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The rising sun searches out gaps
in the cloud-fence, lights faces
of pink impatiens on a doorstep.

For many, the sun, as it
finds them, is a sun of pain.
Sleeper, do you also fear waking?
The pools of rain will be lifted.
The sun will never give up its search.

from "As the Sun Finds You"

In a time when consumerism and media keep us effectively asleep to the impact of our ways and wars on the rest of the world, how can we awaken? In Waking Before Dawn, Thomas R. Smith confronts the challenge and responsibility of moral awareness in some of the best and most varied poems he has written.

These poems bridge the personal and the political, from love poems and elegies to a suite of poems powerfully indicting the bankrupt Iraq war. On the home front, Smith witnesses the hope and suffering of ordinary lives diminished by a wounded democracy, while maintaining faith, with Walt Whitman, that "South, North, East, West, inland and seaboard, we will surely awake."


Thomas R. Smith was born in 1948 and grew up in Cornell, Wisconsin, a small paper mill town on the Chippewa River. For the past ten years he has lived in River Falls, Wisconsin, with his wife, Krista Spieler.

A respected poet, essayist, and editor, his work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies in the U.S., Canada, and abroad. His poems were included in Editor's Choice II (The Spirit That Moves Us Press), a selection of the best of the American small press, and in The Best American Poetry 1999 (Scribner). Garrison Keillor has featured his poetry on his national public radio show Writer's Almanac. He is author of four previous books of poems, Keeping the Star (New Rivers Press, 1988), Horse of Earth (Holy Cow! Press, 1994), The Dark Indigo Current (Holy Cow! Press, 2000), and Winter Hours (Red Dragonfly Press, 2005).

His poetry criticism has appeared in the Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Great River Review, Ruminator Review, and other periodicals. He teaches poetry at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.


"Thomas R. Smith is a high-spirited poetry horse riding over the hills of emotion." --Robert Bly