Ever heard of DiveDapper? Kaveh Akbar’s uniquely creative online resource is a treasure trove of personal, wonderfully candid interviews he’s conducted with poets from a variety of professional and demographic backgrounds, from Lakotan poet and National Artist fellow Layli Long Soldier (the most recent interview), to Sharon Olds, to contemporary poet/playwright/podcaster Franny Choi.
As for Akbar himself, he’s a working poet who sought redemption from addiction and his life’s struggles in his writing and, later, in his website project. With a personable, idiosyncratic conversational style, a portion of all of these interviews include substantial reveals of his own life, though never in an egotistical or self-obsessed manner. From a recent NPR profile: “Akbar jokes that if you’ve read a dozen DiveDapper interviews, you’ve spent an hour with a dozen different poets—and you’ve actually spent 12 hours with him too.”
As a result, Akbar may bring up a book he’s reading at the time, or tangentially quote Kierkegaard, or even speak about his own background: “In my case, my dad is Persian, my mom’s American, and I was actually born in Iran but I speak about as much Farsi as a two-year-old would speak.” His interviewees end up feeling less like subjects in the text, and more like new friends; this amicable ease synergizes with the great depth of his literary knowledge and personal insight, making each finished interview intimately significant and satisfying to the reader.
DiveDapper is updated on an irregular basis, but there is a thorough backlog that you can read through right now. And Akbar is going to keep doing it: “Even if this was something that I was doing in a vacuum and it was just me and the poet talking with no one ever reading the transcripts, it would be immensely gratifying to me.”