A Year in Reading: Kaveh Akbar

December 13, 2017 | 15 books mentioned 2 min read

It’s been a long 2017. So much of being a poet as I understand it is about maintaining a permeability to wonder, and that’s been difficult work in a year spent in the long shadow of a fascistic regime, a year in which the earth has grown increasingly desperate in its attempts to warn us about the damage we’re doing to it.

The (perhaps feeble ((but noble))) balm—a year of books, richer than any I can recall. It’s like the world of poetry knew we’d need it to rise up and carry us, to orient us toward our livable tomorrows. Poets are watchers, wonderers. And they have the magical ability to make us realer than we can make ourselves. Elizabeth Alexander writes: “We are of interest to one another, are we not?” I like thinking of poems as little empathy tablets, granting us access to (and compassion for) lived experiences unlike any we’ll ever know firsthand.

Here are some new books (mostly poetry, listed in no particular order) from the past year that have helped me wander and wonder from one day into the next:

covercovercoverFrank BidartHalf-Light

Anaïs DuplanMount Carmel & the Blood of Parnassus

Marwa HelalI Am Made to Leave I Am Made to Return

Traci BrimhallSaudade

covercovercoverLayli Long SoldierWhereas

Rachel McKibbensblud

Sahar Muradi[Gates]

Steph BurtAdvice from the Lights

covercovercoverMaggie SmithGood Bones

Cait Weiss OrcuttValleyspeak

Nuar AlsadirFourth Person Singular

Nicole TongHow to Prove a Theory

covercovercoverCraig Morgan TeicherThe Trembling Answers

Nicole SealeyOrdinary Beast

Danez SmithDon’t Call Us Dead

sam saxMadness

covercovercoverJavier ZamoraUnaccompanied

Marcus WickerSilencer

Alex DimitrovTogether and By Ourselves

Ruth AwadSet to Music a Wildfire

covercovercoverBill KnottSelected Poems

William BrewerI Know Your Kind

Morgan ParkerThere Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé

Carl PhillipsWild Is the Wind

covercovercoverMarie HoweMagdalene

Ghayath AlmadhounAdrenalin

Patricia Smith Incendiary Arts

Tyree DayeRiver Hymns

covercovercoverGabrielle CalvocoressiRocket Fantastic

Mai Der VangAfterland

Sarah BrowningKilling Summer

Alessandra LynchDaylily Called it a Dangerous Moment

Chen ChenWhen I Grow Up I Want to Be A List of Further Possibilities

covercovercoverAdrian MatejkaMap to the Stars

Finn MenziesBrilliant Odyssey Don’t Yearn

Eve L. EwingElectric Arches

Shane McCraeIn the Language of My Captor

covercovercoverGhassan Zaqtan (trans. by Fady Joudah) – The Silence that Remains

Franny ChoiDeath By Sex Machine

Laura KasischkeWhere Now: New and Selected Poems

Subject to Change: Trans Poetry & Conversation

covercovercoverMegan StielstraThe Wrong Way to Save Your Life

Hanif AbdurraqibThey Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

Melissa FebosAbandon Me

Ta-Nehisi CoatesWe Were Eight Years in Power

covercovercoverAlissa NuttingMade for Love

Roxane GayHunger

Kevin YoungBunk

Wendy XuPhrasis

More from A Year in Reading 2017

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

is the founding editor of Divedapper. His poems appear recently in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New York Times, The Nation, and elsewhere. His first book, Calling a Wolf a Wolf, is just out with Alice James in the U.S. and Penguin in the U.K. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and teaches in the MFA program at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA program at Randolph College.