Poet, Teacher, Writer, Editor

     Welcome to my web site.  In various capacities, I'm a poet, teacher, writer, and editor based in western Wisconsin near the Twin Cities.  My work is strongly rooted here, so in my poems you'll meet some of the people, animals, birds, flowers, and trees I encounter day to day, not least the wonderfully named kinnickinnic, or red osier dogwood or red willow, so plentiful in these parts.  I like the symbolism of kinnickinnic, so ready to root from a cutting that the Indians saw it as an emblem of resurrection.

     I've kept this site simple for easy navigation.  "About" will fill you in on a little biographical background.  "Poems" showcases a few poems with which I've been particularly happy over the years.  I'm using the "Blog" section to air occasional essays on literature, culture, and current affairs.  "Publications" provides a brief bibliography of my published work.  "Contact" tells you how to get in touch with me.  (I always welcome comments by readers, not to mention invitations to read or teach.)  And this home page does double duty as a calendar for upcoming events.  I hope you'll have as enjoyable a time glancing around this site as I've had putting it together. 


Wednesday, October 7:  Thomas R. Smith leads discussion of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry, "A Grand and Impoverished Vision", River Falls Public Library, 140 Union Street, River Falls, WI.  7 p.m.   Free.  715-425-0905.

Wednesday,October 14:  Birchbark Books Reading Series with Eric McKendry, Cheryl K. Minnema, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr., and Thomas R. Smith, Bockley Gallery, 2115 West 21st Street, Minneapolis, 7 p.m.  Free.  612-374-4023.

Friday, October 16: Poetry reading with Freya Manfred and Thomas R. Smith, The Valley Booksellers, 217 N. Main Street, Stillwater, MN.  7 p.m.  Free.  651-430-3385.

Sunday, October 25:  Poetry and Social Justice, with Thomas R. Smith, Rubén Medina and Margaret Rozga, at Wisconsin Book Festival, the Bubbler, Central Library,  201 W. Mifflin Street, Madison, WI, 12:30 p.m.  Free.  For information:  www.wisconsinbookfestival.org

Watch this space for other fall readings including The Book House in Minneapolis. 

Fall Class Offerings at the Loft Literary Center:

The Imaginative Play of Form (12 weeks)
September 17
- December 17, Thursdays, 6 - 8 p.m. (no class 9/24 or 11/26)
This class emphasizes the "serious play" of working with form, not at the expense of imagination and feeling, but to better serve their range and subtlety.  New forms can unlock new content.  While keeping considerations of content in mind, we'll approach poetry mainly through formal strategies, to tap new expressive capacities and bring neglected aspects of experience and personality into our work.  We'll spend the first few sessions revisiting the formal foundations of poetry, and then adventure into the wide world of forms, exploring mainly nontraditional, sometimes non-Western forms including the haiku and haibun, the Neruda-style "elemental" ode, the prose poem, the ghazal, and the series poem.  We'll also note formal innovations in American poetry and consider three important elements in inventing forms of our own.  Master poets discussed include Donald Hall, Pablo Neruda, Robert Creeley, Mary Oliver, Lorine Niedecker, and many others.  Weekly writing assignments span a range of forms and styles.  The instructor offers to critique up to six poems per participant between class meetings.  Small copy fee.

For more information or to register:  612/215-2575 or  https://www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=149057

Fiery Genius:  The Poetry of Robert Bly (single day)
Saturday, October 10, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Robert Bly is one of the most influential living figures in world literature.  Besides his many ground-breaking volumes of poetry, his contributions include incisive, provocative criticism and epochal translations of foreign poets, not least the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, as well as Spanish and Mideastern poets.  This workshop traces Bly's dynamic career from his beginnings on a farm in western Minnesota through his days of early fame as poet and editor of the revolutionary poetry magazine The Fifties/The Sixties to international renown as proponent of "Deep Image" poetry.  While illuminating the many facets and intellectual currents of Bly's fertile opus, we'll stay focused on his work as a poet, watching his development from book to book in a constant process of self-reinvention.  Among the many stages of Bly's work we'll pay special attention to his early explosive free verse period, his venture into the controversial prose poem, the sound experiments of his invented form the "ramage," and his later work with an American adaptation of the Mideastern ghazal form.  Along the way we'll learn from writing exercises adapted from Bly's own techniques for breaking out of expected patterns into provocative new territory, bringing us closer to the fiery genius of Bly's stellar achievement.
For more information or to register:  612/215-2575 or https://www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=149117

Now Available:  THE GLORY

Read what some advance readers of this new collection have written:

Thomas R. Smith's new collection, The Glory, serves many glories--those of the natural world, of the American democratic dream, and of various individuals who do us all credit.  Yet, while remaining celebratory, Smith always looks unblinkingly at human history, "the thuggishness of ourselves," reminding us how we are "gravely / and fairly judged" by the wild creatures who encounter us warily.  While ranging from the micro -- an "insect hum" -- to the macro -- "the spill of the Milky Way" -- and in between invoking such icons as Woody Guthrie, Rachel Carson, and Nelson Mandela, Smith always exemplifies Simone Weil's claim that paying attention is the highest form of prayer -- his steady and reverent attentiveness to the world in which he finds himself is the armature of this book.  And attention includes engagement: the Sixties play a role here as background for poems of contemporary civic activism that confirm the personal as political and vice-versa.  When Smith compares the sun's rising to the birth of a child and wonders "what gift" to bring him, the reader knows the gift has already been delivered, Smith's poetry itself.  Like the "music-house" for shelter one poem speaks of, Smith offers us for shelter his poetry-house, solidly built, roomy, and full of treasures.
                --Philip Dacey, author of Church of the Adagio

This substantial, wide-ranging book is an inspiration and a glory. The boy who carried the news to the sick, the housebound and the lonely was the messenger Mercury, his wings a single-speed Schwinn bike. In his maturity Smith brings that life-saving news to us that can only be found in poetry. The intervening years have done their work well in him: "I am better for living," he writes, having discovered the reverence youth had kept hidden from himself in his heart. Over and over in these poems we discover with Smith one version and then another of that reverence. We are made aware in them, too, of those years of development that were the chrysalis "in which he surrenders / to the mysterious fluidity by which / creatures weary of creeping form their wings." In this collection Smith has fully taken wing.
                --Joe Paddock, author of Circle of Stones

These poems are the salt of the earth -- they come from pure, simple roots, natural-born and straight-shooting.  Thomas R. Smith is a grown-up, in-your-face, deeply tender poet who is not afraid to sing of his reverence and love for family, friends, and country -- not afraid to express his kinship with animals, insects and plants -- and not afraid to write about political, cultural and environmental figures, naming both heroes and villains, enemies and compatriots.  Smith moves from early memories of life in a small Midwestern town through decades of seeking, losing, and finding purpose and meaning in his life.  He accepts and also resists defeat, the sad song that underlies many of the dreams he cherished as a younger man.  He ultimately succeeds in his efforts to "embrace every sunset given us" as he faces both the tragic truth and glory of existence.
                --Freya Manfred, author of Speak, Mother

You can order The Glory and other books by Thomas R. Smith from Red Dragonfly Press at this address:  www.reddragonflypress.org/smith.html

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