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Calling a Wolf a Wolf

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  2,367 ratings  ·  340 reviews
"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

This 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
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Paperback, 89 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Alice James Books
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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Roxane
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Whitney Atkinson
This was gorgeous and haunting. Even when I didn't understand exactly what Kaveh was trying to say, the phrasing was so delicate and articulate that I couldn't help but stop and ponder the words. I read these poems aloud to several of my friends to bask in their glory, and I can't wait to get a physical copy so I can underline my favorite lines, which was usually several per poem. Highly recommend!
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Lauren
Shelves: poetry, hoopla, read2019
These poems are full of desire and alcoholism, identity and guilt, God and words. I love his use of space on the page because it makes you take a pause along with him.

Some of my favorites are

Do You Speak Persian?

Some Boys Aren't Born They Bubble

Desunt Nonnulla

Thirstiness is Not Equal Division

River of Milk

God

So Often the Body Becomes a Distraction

(I read this from a print copy via interlibrary loan but it is available in Hoopla, if you have access.)
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Lucy Dacus
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the best poetry books I've ever read.
Ken
Oct 23, 2017 rated it liked it
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 on
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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.
Lauren
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
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Kathleen
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
"Like the belled cat's // frustrated hunt, my offer to improve myself / was ruined by the sound it made."
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
"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 bre
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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 ...more
Athena Lathos
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Liz Janet
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
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
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Catherine
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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.
Namrata
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
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
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Avery Guess
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, poetry
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 / ...more
Ronnie Stephens
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
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Ace Boggess
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Paige Pagnotta
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, favorites, poetry
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
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Yuni Chang
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poems
i watched a college talk kaveh akbar gave on youtube and he described coming to poetry like the sky coming apart and an angel trumpeting, you’re a poet. like when mitski picked up a guitar and knew she was doomed. imagine writing with such tenderness. look at what i’ve underlined, “their mouths were little pleasure portals for taking in grape leaves cloudberries the fingers of lovers”, “an eccentricity of our species like blushing, gold teeth, and life after children,” a wild lotus bursting into ...more
Darryl Suite
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hands down, the best poetry collection I've ever read. Absolutely gorgeous.
James
Nov 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-poetics
I appreciate that, within this book, Akbar can include a poem as figurative and narrative as "Learning to Pray" and follow it up with a poem as surreal and dissociative as "Being in This World Makes Me Feel like a Time Traveler." The former poem paints a beautiful, realistic scene of a boy admiring his father in prayer: "I knew only that I wanted / to be like him, / that twilit strip of father // mesmerizing as the bluewhite Iznik tile / hanging in our kitchen, worshipped / as the long faultless ...more
John Madera
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sohum
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
this is a very good book of poems. i liked especially the ones about god and the body.
Alejandra Oliva
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book filled my heart all the way up. God and bodies and becoming better.
Adri
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, poetry
Incredible.
Alarie
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Akbar’s poetry is fresh, inventive, and complex – sometimes more complex than I usually enjoy. I love it any way. After rereading my favorite poems again before writing my review, I love it even more. Akbar moved to the U.S. with his family as a little boy and says he has forgotten much of his Persian, yet his writing still reflects his culture and elements of Middle Eastern literature. He’s also witty, loves words, and is willing to share his vulnerability and struggles with us (some of my favo ...more
Jordan
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
“it’s hard to remember your ribs connect to your backbone / until the chill in your chest reaches around for your spine”

poems of youth, longing for love, an outsider, being ok with death, a world with or without God, alcoholism. Kaveh Akbar’s writing is so tender & personal. each line had me gripping for the next. i can’t believe this is a debut collection, it’s gorgeous! it’s another poetry book that i will be recommending all the time.

a few of my favorite poems from the collection: Milk, Port
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Dan
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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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Tori (InToriLex)
Good collection about addiction and alienation
Review to Come
Miles
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Let me first say that this is a book of poems that, even after reading once through, each poem at least twice, I have not spent the time with it that it commands and deserves. It is entirely possible that, after another 3 or 4 complete readings, this could be a "5-star poetry" collection, for whatever that's worth.

Much more importantly, is how deft Akbar is with imagery. The questions and complications he poses and introduces about grief, loss, addiction, parentage, identity are all cocooned in
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KAVEH AKBAR's poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Tin House, PBS NewsHour, A Public Space, Guernica, Boston Review, and elsewhere. He is a 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. He is also the founder and editor of Divedapper, a home for dialogues with v ...more

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