Issue 138 |
Winter 2018-19

John C. Zacharis Award

by Staff

Ploughshares is pleased to present Kaveh Akbar with the twenty-eighth annual John C. Zacharis First Book Award for his poetry collection, Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James Books, 2017). The $1,500 award, which is named after Emerson College’s former president, honors the best debut book by a Ploughshares writer, alternating annually between poetry and fiction.

This year’s judge was John Skoyles, Ploughshares’ poetry editor. About the book, Skoyles wrote: “The poems in Calling a Wolf a Wolf seem more ignited than written. A powerful propulsion drives each line into its next confrontation with events, figures and moments of recollection. Akbar writes with both urgency and precision.”

Akbar has been awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, a Pushcart Prize, the Levis Reading Prize, and a Lucille Medwich Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. Akbar’s poems appear in The New Yorker, Poetry, Best American Poetry, The New York Times, The Nation, Tin House, The New Republic, and elsewhere. In addition to Calling a Wolf a Wolf, Akbar is the author of the chapbook Portrait of the Alcoholic, published by Sibling Rivalry in 2017. He contributes to a weekly column for The Paris Review, created alongside poets Sarah Kay and Claire Schwartz, “Poetry RX,” in addition to maintaining his own platform for the promotion of important voices in the poetry community, Divedapper.

Calling a Wolf a Wolf confronts the inherently personal themes of desire and control surrounding alcoholism and addiction. But while, Akbar’s face-off with addiction is presented shamelessly in the collection, the message of the poems is for the collective. Akbar animates a multitude of human struggles with both empathy, intimacy, and sweeping vision.