Exclusive Cover Reveal of “Book of Kin” by Darius Atefat-Peckham

Book of Kin hopes for greater connection through poems that wade through time and memory

Electric Literature is pleased to reveal the cover for the poetry collection Book of Kin by Darius Atefat-Peckham, which will be published by Autumn House Press on Oct. 25, 2024. Preorder the book here.

A debut collection that draws on the poet’s Iranian heritage to process life-altering loss and grief.

Darius Atefat-Peckham’s debut poetry collection follows a boy’s coming of age in the aftermath of a car accident that took the lives of both his mother and brother. Through these poems, Atefat-Peckham constructs a language for grief that is porous and revelatory, spoken assuredly across the imagination, bridging time and space, and creating a reciprocal haunting between the living and the dead.

Inspired by the Persian epic The Book of Kings, the Sufi mystic poetry of Rumi, and his mother’s poetry, these poems form a path of connection between the author and his Iranian heritage. Book of Kin interrogates what it means to exist between cultures, to be a survivor of tragedy, to practice love and joy toward one’s beloveds, and to hope for greater connection through poems that wade through time and memory “like so many fish spreading swimming in the green-blue.”

Book of Kin won the 2023 Autumn House Poetry Prize.

Here is the cover, designed by Melissa Dias-Mandoly, artwork by Hemad Javadzade.

Illustration of hourglass

Author Darius Atefat-Peckham: As an Iranian-American who’s not yet been able to visit Iran (for reasons both personal and political), whose mother and brother died before I could remember them, I profoundly relate to the ever-seeking nature of Hemad Javadzade’s The Now (which he’s graciously allowed us to use as the cover of Book of Kin!). In this piece, Javadzade depicts Time, distant and unknowable as the stars, funneled like sand through the neck of an hourglass, and finally released as something akin to rain, tapping against the mirror of the Mystic Astronaut’s one, grounded eye, like a child trying to garner his attention. All of this transformation occurs within the space of an opened notebook. What an immensely true rendering of the labor of writing, or deep listening—of an art-making that reaches toward ancestral love, grief, and connection! I’m filled with awe each time I study it, my eyes funneling through, over and over, like those stars.

So the further transformation the image underwent as it was designed for the cover of Book of Kin (the two o’s of the title interlaced like an infinity symbol, like spectacles, like fingers; the pages spread open like palms, a porthole to a site of reincarnation; my name, wading, resting alongside the Mystic Astronaut) nesting within it these poems about my family, my beloveds…it’s almost too beautiful to put to words. In this time of Nowruz, I’m called to think about renewal, rebirth, community. About growth, transformation and, yes, hope for the future. As I write this, I can hear, too, the Persian imperative my grandparents, Papa and Bibi, would often use when I was little, wanting to show me pictures of the mountains and gardens and rivers of Iran, their home, or tell me some unknowable truth about my mother, or teach me the correct way to cook rice for a Persian dish, leaving the lid of my grief slightly askew to let out the steam: Bebin, Azizam, bebin! they’d laugh, pulling me to them like an hourglass, turned over and over. “Bebin,” they’d say, which means look! or, at times, and also, listen!

Artist Hemad Javadzade: Ancient thoughts considered the unreachable realms of the heavens and a promised afterlife as a dwelling for gods and deities. However, now, with knowledge expanding its infinite scope, we increasingly return to our true selves and understand our insignificant role in this existence. Time is the crucial determinant.

Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri says: “It’s not our task to unravel the secret of the red rose Our task might be To float within the enchantment of the red rose.”

In this work, I intended to bring this to light: human inevitability in the face of time passing and the vastness of the universe. Although moments, like grains of sand inside an hourglass, fall upon us, reminding us of the passage of time.

Playfully engaging with philosophical themes has always been the main subject of my paintings. And the infinite world of existence has always been my greatest and most captivating subject.

Designer Melissa Dias-Mandoly: Such great artwork makes a cover fun to work on, and Darius selected this Hemad Javadzade piece that really speaks to all of the poems inside. I originally experimented with overlaying the title and prize line in the hourglass, but it was quickly clear that the art needed to stand on its own. I also played with various typefaces that would more obviously echo the Arabic lettering in the image itself, but we ultimately settled on the eye-catching and modern Lostar font for the title, which I think complements the art without distracting from it.

More Like This

Exclusive Cover Reveal of “Ominous Music Intensifying” by Alexandra Teague

The maximalist Americana artwork asks readers to reconsider what is beastly, what’s domestic, what’s safe, what’s homey

Mar 13 - Electric Literature

Exclusive Cover Reveal of “Unsex Me Here” by Aurora Mattia

The design is inspired by iridescent forms wobbling and rising from a ravine, on the verge of shapeshifting into something known

Feb 23 - Electric Literature

Exclusive Cover Reveal of “We’re Alone” by Edwidge Danticat

"We’re Alone” is both a fearsome admission and an intimate invitation

Feb 9 - Electric Literature
Thank You!