Kaveh Akbar on Getting Sober and the Supernatural Language of Writing
In Conversation with Jordan Kisner on the Thresholds Podcast
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the new essay collection, Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
In this episode, Kaveh Akbar talks to Jordan about the process of getting sober and using poetry to help him save his own life.
From the episode:
Kaveh Akbar: Even the most skeptical writers in the world, the most feet-on-the-ground writers in the world, talk about the process of writing by using language like “the time just flew by, the hours just flew by,” or they’ll say “such and such phrase just came to me.” They’ll mine the language of the supernatural to talk about what’s happening. And I’m not the most skeptical anything. I’m as confused as anyone about what anything is, and I’m open to pretty much any explanation. There’s something that happens in the writing that isn’t just my intelligence, that isn’t just my knowing or my ego. There’s some other thing.
Kaveh Akbar’s poems appear in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Paris Review, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. His second full-length volume of poetry, Pilgrim Bell, will be published by Graywolf in August 2021. His debut, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, is out now with Alice James in the US and Penguin in the UK. He is also the author of the chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic, published in 2016 by Sibling Rivalry Press. In 2022, Penguin Classics will publish a new anthology edited by Kaveh: The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 100 Poets on the Divine. In 2020 Kaveh was named Poetry Editor of The Nation. The recipient of honors including multiple Pushcart Prizes, a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship, and the Levis Reading Prize, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College and Warren Wilson. In 2014, Kaveh founded Divedapper, a home for dialogues with the most vital voices in American poetry. With Sarah Kay and Claire Schwartz, he wrote a weekly column for the Paris Review called “Poetry RX.”