Book Recommendation: Calling a Wolf a Wolf

 In Alcohol Abuse & The Arts

by Kaveh Akbar

Poetry About Alcoholism

Kaveh Akbar’s stunning book of poetry, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, is a fresh and personal look at alcoholism. We need more books that address addiction, depression, and what is between. Not only alcoholism, though, the book exposes a greater context of life and struggle that any person might relate to. Just published in 2017, the book has already received a lot of attention.

The poet himself, a mere 29 years old (born in 89), has accomplished a lot in that time. He has earned a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Ph. D. in Creative Writing. He is the founding editor of Divedapper, an interview website. Kaveh was a recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenburg Fellowship. He won the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from The Poetry Society of America. He also won a Pushcart prize for a poem, Desunt Nonnula, which is in the book.

Addiction Swallowed Into You

The poem which derives the book’s title, “Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient),” describes a process which is so familiar to many people who suffer from addiction. This is a process of transformation into the “coldness” held within. Kaveh writes “thinking if I called a wolf a wolf I might dull its fangs” and then “one day I awoke and it was fully inside me both of us ruined and unrecognizable.”

This merging is related to two coins “crushed into one” on a train track—identity obliterated. Not only is Kaveh’s portrayal of alcoholism and the grueling task of recovery powerfully told, but it reaches out to a suffering population.

So many of these poems speak to depression and ideologies of hopelessness. Currently, there are millions of Americans with untreated depression—many of them substance abusers. Self-medicating for depression or another co-occurring disorder is a very big theme in addiction and this book reveals the tender and anxiously personal side of addition.

A Book for Poetry Readers
and Addicts Alike

This book allows ‘normies’ into the worlds of addiction and recovery, as well as the emotional bodies that come along. Simultaneously, it reaches back toward people who are wounded with addiction or working through recovery.

Any poet or lover of poetry would get a lot out of this book. Yet, it is accessible to those who may not have studied literature but are familiar with the disease of addiction.

If you are in recovery and looking for a fantastic book that you can relate to, please check this one out. Killer poems from a fantastic human who has overcome much in life and pushed forward into massive success. He is an inspiration to alcoholics still suffering, just now getting sober, and long into recovery.

On Recovery from Alcoholism

In the beginning, recovery is often a frustrating and painful process, but one well worth it. In the last lines of the book, Kaveh writes “the boat I am building/will never be done.” This is a life long work and effort, but recovery provides the life inherent. He also writes “I weep openly at obnoxious/beauty,” expressing the surprising joy and happiness he has uncovered in his own life.

The sweetest part of the book, in my personal opinion, is how inherently therapeutic the writing of it must have been. Writing has long been an established tool for therapeutic treatment. As a poet myself, and someone who works in recovery, this is such a wonderful display of the power that writing and the arts can have in recovery.

For anyone possibly going through the throes of alcohol addiction, there are resources for you. Call (877) 670-8451 to speak with someone who can help you find those resources and make a plan.

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