Pilgrim Bell: Poems

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Kaveh Akbar Refuses to Flatten His Poetry


At the Rumpus, Kaveh Akbar discusses his newest poetry collection, Pilgrim Bell, and why he avoids giving literal explanations for his work. “To reduce a poem to a purely autobiographical, experiential reading feels limiting to me,” Akbar explains. “To reduce a poem to an ‘aboutness’ seems limiting to me. The poet Allen Grossman said, ‘A poem is about a thing the way a cat is about a house.’ I always appreciated that. When people ask me things like, ‘Did that really happen?’ everything in my poems has happened to me, even if it occurred in language. But no, I’ve never literally had my nose torn from my face and set in a bowl. That just doesn’t seem like an interesting way to talk about poetry. In fact, it seems antithetical to the spirit of what my favorite poems do.”

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