A Poet Who Inspires Me

A poet who constantly inspires me (I think I’ve written about him before — probably. I write A LOT of blog posts, remember?). SO — this poet is Kaveh Akbar, and his collection of poems is Calling A Wolf A Wolf. I have no idea how this book got into my hands (maybe I stole this one, too). But legitimately, I don’t remember how I acquired this collection. I just remember how I started reading it over summer.

I instantly loved Akbar’s work — so much I followed him on twitter (LOL), researched him, got his social security number… you know, the works. What I love most about him, and something that I try to mimic in my writing (key work: try), is the subversion he constantly brings after line breaks, or when creating an image. The juxtaposition of certain words, and phrases and things that don’t/shouldn’t go together, but do in poetry, is what propels me to keep reading his work — it is exciting. There is always the unexpected — expect the unexpected while reading his work.

Last year in workshop, before I even knew Akbar existed, and before I somehow acquired his book, I encountered one of his poems — and later when I read his collection, I realized why I hung onto this poem for so long — because it was his. Last semester, in workshop, there was a student named Jasmine, and she would go ALL OUT in letters, and annotations. She would suggest poems to look at, give people entire books, and print out pages on pages of work to compare yours to, and give you inspiration. For mine, I wrote a lot about alcohol (I dropped that this year — in workshop, at least), and she printed out a poem for me called “River of Milk” — I didn’t pay attention to the author (even though it was Akbar) and I just LOVED the poem. I loved the poem so much that I looked it up online, and tabbed it in my bookmarks — it is still there, and I read it from time to time. Then, when I got Calling A Wolf A Wolf, I loved that just the same. One day over the summer, I was like “hold on, I’ve read this before what is this it sounds SO familiar” — and I whipped out my computer, and looked at my tab and my mind was BLOWN that it was the same author — Kaveh Akbar. It was crazy that Jasmine had predicted I would love his poems, and that I bought his book later was just so insane to me as a person, reader, and writer.

Overall, I love Akbar’s work — and suggest it to anyone, and everyone. I try to mimic his subversions and pairs of images. All of which are purely satisfying, and masterful to me. Please consider what started it all, River of Milk, below.

River of Milk 

bear with me      it wasn’t long ago I was brainless
lazily pulling fireflies into my teeth       chewing them
into pure light       so much of me then was nothing
I could have fit into a sugar cube      my body burned
like a barnful of feathers        nothing was on fire
but fire was on everything       the wild mustard
the rotting porch chair         a box of birth records        eventually
even scorched earth goes green       though beneath it
the dead might still luxuriate in their rage     my ancestor
was a dervish saint     said to control a thick river of dark milk
under his town        his people believed
he could have spared them a drought       they ripped him to pieces
like eagles tearing apart a snake    immediately they were filled
with remorse       instead of burying him        they buried a bag
of goat bones and azalea      my hair still carries that scent
my eyes      black milk and a snake’s flicking tongue
does this confuse you       there are so many ways to be deceived
a butcher’s thumb pressed into the scale       a strange blue dress
in a bathtub    the slowly lengthening night      I apologize
I never aimed at eloquence      I told my mother I wouldn’t live
through the year       then waited for a disaster      sitting cheerfully
on cinder blocks pulled from a drained pond      tossing
peanuts to squirrels     this is not the story she tells     hers filled
with happy myths       fizzy pistons and plummy ghosts
it’s true I suppose       you grow to love the creatures you create
some of them come out with pupils swirling       others with teeth
~ Julia xoxo