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The Write Question is a weekly literary program hosted by Lauren Korn that features authors from the American West—and beyond—including James Lee Burke, Kate Lebo, Anne Helen Petersen, Robert Wrigley, Jess Walter, Stephen Graham Jones, Barry Lopez, Hoa Nguyen, Maggie Shipstead, Elissa Washuta, and others.

Making Shapes From Silence: Kaveh Akbar’s ‘Pilgrim Bell’

Kaveh Akbar
Kaveh Akbar

This week, Lauren speaks with poet Kaveh Akbar, whose sophomore poetry collection, Pilgrim Bell, empties the self of the self — of one’s nation, or nations, of one’s family, of one’s knowledge — leaving only one’s hollowed, and hallowed, body. An early review of Pilgrim Bell states, “The poetry of Kaveh Akbar reminds you that the body is a temple and that the most astounding shit happens in temples.” Yes. Pilgrim Bell is astounding.

About Kaveh:

Kaveh Akbar's poems appear in The New Yorker, Paris Review, The New York Times, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. He is the author of two books of poetry — Pilgrim Bell (Graywolf 2021) and Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James 2017) — and the editor of The Penguin Book of Spiritual Verse: 100 Poets on the Divine.

Born in Tehran, Iran, Kaveh teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph and Warren Wilson college. Currently, he serves as Poetry Editor for The Nation.

Kaveh Akbar recommends:

Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip (Wesleyan University Press)

Headwaters by Ellen Bryant Voigt (W. W. Norton & Company)

No One Is Talking About This (Riverhead Books)

The Luminous Republic and Such Small Hands by Andrés Barba (Granta Books)

A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley (Vintage Books)

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

First Love by Ivan Turgenev (Penguin Random House)

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Vintage Books)

Lauren Korn recommends:

Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books) and Pilgrim Bell, of course (Graywolf Press), by Kaveh Akbar

Magdalene by Marie Howe (W. W. Norton & Company)

Heaven’s Thieves by Sue Sinclair (Brick Books)

Space Struck by Paige Lewis (Sarabande Books)

The New World by Kelly Schirmann (Black Ocean)