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Aaron Zaritzky

Apr 24 2008

Interview with Poet Aaron Zaritzky

by Jimmy L

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Aaron Zaritzky was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He graduated from the Creative Writing Workshop at Oberlin College (2000) and completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Arizona (2004). The Pulitzer Prize winning press BOA Editions published his book-length translation of Felipe Benítez Reyes’ Probable Lives as part of the Lannan Series. One of these poems, “Fears,” was chosen to represent a day in National Poetry Month. Nobel Prize finalist Miguel Mendez, the Kennedy Center, and others have commissioned him to translate work. He is currently ghostwriting a book for his father and lives in Macon, Georgia with his wife, Yosálida, their daughter, Sofía, and their cat, Humo.

Aaron, can you tell me how you became a poet? It seems like an odd thing to be!

It does seem like an odd thing to be. And how does someone become a poet? And what is a poet, anyway? Is everyone who writes poems a poet? If so, that means most everyone has been a poet at some time in their lives. Or is a poet someone who has poems published?

There are a whole lot of people out there who spend much more time making a living at something other than writing poems who are still called poets. I would venture to say that almost every poet, at least in this country, finds him or herself having to “write poems on the side.” That’s just the nature of the thing, I guess. So, to answer your question, I first became interested in writing poems when I was in middle school. One day, for no real reason, I decided to try to write a poem about spilling Cheerios all over the kitchen counter. I realized, as I was doing this, that there were so many interesting ways to put words together and that interesting language often has more to do with the words you choose than with the “meaning” or “story” behind the thing you are writing. After that, I just kept writing on my own.

You’ve translated poems before, including the book Probable Lives by Felipe Benítez Reyes. What made you translate this book? Did you pick it, or did it pick you? Did you work closely with the original author?

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