self and its instincts within the context of this constant fight.”
—Publishers Weekly

“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 Howe, Second Childhood

“You can open this stunning debut, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, anywhere and find the critical tenderness that permeates Kaveh Akbar’s work. The work here means to go out on limbs, be it to fling blossoms, chew fireflies, or to push old nests into the river once the rearing is done. There is an engagement here with faith that extends beyond religion. The poet engages the Wolf in much the same way as creator, whom he tells us “loves the hungry more than the full.” Akbar’s poems are as reverent and irreverent in the face of addiction as they are in the search for self. The poems have as much audacity as humility, a rare mix of openness in a time of flinching anxiety.”
—francine j. harris

“Kaveh Akbar has evolved a poetics that (often) suggests the infinite within each object, gesture, event. The smallest thing in these poems pushes one up against something intractable and profound. Surface and depth constantly turn into each other. Narrative, the dilemmas of personal history and anguish are handled with equal sophistication. “Odd, for an apocalypse to announce itself with such bounty.” This is bounty, an intensely inventive and original debut.”
—Frank Bidart

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

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