Recently I finished reading Kaveh Akbar's Calling a Wolf a Wolf, a debut collection that follows a path through addiction to recovery. Akbar is one of the USA's most celebrated contemporary poets, writing not just about addiction but also race, religion, spirituality and the American dream.
Often while reading a poetry collection, I'll seek out recordings of the poet so I can listen to them while reading. Sometimes it's to help crack a particularly difficult poem's riddle (hello Frederick Seidel and most of Ooga-Booga), other times it's just to hear the poet's voice while I'm reading. For Kaveh Akbar it was a bit of both – at first I just wanted to locate the key to one of his punctuation-free poems, but then I found such a huge amount of recordings of him online that I ended up listening along to most of the collection. He's a great performer of his work, and his recordings are easy enough to find, but if you don't have time to listen to them all then I'd recommend 'Palmyra' and 'Unburnable the Cold is Flooding Our Lives'.
A poet's thoughts aren't too often far from their own poetry, and the sheer volume of Kaveh Akbar's recordings made me wonder how much of my own collection was available online in this way. I was surprised to learn quite a bit, and so I've compiled a list below – a cobbled-together audio book version of That Lone Ship, should you for some reason want to listen along while reading it.
The print version ofThat Lone Ship is available to buy from Parthian Books.
Note: Timestamps (e.g. 22:17) are included next to poems from longer recordings to indicate when that poem begins.
THat Lone Ship
En Dash [35:54]
A New Year [47:19]
The Pint that Follows [22:17]
Bonaparte Before the Sphinx [37:22]
The First Time
Victoria Park, 5 a.m.
The Man at the Bus Stop [3:05]
The Road Must Eventually Lead to the Whole World
We Weren’t Interested in Girls
Bookshop Evacuation at the Edinburgh Festival
The Walk to Work [10:32]
They Sang Gwahoddiad
A Minute’s Silence
New Shirt [59:19]
Vetch Field Elegy
The Search Party [2:14]
Third Boy (Dicky)
Marking Out the Ground with String
Haiku from That Lone Ship (Parthian Books, 2018)
I thought I'd reshare this poem for New Year's Day – I wrote it in 2016 but it feels more suited to 2021. Yes, this January 1st is just a Friday after a Thursday and nothing in the world has changed, but even if things get worse again we’re still one day closer to better times. Keep going.
A New Year
The years are storm-straddled,
crag-black hooves thundering between headlands,
kicking up hailstones,
washing sandbagged towns to the sea.
But, this afternoon, jaws clamp open,
and all surface water reflects a fresh blue page.
So go outside, and with the winter sun on your neck,
a crisp shock of air in your lungs, tune out
the fore-echo of hoofbeats, the sound
of the storm about-turning. A new year stretches out
as empty as mirrors, though no doubt still heavy
with the weight of a first bite.