I’ve been spending some time with Kaveh Akbar this week. I usually pick at whatever he has out there in the world, but I’ve finally dived into Calling a Wolf a Wolf after buying it for a friend (and buying myself a copy, of course).
The collection explores Kaveh’s escape form addiction, and as such has the kind of pleading that he does throughout a great deal of his poems. Many poems express a wish to escape, and also the equality of perspective that comes from this his addiction.
He explores how understanding the rot at the centre of human experience levels things out. Through understanding that humanity is a kind of barely twitching carcass of whims, we understand the equality with nature and the freedom that brings. It cuts through the usual layers of society and class that we get caught up with. It is without pantomime (although, of course, still a little camp every now and again).
It’s not that Calling a Wolf a Wolf isn’t performative in some way, but it feels personal in a way that a lot of collections don’t. It’s a cliche to even say that, but this is the refreshing part of it — that every kind of post-modern edge that you apply to the surface of the book slips away, dangerously.
“Are you going to finish that tongue my love? / I’ll chew it up and spit it down your throat”
should be a threat, really — and would be elsewhere, but the mode of Kaveh’s writing isn’t one where violence has power. Here you are lead to different interpretations, because the writer comes to you as victim of himself: ideas of feeding as birds do, freedom from the burden of healing with speech, for example.
Here’s the poem that above is from, No is a complete sentence:
Naturally, the book is filled with lines that will haunt me until I plagiarise them in a draft: “it’s been January for months in both directions” and “look under the bandages — and entire saint!” stand out, along with the long loved motto “here I am dying at an average pace”. Not to get to excited, but this is the kind of thing we come to poetry for often — the utility of expressing something we have experienced in word that are new. Turning language it’s its proper purpose of letting us experience the world, rather than just recording it.
It’s not really a sport that I enjoy, or can even stomach watching for the most part, but this documentary, Fighting in the Age of Loneliness, presented my Chapo Trap House favourite, Felix, is excellent.
The documentary is kind of like having someone read a wikipedia article to you, but with occasional images of incredible human destruction. Felix joins together the history of MMA to the atomisation of culture over the last 50 years, the rise of the global right and US imperialism to powerful effect.
You know when you get cornered at a party with someone who only wants to talk about their one subject? Imagine that, but instead it blossoms out into an impossibly wide ranging worldview that is deeply entertaining and enriching.
This week’s jam, in classic festive style, is a mix titled: Swedish Death Candy
It’s exactly what you expect and is very good. Merry Christmas 🙂
Thanks for reading ETTO. I’ve had time to write this one, which has been a joy. I’ve seen quite a few lovely people today for the last time for a little while. May your heart be filled with mine pie filling and your veins pumping langourusly with brand butter, for the next week anyway. This is Disappointment. Borja. And there’s Hiromi’s recent work. It’s only a few sleeps to christmas, but I am not sure if I am as excited as these terribily excited chaps. I have been working through this with a buddy over the last few years, and it’s one of the best hallways I have ever played. We have still yet to complete it, but we think we’re nearly there. The world record speedrun for it is 10 minutes long. Fuck you. I helped edit this, it will be a real thing in London. I have a poem out in Human Repair Kit on the 22nd of December, which might be tomorrow depending when you are reading this. It’s about fish diseases, more or less. Our lovely Sammy had some word out this week too, which you’ll have to Ctrl+F for because it’s one of those “here’s everything all at once” kind of online magazine. If I don’t see you before, please enjoy Christmas and become so fat that you become a perfect sphere.