My Poetry Corner October 2021 features the poem “My Empire” from the poetry collection Pilgrim Bell: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2021) by Iranian American poet Kaveh Akbar. Born in Tehran to an American mother and Iranian father, Kaveh was two years old when his family migrated to the United States, first settling in Pennsylvania. When Kaveh was five years old, they moved to the Midwest, living in Wisconsin and later Indiana. Since his parents only spoke English at home, the poet speaks little Farsi, his first language.
Akbar earned his MFA at Butler University in Indiana and a PhD in creative writing from Florida State University. He currently teaches at Purdue University (Indiana) and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph College (Virginia) and Warren Wilson College (North Carolina). Since September 2020, he also serves as the poetry editor of the progressive magazine, The Nation.
Pilgrim Bell is Akbar’s second poetry following his recovery from alcohol addiction. In “Seven Years Sober,” he writes: Trust God but tie your camel. Trust / God. The bottle by the bed the first / few weeks. Just in case. Trust…. He acknowledges in “Cotton Candy” that his mother wept nightly for eight years / my living / curled its hands around her throat / not choking exactly but like the squeeze / of an outgrown collar…Continue reading