George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron ByronIn 1985, a British Romantic Period Literature class changed my life. The poetry of Byron, Shelley, and Keats wakened in me a passion for writing. I determined to somehow make a career of it—and somehow feed my children.

Since then I’ve worked exclusively in publishing, first for game companies, now in education. I also continue to write, study, and promote poetry. It’s my opinion that poetry used to belong to the people, until academics stole it. It’s high time to steal it back from them.

3 Scenes from Dwight

Lester : September 14, 2015 1:00 pm : Announcements, Poetry

If you’ve been following along, you know I now live in Loma, NE, population currently 28. It’s too small for its own ZIP Code, so my mailing address is technically in Dwight, seven miles away. Dwight itself is so small, it has vaguely one block of downtown. Here are three photos I snapped there today.
Dwight Post Office
The tan brick building is the post office, open 8am–noon weekdays, 9–9:45am Saturdays (yes, a quaint 45 minutes). The pale yellow building is an American Legion Hall, where I helped a guy in his 70s unload a van-full of food for a funeral last week. And that’s my ’91 Jeep Wrangler Sport.
Dwight Recycling
Just past the south intersection is a recycling bin. Living in Wisconsin we got into the habit (and it keeps the “burn bin” on the farm free from tin cans).
Kooser Studio
And strangely, just around the corner on my walk to the recycling bin is former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s private studio.

While I prefer later US Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ subtlety and humor to Kooser’s more straightforward style, I do respect Kooser’s workmanship. Former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Ellen Kort once introduced me to Kooser at a reading: “Ted, this is Lester Smith, current president of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.” Kooser glanced at me, said, “Oh,” then turned back to Kort and said, “Shouldn’t we get this reading going?”

He then delivered an opening speech that inspired me to write this sonnet (recently revised):


Kooser said he’s had his fill of poetry,
couldn’t bear to cross the hall if Homer
came back from the dead to read. No more
than for John Keats’s ode on Grecian pottery.

What could make our laureate portray
for centuries of verse such frank ennui,
forget his post, invent himself anew?
(He said that kids’ books are his next priority.)

What provokes a poet to leave his worship,
turn a deaf ear to his muse, and so forth?
Has our laureate become deluded?

By degrees, a sea of college workshops
still churns out a flood of verse, a froth
of ink. Has Kooser’s blood become diluted?

—Lester Smith

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Chris to Fourth

Lester : May 29, 2015 10:17 am : Announcements, Poetry

Cristian says, “I’ve got the bait and tackle,
Dad.” They’re going fishing at the cattle
pond today. Christopher stops to tickle
Ana’s toes while Christine heats the kettle.
She leans against the stove, touches her locket,
smiles like Mona Lisa, says, “You coddle
that child.” “The cockatiels need a new cuttle
bone,” he says, and gives Ana a cuddle.

—Lester Smith

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“Making Book”

Lester : April 27, 2015 10:57 am : Announcements, Poetry, Popcorn Press

halloweenhaiku2thumbSpent much of the weekend catching up on author remuneration for Halloween Haiku II. Paying people and sending books feels good. Revisiting the stories and poems (to calculate what’s owed)—and especially rereading those by new writers—reminds me why Popcorn Press celebrates Halloween this way every year. (By the way, we’ll start adding these titles to DriveThruFiction very soon.)

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