It’s been said about writing poetry that it’s the poet’s job not only to be inspired but to then to know where to go from there. Aaron Simon’s poems seem to me to come from knowledge as opposed to received ideas or sentimental gushing — going right past inspiration. There’s a sure-footedness to Aaron’s writing; he can get a poem from anywhere, and let it go wherever he wants it to. And Aaron takes his reader to all kinds of interesting places in his poems, both geographically and metaphysically, writing poems in and about places all around the world. About this life-living that gives us poetry, I think Aaron himself said it well, in a poem dedicated to the poet Paul Violi and written on the day the poet passed away:
we should drive more
seek commination whenever possible
I don’t have the stomach for poems
after all it’s work
that makes us human
For me, Aaron Simon’s poems are fun to read because in addition to the constant surprise they cause, they remind me of things I’ve seen or heard before; they stir up in me a desire to travel and see and take in the whole world and to study what wonders can also be found in books. For now, for me, books are a great way to travel, as our mutual teacher has said. “That’s true,” Aaron told me last night over beers as we talked about his travels in a dive bar.
My favorite of Aaron’s poems are his newest, from his book Rain Check Poems, and the ones new enough they’ve not been published. The latter group he’s called “place poems” and they take us to all kinds of places like Texas, Tennessee, Idaho, Grand Teton National Park, City of Industry, his home of San Francisco, and Seattle. His recent book, published last year by BlazeVOX, bears poems of all frameworks, shapes and sizes; and it bespeaks his philosophical mind and emerges out of an horrific accident he hints at in the first line of the poem Mendocino.
“I’m down an arm and a leg,” the poem goes, referencing a motorcycle wreck that almost left him as he says, down a limb or two. The poems were written during a long recovery — reading, writing, thinking, and I’ll bet a fair share of corresponding with other poets. Of all trips to take, on this one necessitating a rain check, Aaron was headed to a cafe to visit another poet when he was t-boned by a car. I mention the event only because it occurs to me that these poems would’ve never come to be if things had gone any differently. And so I acknowledge my being lucky to read them, and even more to have been in the audience to hear Aaron read them on his recent trip to Portland.