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Zell Visiting Writers Series pres.

Craft Lecture: Exploring the Revelatory Break

Poet Kaveh Akbar, Zell Visiting Writers Series

Kaveh Akbar Kaveh Akbar
Kaveh Akbar
In his A Year With Swollen Appendices, Brian Eno talks about experiencing the crack in a blue’s singer’s voice or the static of a grainy film as being “the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.” If we accept as American writers that our medium, the English language, is one of the deadliest colonial weapons ever invented, then its breaking becomes a political urgency. How do we undermine our language’s inherent corrosiveness, turn a violent technology against itself to speak to things—doubt, sex, identity, justice, rage—it would rather us leave unspoken? This craft lecture will look at writers—including Robert Hayden, Jean Valentine, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Jos Charles—who use revelatory breaks in idiom, form, and syntax to render with clarity what is too urgent, too momentous, for mere rhetorical speech. We will then apply those techniques to our own imaginings of what might be possible outside the inherited strictures of our inherently imperialist medium.


Kaveh Akbar's debut book of poetry, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017; Penguin UK, 2018), boldly confronts addiction and the path of recovery— traversing faith, the self, and the constant battle of alcoholism and sobriety.

Akbar is also the author of a chapbook, Portrait of the Alcoholic (Sibling Rivalry, 2017) and the recipient of the Levis Reading Prize, Pushcart Prize, Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. Born in Tehran, Iran, he teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College and Warren Wilson.

Kaveh founded Divedapper, a home for dialogues with the most vital voices in American poetry. With Sarah Kay and Claire Schwartz, he writes a weekly column for the Paris Review called "Poetry RX." Previously, he ran The Quirk, a for-charity print literary journal. He has also served as Poetry Editor for BOOTH and Book Reviews Editor for the Southeast Review. Along with Gabrielle Calvocoressi, francine j. harris, and Jonathan Farmer, he starred on All Up in Your Ears, a monthly poetry podcast. His poems appear in The New Yorker, Poetry, PBS NewsHour, The New Republic, Best American Poetry, The New York Times, and elsewhere. His next work, Pilgrim Bell, is forthcoming 2021 (Graywolf).

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