Kaveh Akbar’s second collection, Pilgrim Bell: Poems, takes its readers on a spiritual journey of disavowal, fiercely attendant to the presence of divinity where artifacts of self and belonging have been shed. Akbar responds with prayer as an act of devotion to dissonance – the infinite void of a loved one’s absence, the indulgence of austerity, making a life as a Muslim in an Islamophobic nation – teasing the sacred out of silence and stillness. Whether it’s the fireflies of a Louisiana summer caught in a mason jar (doomed by their collection), or his grandmother, Mama Annie, who latches the screen door when someone steps out for just a moment, all that makes up our flickering precarious joy, all that we want to protect, is lifted into the light in this moving book. Stones: Poems becomes an ode to Kevin Young’s home places and his dear departed, and to what of them – of us – poetry can save.
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