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SunLit Interviews

In “That’s How It Is,” poet Jared Smith celebrates the struggle and dignity of the American worker

From traveling to all 50 states to a wide-ranging work history -- including as an advisor to President Clinton -- the author's life experience laid a broad foundation for his writing

Jared Smith

Jared Smith is the author of 14 volumes of poetry, and his work has appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies in this country, Canada, Mexico, the U.K., and China. He has served on the Editorial Boards of Home Planet News; The New York Quarterly; The Pedestal Magazine; and Turtle Island Quarterly, as well as on the Boards of literary and arts non-profits in New York, Illinois, and Colorado. He is listed in The Colorado Encyclopedia; Poets & Writers; Colorado Poets Center; Who’s Who in America; and other reference sources.

Jared holds a Master’s degree in Literature from New York University, and studied under The Great Books Program at St. John’s College. He has taught at New York University and LaGuardia Community College (CCNY,) and worked as Director of Research and Education at an international laboratory, as Special Advisor to Argonne National Laboratory, and as an advisor to several White House Commissions under President William Clinton. He lives in Colorado, where he spends much of his time in an unimproved log cabin in Roosevelt National Forest.

The following is an interview with Jared Smith.

UNDERWRITTEN BY

Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.


What inspired you to write this book?

This is my 14th book, and in writing it I intended to capture both the struggle and the dignity of the individual American worker striving to make a living in an impersonal world.

Place this excerpt in context. How does it fit into the book as a whole and why did you select it?

This excerpt from the book is the title poem, and best encapsulates the majority of themes within the book.  In this poem, workers of all kinds and levels across the country go through their daily challenges while the day unrolls and evening falls, even to repeat the next day.

Tell us about creating this book: any research and travel you might have done, any other influences on which you drew?

I have traveled through all 50 states of our country, and worked in jobs ranging from hitch-hiking cross country, to door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, to university instructor, to technical and policy advisor to several White House Commissions under President Bill Clinton, to Special Appointee to Argonne National Laboratory.  All of these jobs and the experiences I gained in performing them should be considered research for the poems I have written in this book.  A poet’s writing comes from distilling the experiences of life.

“That’s How It Is” by Jared Smith

What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises you encountered in completing this book?

The biggest challenge in writing any book of poetry might be said to be finding the time and presence of mind to write the book while working in another field to earn a living for oneself and one’s family since poetry does not provide enough income to raise a family.  It is hard to find enough time in the day to do both, and one does so only for personal growth and the joy and experience one can share with one’s readers.

Walk us through your writing process: Where and when do you write? What time of day? Do you listen to music, need quiet? 

I have no writing process, other than reading the works of other authors voraciously, engaging in new experiences as often as possible, and thinking on multiple levels.  When new ideas or insights occur to me, I write them down.  When they are important enough in my view, I craft them into poetry so that others may experience them.

What’s your next project?

I am currently working on a poetry chapbook, entitled “A Year of Significance,” which The River Press in Missouri has contracted for, and my 15th full volume of poetry, “A Sphere Encased in Fires and Life,” which New York Quarterly Foundation in New York has commissioned for next fall.

Buy “That’s How It Is” through BookBar.
Read an excerpt from the book.

Rising Sun