PODCAST

Episode 228: Kaveh Akbar

BY MEGAN LABRISE • August 10, 2021

Kaveh Akbar tells us all his thoughts on God in the poems of ‘Pilgrim Bell.’

Kaveh Akbar tells us all his thoughts on God in the poems of ‘Pilgrim Bell.’

On this week’s episode, sponsored by Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn from 75 Years of Letters and Conversations With Kids (Highlights Press, Aug. 10), poet Kaveh Akbar discusses Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf, Aug. 3), a stunning, visceral poetry collection contending with God, embodiment, legibility, profanity, and praise.

Akbar is the author of a previous collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, and the editor of The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 100 Poets on the Divine; he teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph and Warren Wilson colleges. And he is the first poet to join us on Fully Booked to discuss a book of poetry, as opposed to a work of fiction or nonfiction.

In the New Yorker, Andrew Chan had this to say about Pilgrim Bell: “Akbar is exquisitely sensitive to how language can function as both presence and absence. In his most recent collection, ‘Pilgrim Bell’ (Graywolf), words assume physical, palpable form—as reverberations in the mouth and ear—but can just as easily take on a spectral aura, reminding us of worlds and selves no longer within reach.…[T]hese poems ask what meaning can be found—or made—through partial revelation, in a world so often defined by misunderstandings: with others, with God, with ourselves.’”

Akbar and host Megan Labrise discuss celebrating Pilgrim Bell’s publication; how to speak the title; how he responds to the notion of being seen as an authority on poetry (or anything else); God and gender; the ghazal; the rigidity/flexibility of poetic form; Megan’s first sonnet; the importance of the element of surprise in art; and much more.

Then editors Vicky Smith, Laura Simeon, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick join with their weekly reading recommendations.

 

Editorspicks:

I Can Help by Reem Faruqi, illus. by Mikela Prevost (Eerdmans)

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love With the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland (Simon & Schuster)

The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden by Peter Bergen (Simon & Schuster)

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco/HarperCollins)

 

Thanks to our advertisers this week:

Furious: Sailing Into Terror by Jeffrey James Higgins

A Blind Eye by David Jackson Ambrose

God*s Will: Based on a True Story by Matthew Echan

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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