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Kaveh Akbar, Melissa Febos, and Megan Stielstra

Authors Kaveh Akbar, Melissa Febos, and Megan Stielstra discuss life, trauma, and art with moderator Marisa Siegel, editor-in-chief of The Rumpus, at Wordstock: Portland’s Book Festival 2017.

How do we create art from our own wounds and wonders? In their poetry, memoirs, and essays, writers Kaveh Akbar, Melissa Febos, and Megan Stielstra reckon with personal trauma and healing. Tracking the joys and pains of the path through addiction, and wrestling with desire, inheritance and faith, Calling a Wolf a Wolf is the darkly sumptuous debut from award-winning poet Kaveh Akbar. His are powerful, intimate poems of thirst: for alcohol, for other bodies, for knowledge and for life. In her memoir Abandon Me, Melissa Febos captures the intense bonds of love and the need for connection—with family, lovers, and oneself. In visceral, erotic prose, Febos captures a mutual abandonment to passion and obsession—and the terror and exhilaration of losing herself in another. In her poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, The Wrong Way to Save Your Life, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. Whether she’s imagining the implications of open-carry laws on college campuses, recounting the story of going underwater on the mortgage of her first home, or revealing the unexpected pains and joys of marriage and motherhood, Stielstra’s work informs, impels, enlightens, and embraces us all. These three authors discuss life and art with moderator Marisa Siegel, editor-in-chief of The Rumpus. Kaveh Akbar’s appearance is in partnership with the Poetry Foundation.



Kaveh Akbar is the founding editor of Divedapper. His poems have appeared in The New YorkerPoetryTin HousePloughshares, and elsewhere. Kaveh has also served as Poetry Editor for BOOTH and Book Reviews Editor for the Southeast Review. Along with Gabrielle Calvocoressi, francine j. harris, and Jonathan Farmer, he starred on All Up in Your Ears, a monthly poetry podcast. The 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, Akbar was born in Tehran, Iran, and currently and currently teaches at Purdue University and in the low residency MFA programs at Randolph College and Warren Wilson.


Melissa Febos is the author of the memoirs Whip Smart and Abandon Me. Her essays have appeared in Tin HouseThe Believer, The New York TimesThe Kenyon ReviewLenny Letter, and elsewhere. Portions from Abandon Me have won prizes from Prairie SchoonerStoryQuarterly, and twice earned notice in the 2015 Best American Essays anthology. The recipient of fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Ragdale, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Febos serves on the directorial board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is an assistant professor of creative writing at Monmouth University. She lives in Brooklyn.

Megan Stielstra is the author of three collections: The Wrong Way To Save Your LifeOnce I Was Cool, and Everyone Remain Calm. Her work appears in the Best American Essays, New York Times, Poets & Writers, Longreads, Tin House, Guernica, Catapult, Lit Hub, Buzzfeed Reader, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A longtime company member with 2nd Story, she has told stories for National Public Radio, Radio National Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art, Goodman Theatre, the Neo-Futurarium, and regularly with The Paper Machete live news magazine at The Green Mill. She is currently an artist in residence at Northwestern University. She lives in Chicago with her husband, their kid, and two dogs.