ARTicle Magazine

This Reading Life: Kaveh Akbar

Kaveh Akbar · 01 November 2018

By his books we will know Iranian-American poet, Kaveh Akbar.

Kaveh Akbar

Image: Hieu Minh Nguyen


See Iranian-American poet Kaveh Akbar at Wellington's LitCrawl, 8 – 11 November and in Christchurch on 6 November.

The first book to capture my imagination was ...

Kathy Acker’s Don Quixote. Other books had certainly enamored me, but reading Acker felt subversive and wild in a way I hadn’t yet experienced in art.

Do Quixote Kathy Acker

The books and/or other writing that saw me through childhood were ...

Everything. My mother would go to the library and bring back a stack of seemingly arbitrarily selected books—a biography of Elgin Baylor, a book about bonsai, Far Side comics, Of Mice and Men, a book about pterodactyls, a physics text. It was a sort of proto-internet—I’d just “surf” from book to book to book. 


The character in a book I most wanted to be as a child was ...

Matilda.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

The book I studied at school that has stayed with me most is ...

Paradise Lost.

 

The author I am most likely to binge-read is ...

Toni Morrison or Nicholson Baker.


The book I am most likely to press on a friend is ...

Maybe Borges’ Ficciones, or Ellen Doré Watson’s Adelia Prado translations. 

Ficciones

The book I most wish someone would write is ...

The one I’m working on. 


The book I keep meaning to get around to reading but somehow never do is ...

I still haven’t looked at our wedding guestbook—I think now we should probably save it for a special occasion.


The book I have reread the most is ...

Heather Christle’s The Difficult Farm.

Difficult Farm

The newspapers, magazines and blogs I can't do without are ...

Poetry Magazine, The New Yorker, The Ringer, askvic.us, American Poetry Review.


Bookmark, scrap of paper or turning down the corner of the page?

Yes.

 

The first 50 pages or bust? Or always to the bitter end?

With poetry, till the bitter end. With prose, often not even the first 50.

 

The book I am always on the lookout for in secondhand shops is ...

Outdated almanacs, old collections of trivia, books of famous quotations.  


The character in a book I'd most like to meet is ...

Rumi. Oh, also, Lisa Simpson is a character in those Bongo Simpsons comics, can I say her too? 

Lisa Simpson

A line of writing I can recite from memory is ...

My partner and I like to take long walks and memorize poems. I’m not very good at it, but Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” is one I’ve retained pretty firmly. 

 

My favourite 19th-century book is ...

Does the collected poems of Emily Dickinson count? 

 

My favourite 20th-century book is ...

Too big a question. Hayden’s American Journal, Carson’s Autobiography of Red, or Michael Hamburger’s translations of Paul Celan, maybe. 

 

My favourite contemporary writers are ...

Too many to list. You can get a pretty good idea by reading down the people I’ve been able to interview for Divedapper!

 

Book/s currently by the side of my bed is/are ...

I’m working on putting together an anthology for Penguin Classics called Writing the Divine, so the books that are literally next to my bed right now are tied to my research for that—Jane Hirshfield’s Women in Praise of the Sacred, Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris’ The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, and Sri Swami Satchidananda’s The Living Gita.


Kaveh Akbar is an award-winning poet and author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times and the Guardian.

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