Aaron Smith

“I once read about how Sheryl Crow told Bob Dylan she was having trouble writing her next album. Dylan told her to learn the songs that made her want to be a musician and play those during concerts. I think what Dylan was telling Crow was to remember how a song was made by living inside it, recreating it herself. After Crow did that, she wrote her album. Years ago I worried I was losing the impulse that made me want to write, so I typed out poems: Sharon Olds’s ‘Satan Says’ and David Trinidad’s “Driving Back From New Haven.” I typed Denise Duhamel’s “Things I Could Never Tell My Mother,” and so many others. I wanted, as Dylan suggested, to feel inside my chest and with my fingers the poems that made me want to write. Eventually I bound them into an anthology: a poetry mix tape. I know I’m not the first to type other people’s poems to learn from them, but I do know that retyping the work that’s important to me brought back that thrill only being inside a poem can generate. Now when I need inspiration, I open my mix tape, or I find another poem and start typing.”
—Aaron Smith, author of The Book of Daniel (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019)

Writer Photo: 
Writer Photo Credit: 
Celeste Gainey
  • If you’re an artist, up to a creative challenge, and love this story, enter your email here. Click here for more info.

  • October 3, 2019