Interview with Poet, Abraham Smith

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Abraham Smith studied Spanish Literature and Archaeology at the University of Wisconsin. After graduation, Smith lived in Europe then Austin, Texas—pursuing his passion for travel and experience. While in Austin, he honed his poetry craft and spent three years in the trenches as a public school substitute teacher. In 2000, continued his education in the MFA program at The University of Alabama. Smith has always had a passion for poetry, which he developed as a child listening to folk songs from artists such as Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Leadbelly, Chris Whitley, and Townes Van Zandt. While teaching at Alabama, he refined his writing style; one of his principle zones of inspiration is the UA Arboretum, where Smith finds creative possibility in walks and jogs: for Smith, motion begets emotion. Indeed, Smith’s creative and pedagogical approaches elide under this umbrella of somatic egress. This writing style encourages one to be physically daring with words—to walk the writing into shape. Smith sees the action of writing as an embodied act that involves both physical and imaginative movement on the part of the reader. Consequently, he offers peripatetic prompts to his students in both literature and composition classes. Smith mandates that his writing students set aside their smart phones. He hopes that doing so will force his students to notice the environment through which they move and the people with whom they share it. “I hope,” Smith quips, “I am re-vision-ing a population all too eager to while they walk.”

Now as a faculty member in the Department of English, Smith considers himself resolved and happy in his writerly approach. His writing process and publishing schedule haven’t changed with his transition from graduate student to instructor. He jokes, “Change is for the migrations of the birds.” His old habits abide: writing most mornings, seeking inspiration in nature, and sending off work to journals and contests several times per year. While Smith’s creative work may be delightfully solitary, his critical work is not. When discussing the process of coediting an anthology—Hick Poetics (Lost Roads Press, 2015)—with poet Shelly Taylor, Smith paraphrased Forrest Gander: The delight in collaboration comes in part from the sustenance found in listening.

 

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