What I appreciate about Akbar's poetry is his open-handed posture towards mystery and the moments in life that hover just beyond or outside of language. Nowhere is this more evident than in Pilgrim Bell, his second collection, with poems that are devotional, indebted to wonder, furious at all forms of empire, and unafraid to say "the soul". Recommended By Alexa W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Kaveh Akbar's exquisite, highly anticipated follow-up to Calling a Wolf a Wolf
With formal virtuosity and ruthless precision, Kaveh Akbar's second collection takes its readers on a spiritual journey of disavowal, fiercely attendant to the presence of divinity where artifacts of self and belonging have been shed. How does one recover from addiction without destroying the self-as-addict? And if living justly in a nation that would see them erased is, too, a kind of self-destruction, what does one do with the body's question, "what now shall I repair?" Here, Akbar responds with prayer as an act of devotion to dissonance — the infinite void of a loved one's absence, the indulgence of austerity, making a life as a Muslim in an Islamophobic nation — teasing the sacred out of silence and stillness.
Richly crafted and generous, Pilgrim Bell's linguistic rigor is tuned to the register of this moment and any moment. As the swinging soul crashes into its limits, against the atrocities of the American empire, and through a profoundly human capacity for cruelty and grace, these brilliant poems dare to exist in the empty space where song lives — resonant, revelatory, and holy.
"Pilgrim Bell is a book that chooses honesty over beauty, which makes it a breathtaking text." Hanif Abdurraqib
"Very few living writers write so achingly toward God as Kaveh Akbar. Real faith, Akbar writes in Pilgrim Bell, "passes first through the body/ like an arrow"; each of the poems in this collection finds its target." Lauren Groff, The Guardian, Best Books of 2021
"[Kaveh] Akbar is exquisitely sensitive to how language can function as both presence and absence....His practice of taking language apart, and harnessing the empty space around it, makes even the most familiar words seem eerie and unexpected." The New Yorker
About the Author
Kaveh Akbar is the author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf and has received honors such as a Levis Reading Prize and multiple Pushcart Prizes. Born in Tehran, Iran, he teaches at Purdue University and in low-residency programs at Warren Wilson and Randolph Colleges.