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. 


Thomas R. Smith, publication reading for The Glory, Saturday, April 11:  Como Cottage, St. Paul, MN (watch this space for further details)


A Winter Poetry Workshop at Crossings at Carnegie, Zumbrota, Minnesota:
The Winter Poem (morning workshop)
Saturday, January 24, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

For many, winter is the best season for writing, when the quiet of the external landscape pulls us toward an inwardness conducive to dreaming and re-visioning our lives. Winter's inward mood is perfectly suited to the reading and writing of poetry. In this part-workshop, part-retreat, we'll take advantage of the season to focus on both the outward and inner aspects of winter. Along the way we'll visit the work of several poets of our region who know and have written memorably of the northern winter, among them Freya Manfred, Robert Bly, Connie Wanek, and Tom Hennen. In exercises tailored to the season we will write our own poems of winter, touching on the fertile dream-work that nourishes us during the cold, dark time of the year.  320 East Ave., Zumbrota, MN 55992.
To register:  Call 507/732-7616 or email info@crossingsatcarnegie.com

Winter-Spring poetry classes at the Loft Literary Center:
The Voice of the Heart (12 weeks)
Thursdays, January 22 - April, 6-8 p.m. at the Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S.,  Minneapolis. 
If poetry is essentially a communication from the heart of one human being to another, how can we keep the heart in our poems without sentimentality or cliché?  This class encourages poets at any level of development to bring more emotional honesty and openness into their poems.  Drawing on new and old metaphors of the heart, we'll attempt to balance emotion and thought in our work, locating the most powerful areas of feeling in our lives to create poems of intensity and depth.  Along the way we'll explore the poetry of childhood and home place, the elegy and the love poem, dream poems, and poems that embrace the overlapping worlds of nature and human community.  We'll also look at the role played by language in expressing the "thought of the heart."  Sessions include lectures and group discussion of work by Jane Hirshfield, Pablo Neruda, William Stafford, Marilyn Nelson, and other master poets.  This is a generative rather than an analytical course, with in-class writing exercises to widen our expressive range.  The instructor will give written feedback on up to six poems per student.  Small copy fee.
For more information or to register:  612/215-2575 or   www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=96083

Stretching into the World:  The Poetry of Mary Oliver (all-day session)
Saturday, March 14, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S., 
This all-day class surveys the work of Mary Oliver, America's pre-eminent nature poet, with an eye toward learning how to write more empathetically and imaginatively about the natural world.  While enjoying and illuminating delicious poems from all periods of Oliver's long career, we will use writing exercises to bring us closer to the creative fire in which her poems were forged.  Starting with Oliver's small-town childhood in Ohio, we'll trace the emergence of her mature voice in her early published work.  We'll emphasize especially Oliver's prolific middle period in which she hones her ability to identify with an amazing variety of nonhuman "others," a capacity owing much to the example of Walt Whitman.  We'll also cast light on the labors hidden under the apparently effortless surfaces of Oliver's poems, with special attention to formal techniques that have shaped her poems throughout her career.  Recently Oliver's work has taken new turns, particularly in spiritual and political directions sometimes startling to her long-time readers.  This workshop will demonstrate how consistently, in all her phases, she has increased her ability to "stretch into the world" to meet it on its own terms..  Becoming more aware of the tensions, themes and conflicts underlying Oliver's work can help us learn to claim and incorporate some of its wild energy in our own poems.
For more information or to register:  612/215-2575 or   www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=102161

Recent Publications

Airmail:  The Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Tranströmer is now available from Graywolf Press.  For a report on the official launch held at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis on Tuesday, April 2, see Minneapolis Star Tribune book review editor Laurie Hertzel's blog at


For a perceptive reviewer's take on the book, see Alice Gregory's review for The New Republic at


I am also happy to report that a British edition of Airmail is just out this past summer from Bloodaxe Books in the UK.  The Guardian in its July 12 edition has published a perceptive review by Fiona Sampson.  Sampson writes:  "Testament to the possibilities of [a writing life well-lived], this is a generous, intimate book.  It should be required reading for everyone interested in poems and the making of poetry."  You can find Ms. Sampson's full review at:


Coming in Spring 2015

A new collection of poems, The Glory, from Red Dragonfly Press.  Watch this space for further announcements!

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