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Portrait of the Alcoholic

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  451 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
"Was it Jung who speculated that alcoholism might be an attempt at a material solution for a spiritual problem? Kaveh Akbar seems able to contain both--he's a demotic, as well as a spiritual, poet (the only type of either I trust). Each word in this little book might rise up from somewhere deep in the earth, but they turn into stars." - Nick Flynn

"In Islam prayer is not tr
Paperback, 45 pages
Published January 26th 2017 by Sibling Rivalry Press, LLC
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Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, queer-lit
I love Kaveh Akbar. He helped to reawaken my long dormant love of poetry in 2017. He is a brilliant writer.
Kaveh Akbar is also the first “superstar” poet the world has known since Maya Angelou. He seems to be everywhere these days. Maggie Gyllenhaal has even hired Akbar to write poems for upcoming film, The Kindergarten Teacher.
Akbar is an extremely honest writer; he dedicates Portrait of the Alcoholic to drunks. I know, I’m gushing, but this guy is amazing.

Kaveh Akbar writes of love, sexual
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Akbar's struggles as a recovering alcoholic are transformed into works of art that transcend (while honoring) his individual demons. The language is powerful and the poems moving. Even if you've never experienced addiction, his poems address the hunger of life, the desire for deep experience, the difficulties of love and both the remorse and satisfactions of our choices.

Jagged and perceptive, these books carried me deep into the heart of my most personal struggles while providing a greater conte
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
When you pick up a book of poems, you want it to read the way this one does.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
این کتاب برای شاعری متولدِ ایران است و خدای من!
شاید گفتنش کمی عجیب و بیرحمانه باشه، ولی بهترین اشعاری بود که تا به حال خوندم؛ بهترین اشعار از بین آنهمه تجربهی مختلفِ کهن و مدرن.
حقیقتا تصور نمیکردم سیمای شاعری جوان و ایرانی در غرب،اینقدر محبوب و شناختهشده باشه و چقدر غافل بودم!
وقتی میخریدمش،حس خاصی نداشتم و شاید کمی هم بدبین بودم.(تقریبا هیچوقت رِیتِ بالا و پرفروشبودن و تبلیغاتِ گستردهی یه کتاب،جذبم نکرده) ولی واقعا در حین خوندن شگفتزدهام کرد؛نه از اون نوع شگفتزدگیها که جوّ و لحنِ فاخرِ کتاب باع
Brandon Amico
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such precise, stunning verse. Sings from highs and lows, gets you in your center. I'm going to be thinking about this for awhile, and look forward to his full-length collection
Book Riot Community
This slim collection of poetry is definitely filled with more energy than anything else I read in February. Don’t let the name mislead you. Yes, on one level Akbar’s chapbook examines the perplexities and defeats of addiction, but underneath there are more immediate inquiries about spiritual fatigue, the construct of masculinity, and finding meaning in the mundane. Given the title, perhaps it’s ironic that there are so many memorable lines and moments of bizarre clarity. It’s a new take on a tim ...more
Robert Helfst
A simply stunning mind is on display in this brief volume that showcases Akbar's willingness to stare unflinchingly into a painful past and find the beauty within those moments. Kaveh Akbar is a hugely important voice and one that I look forward to reading for many years to come.
Bogi Takács
I read this a few days ago, just forgot to add, because I read it on the city bus. It is that short... or maybe the city bus has an annoyingly circuitious route... actually kind of both. Sorry about that!

My review on Bogi Reads the World:
Meg Tuite
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Layers working through some of these beauties!!!
"Lord, I meant to be helpless, sex–
less as a comma, quiet as
cotton floating on a pond..."

"Listen to me, faithful silence: somehow
we've become strangers. Growing up

I kept a housefly tied to a string tied to a lamp.
I fed him wet Tic-Tacs and idly assumed

he would outlive me. When he died
I opened myself to death, the way a fallen tree

opens itself to the wild. Now my blood
is drying on the pillow. Now the man..."

LOVE the gut, the feeling, the passion of
Colleen Samura
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I prepared myself to be underwhelmed with this, having just picked it up on a whim. What initially felt mediocre at best rose in a subtle and often beautiful crescendo. Words that were often raw and hungry, sometimes delicate and tender, with nostalgic reflections on youth and honest self-depreciation. This was a worthwhile, albeit rather short, book of poetry.
John Taylor
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Absolutely stunning.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Every poem here is a stunner.
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
A magnificent debut that not only challenges faith and alcoholism as pieces of oneself, but as entities of their own.
Mary Ozbolt
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, poetry, owned
This collection combined with my New Poetry class is what inspired and motivated me to not only dip my toes back into creative writing, but to experiment with other languages and unconventional spacing in format. Homework hasn't been this fun in a long time! I loved reading many of Akbar's poems, but a few resonated less with me because I have zero experience with alcoholism. This did not decrease my appreciation for his work, but I felt like I missed out on some elements that I would have relat ...more
So these are excellent and I'll be reading the complete collection when it comes out in the fall for sure.
Akbar reminds me of Rimbaud if Rimbaud had any redeemable qualities. The images here and the language around them: distinct clear. These seem both classic and of this moment.
Mar 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.

Haunting and gorgeous collection. The poems are honest and raw. Akbar's prose is delicious--lilting and full of ambiguous pauses. A slimmer collection but one that I could not put down.
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, poetry
There are no words for how stunning this is.
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, own
"Is there a vocabulary for this--one to make dailiness amplify / and not diminish wonder?"
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So unsettling and perfect.
Daniel Turel
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautiful and hungry collection.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely phenomenal.
Jay Outhier
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
My favorite poet at the moment
Jan 06, 2017 added it
Shelves: favorites
Home Run King
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully spiritual with incisive explorations of vice and virtue.
Laurel L. Perez
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When the poetry is really good, I read it aloud, so I can taste the language. I read this collection aloud for my baby, for my cat, for my husband, for anyone who could hear the cadence of my voice.
Each portrait is an epistle, Akbar’s portraiture reflects the shared history of the addresser and addressee, “the drinker and the drink.”

This book is also about the poet’s relationship to language. In “Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient),” the speaker attempts to control his cravings by naming them, as
Miguel Vega
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I met Kaveh this last week at the Desert Nights Rising Stars Conference! He is such a nice person and I am glad he looks happy & healthy contrasting the poems in this book concerning his history of alcoholism.

Favorites: Some Boys Aren't Born They Bubble, Portrait of the Alcoholic with Home Invader and Housefly, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Inpatient), Do you speak Persian?, An Apology, Eager, Portrait of the Alcoholic Stranded Alone on a Desert Island.
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this five stars because the poem in it are amazing. I'm giving myself only two stars because I didn't realize this is a chapbook Akbar released before Calling A Wolf A Wolf; the latter contains almost all the poems in this slim volume. Still, I enjoyed reading them again, some in an earlier and slightly different form.

If you're a fan of modern poetry, read Calling A Wolf A Wolf immediately.
If English classes aren't studying this collection in fifty years, that's a mistake.

I've had some gin prior to (ironically?) writing this. But at this point I just want to say that poetry exists for Kaveh Akbar.
Kiren Chaudhry
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you should find your soul famished drink this work in steady.
mel burkeet
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The speaker in the poems is honest, self-deprecating, uncertain, humble, and hopeful. The poems themselves are raw and fractured, and littered with beautiful images. I am really looking forward to Akbar's full-length collection after reading these. Choosing my favorite lines (as I typically do in goodreads reviews) was more difficult than usual because in nearly every poem, the best lines arrived after an emotional climax, and so lifting them from that context robs them of something...

Here they
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KAVEH AKBAR's poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Tin House, PBS NewsHour, A Public Space, Guernica, Boston Review, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of a 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. He is also the founder and editor of Divedapper, a home for dialogues with v ...more
“envy is the only deadly sin that's no fun for the sinner” 3 likes
“I am less horrible than I could be
I've never set a house on fire
never thrown a firstborn off a bridge
still my whole life I answered every cry for help with a pour
with a turning away
I've given this coldness many names
thinking if it had a name it would have a solution
thinking if I called a wolf a wolf I might dull its fangs”
More quotes…