An Interview with Aaron White

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Aaron White Poet

Aaron White is a father, writer, educator, and impassioned nerd. He spends his days raising a kid, navigating academia, and wallowing in obscurity. He has also been published in numerous journals for poetry and creative nonfiction. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. White at the end of October, here was the result. I want to thank Aaron for participating and for his creative responses to my questions. If you are interested in checking out his work, you can find the important links at the bottom of this article. Enjoy the interview.

#1 Where did you grow up and how has that impacted you and your writing?

“I grew up in southern Illinois. Like many Midwesterners, I’ve always considered myself to be humble. My friends and family would say I’m shy or introverted. At any rate, I’ve never been one to write things that are explosive, over-the-top, or flashy. I don’t really like to draw too much attention to myself, I guess, and perhaps that’s true of my writing as well. Even though I love to read comic books, and I’ve always been drawn to stories in the horror and sci-fi genres, I rarely write in this vein. Most of my writing is “quiet.” I do write about moments of violence or intense drama, but I often find myself focusing a lot on those moments of introspection we all have when we’re driving alone at night or drifting off to sleep…those moments when we’re calm and vulnerable and can more honestly assess our day. I sometimes credit my rural Midwestern-ness with never really wanting to be famous or even popular. There was a point in time that I wanted to be the next Stephen King, but as I got older, I found my tastes and writing habits didn’t really fit in with the big, flashy stuff.”

#2 When did you first start writing poetry? 

“I came to poetry rather late. I didn’t start seriously reading or writing poetry until I was in my mid-twenties. I’ve been writing since I was maybe seven or eight, but I always wanted to be a novelist. I cut my teeth on Stephen King as a little kid, and as I got older, I really got into people such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cormac McCarthy, John Steinbeck, Shirley Jackson, etc.—people who wrote those heady kind of novels that were still fun to read because of the moments of high violence, romance, and adventure. I studied creative writing in college, and for my MA thesis, I wrote a postmodern Western novel. I can’t remember the exact moment I turned to poetry, but I think it was when my daughter ran away. She must have been around four-years-old at the time. This would have been a couple years after her autism diagnosis. She’s nonverbal, and she ran out of the house while I was cooking dinner. Her mom was at work. She was nowhere to be found, and after several terrifying minutes of running around the block, a cop walked her back to the house. She’d apparently made it to the gas station on the corner near a busy street. In that moment, I felt so many different emotions—about the situation, her autism, my parenting, etc. When I attempted to later write about that incident, I think that’s when I turned to poetry. I was able to capture some of those feelings in my poems in ways that prose just wasn’t doing for me.”

#3 What is a theme you feel is throughout your work?

“I don’t write much fiction anymore. Most of my writing is either nonfiction essays or poetry. I find myself writing about single moments of clarity I’ve had in my life. These moments mostly revolve around three big life events—my daughter’s autism diagnosis, my dad’s suicide, and my traumatic divorce. All of these things happened within a year or two of each other. I try to unpack these events and how they’ve affected me personally, but I also strive to make sense out of them in some larger context. If I had to boil my work down to a single thesis statement, it’d probably be, “Things really suck, and the world is confusing, but if you keep your head in the right place, you’ll be okay.” “

#4 How did you first get published, what was the experience?

“I was first published in a school literary journal my junior year of undergrad. I got to read the piece in front of an audience, which was terrifying to me (and still is), but my parents came, and I felt very proud. I was never good at sports or anything in high school, so this was the first time I felt that my mom and dad could come see me do something I was good at. I continued publishing in school journals, and it wasn’t until grad school that I got a piece of micro fiction published in a professional journal. That felt awesome. I’d only submitted my work because I was taking a professional development for creative writers course required by my MA program, and my professor at the time tasked us with submitting to a handful of journals. I was honestly surprised that I made it in. Then, in 2015 or 2016, I landed my first “big,” paid publication, which was an essay in Brain, Child Magazine. I felt like a “real” writer in that moment, which I know now is silly, but it reaffirmed for me that I was meant to do this.”

#5 What has been the most interesting part of your journey?

“I had an epiphany early on that I didn’t want to become rich and famous. Some of my classmates in grad school specifically wrote for this reason. Their goal was to land a big book contract and make it onto talk shows. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t daydream about that kind of stuff, too, but as I began to really take my writing seriously, I realized that my mission was different. Instead of making it big, I wanted to use my writing to tell what I believe are important truths. They’re small truths…quiet truths, but I still believe they’re important.”

#6 What is something people don’t know about you?

“A lot of things…I’m very shy and try not to talk too much. I guess my friends and family don’t know that I talk to myself quite a bit, especially when I’m home alone or driving a long commute. I make myself laugh with my own jokes.”

#7 Who is your favorite poet/author?

“Like a lot of people, this answer changes for me as I get older and experience new things. At the moment, I’m really enjoying James Purdy’s work. He’s not necessarily obscure, but I don’t think his work is commercially successful or popular. He wrote odd short stories and novels about a number of things. They’re quite frank and have a weird kind of charm that I admire.”

#8 Where do you see yourself in the future? What are your goals?

“I see myself doing what I do now. I will continue to teach and write as long as I’m able. Maybe I’ll eventually be forced onto one of those big talk shows, but at the moment, I plan on wallowing in my obscurity.”

You can check out Aarons website/blog here.

You can see him on Poets and Writers here.

Check out some of my other thought provoking articles here. Get my new full length collection Blood Stained Mahogany here. Check out my twitter here. If you enjoyed this content consider subscribing to get a notification of a new post. Leave a comment below!

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