Abraham Smith

recorded in Tuscaloosa, AL

 

Abraham Smith

My name is Abraham Smith and I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 35401, if you want to mail me anything. My past with this place includes having gone to school here in the early 2000s. I was here for four years form 2000 to 2004, and then I went away for a year on a fellowship, and then I came back for a year, to teach, and then I went away again, to New York, and then I’ve been back now again for going on five years, I suppose. I get out a lot, I do a lot of readings here and there and my family has a farm in Wisconsin, so I go up there and try to act tough. But for at least eight months of the year, or maybe seven months of the year, I’m here.


KWH

Were you raised on a farm?


Smith

Sporadically. It has now been going for a good solid handful of years and it kind of fell into disrepair at a certain point some years ago, but largely, no. Largely, just in the country. My parents built what they call an earth shelter house into the side of a hill in rural, northern Wisconsin, so that was, those were, I would say, up there in Taylor County, my formative years.


KWH

What’s it like to be a writer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama?


Smith

Well, you know, sometimes people throw Natural Light cans of beer at you on your bike as you ride along in your quirky, writerly way, so there are those kinds of epiphantic moments. It’s nice, it’s a nice town, it’s a nice town to be a writer in. There’s a really nice MFA program, as folks know, and just a lovely community of writers here, and we kind of stick together like barnacles on a boat, you know? And it’s kind of annoying. You want to buy some broccoli, you know, and there are like four other simile-makers in line beside you in the grocery store. You can’t avoid them. Or you’re like, “I think she’s attractive,” and then you go to have a can of Natural Light with her, and then there are nine other simile-makers that you know, standing there. So, you can’t avoid—it’s wonderful glue, and it’s, we’re real, I would say we have a really lovely community. It’s an inspiring place to be a writer, because there’s so many others who will mention a good book to you and light you up like that.

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We were standing in some shade on the Tuscaloosa Campus, taking a break, waiting for Mr. Smith to call and tell us where to meet him when a man in black cowboy boots walking towards us down the sidewalk prompted us to comment to each other that there’s a high boot-density in Tuscaloosa. This man, it turned out, was Mr. Smith. He walked over and shook out hands and led us down to his office. He was wearing blue slacks, a blue/orange/tan vest, and a grey fisherman’s stocking cap. In his office, he offered us candy from two beer-pong blue plastic cups and as we were making small talk, his office-mate came in so we went to an empty square classroom down the hall, window out to trees and more campus. Mr. Smith stood in the middle of four tables that had been arranged in, again, a square, and leaned and rocked on those boots, worried at first about annoying or interrupting people taking exams, then going, really fucking going, leaning hard to the right and rocking, shaking, practically twisting, a hard ecstasy almost sickness, body shaking, his head shaking like he couldn’t believe what he was saying or simply thought it was wrong...