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Writers Forum: Calling a poet a poet

by Nicholas Mazur - CampusTalk Editor
Wed, Mar 28th 2018 12:00 am

The great thing about the Writers Forum, and honestly people in general, is that you never know what you’re going to get. If you were to read Kaveh Akbar’s poetry, you would certainly build up the idea of a somber, introspective and introverted individual. However, that is not the person you would find out he is, by any stretch of the imagination. Akbar, the subject of the most recent Writers Forum, was anything but somber in his demeanor. 

Upon walking into the classroom to speak with the Writer’s Craft class, his eyes instantly lit up with excitement at the students present.

Akbar was happy and enthusiastic to answer all of the questions he could that the students had about his poetry, as well as himself in general. Students asked Akbar not just about the poetry itself, but also about Akbar’s personality and his life, and how that feeds back into his poetry. 

The form of poetry is more directly personal than that of prose or nonfiction at times, and informs much of what one’s poetry will become. Akbar, as in his poetry, was more than willing to open up about his life, his father and his issues with addiction to alcohol and his recovery. 

Akbar commented on his life as a poet before and after addiction: “When I was in active addiction, I called myself a poet, I was happy to tell people that I was a poet, but I really didn’t do much poeting,” Akbar said. “I didn’t spend any a** in chair time.”

Akbar’s poetry delves deep into his intimate issues with addiction, and his origins in Iran and with Islam. The poetry of Akbar is careful and as Akbar commented, reflects his addictive personality, trading the addiction of alcohol for an addiction to poetry. 

Yet Akbar maintained a relaxed, extroverted attitude towards both the Writers Forum class as well as the audience later in the New York Room for his reading.

Director of the Writers Forum this semester, Anne Panning gave an appropriately long introduction to Akbar, who has a deep passion and devotion with the world of poetry already, despite his young age. 

“Despite a busy schedule, Akbar is constantly on Twitter, promoting other poets’ work,” Panning said.

The reading that Akbar gave revealed yet another layer to the poet and his poetry. His voice and mannerisms were one thing, and his reading of his poetry another thing entirely. As soon as he began to read the first poem Akbar transformed, his body would writhe up and down, his legs and body stretching up and down as if he could not stand still. 

His voice too changed, extending and turning into a sort of lament or gentle wail. It is often true that a poet will give their poem a new dimension when they read it aloud themselves, but this reading was unlike any other in terms of such a deep, interesting layer of this poetry being revealed through its creator.

Yet despite these intense moments of Akbar’s reading, he still had the audience in a relaxed enjoyable mood, cracking small jokes in between his poems to break up the intensity of his reading. Akbar read poetry from his book, “Calling a Wolf a Wolf,” as well as some new poems that he had been working on. 

Akbar, besides being a poet himself, also runs a website called Divedapper where he interviews poets of all walks of life. Akbar has a deep love of poetry and almost all poets. 

This was something that did not come out in words from him directly, but in other ways. Like many poets, he was quick to pull up quotes from other poets like Dickinson. However, Akbar was also eager to interact with any poet he could find. 

During his reading he asked if there were any poets in the audience, commenting on phenomenon amongst poets, the tendency to focus all your excitement on your most recent work rather than your more polished and veteran pieces. Akbar clearly loved poetry and wanted to share that excitement with as many people as possible. 



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