Literal Magic: An Interview with Poet Kaveh Akbar
by Christopher Locke
Poet Kaveh Akbar understands what’s at stake: as a recovering alcoholic/addict, he knows his current reality as one of today’s most exciting voices in contemporary American poetry could just as easily not have been. Life is about choices. Simple as that. And Kaveh decided, no, he knew, in order to start living he had to choose to abandon those things which subtracted from life. And he knew moving forward he could only live one way: honestly. This truth is evident in the astounding poems which make up his first chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic. Searing and painful, hypnotic and surreal, his poems also find room for the sensual and the abundant; Kaveh praises living both as a spiritual being and a physical one. But the wolf is always present, and he knows that too. I spoke to Kaveh by phone on a dreary day in February from my office in upstate New York. But Kaveh’s genuine kindness, his thoughtful intelligence, and his love of language and of living—really, of magic—made everything a bit brighter that day.