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. 


June 11:  Reading, Thomas R. Smith and Freya Manfred, ArtReach St. Croix, Stillwater, MN, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.  224 4th Street N.  For information:  651/439-1465.

June 13:  Reading, Thomas R. Smith, Tom Hennen, and Timothy Young.  Como Cottage, 1610 Fernwood St., St. Paul, MN, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Space limited. Call for reservations.  612/968-7104.

June 18:  Reading, Thomas R. Smith and Freya Manfred, River Falls Public Library, Thursday, 7 p.m.  140 Union Street, River Falls, WI.  For information:  715/425-0905.

June 26:  Reading, Thomas R. Smith and Timothy Young, SubText Books, St. Paul, MN, Friday, 6:30 p.m.  6 West 5th Street.  Free.

September 10:  Poetry and Music with Thomas R. Smith, Timothy Young, and Yata Peinovich, Accola Gallery, Durand, WI, Thursday, 7 p.m. 

Watch this space for other fall readings including The Book House in Minneapolis and the Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison. 

Summer Class Offerings at the Loft Literary Center:

Birds, Beasts, Flowers and Trees:  Summer Nature Writing (6 weeks)
6 - August 10, Mondays 6 - 8 p.m.
Summer, with its everyday access to outdoors, is an ideal time of year to write about nature up close.  One need only take a 15-minute walk to observe fresh subject matter in an ever-changing landscape.  This class invites a delighted and thoughtful immersion in poems inspired by the diverse living things with which we share the planet.  Beginning with a brief overview of the development of the modern nature poem, we'll devote entire class meetings to the enjoyment and discussion of poems about birds, beasts, flowers, trees, and the inanimate world.  We'll borrow some ideas from the British "ecopoetics" scholar Jonathan Bate's The Song of the Earth, and master poets such as Issa, John Clare, Mary Oliver, D. H. Lawrence and Francis Ponge will pleasurably inform our wanderings over the literary landscape of the nature poem.  We'll also survey some of the rich tradition of nature writing in our own region.  Writing exercises designed to bring the natural world onto the page will be offered in each class session.  Small copy fee.
For more information or to register:  612/215-2575 or  https://www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=110263

Unlocking the Very Brief Poem, East and West (single day)
Saturday, August 1, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S.,  Minneapolis. 
The very brief poem is ideal for those who want to capture essences, or the immediate flavor of some moment of living or flash of insight.  It is the poem of instant immersion in one's subject, with no preamble and no sequel.  It can also be the poem of piquant observation of life's little ironies.  It also has sometimes been employed as a conveyor of aphorism or wisdom.  In this workshop we'll explore all of these aspects of the very brief poem and more, beginning with the masters of Japanese forms such as the haiku and tanka and following their influence into the Western poetry of the past hundred years, especially prominent in the Imagists of the early twentieth century.  We'll consider the intricacies of bringing these forms into contemporary American language while looking at a range of international poets who've adapted the very brief poem to their personal styles.  This wide-ranging workshop will include great Eastern poets like Issa and Basho as well as Western poets as diverse as Jane Hirshfield and Ezra Pound.  Writing exercises will feature forms both Eastern and Western, including renga (linked verse) and the cinquain.  Small copy fee.
For more information or to register:  612/215-2575 or https://www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=110384

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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