Saturday, December 21, 2013


My shipment of three boxes containing my books arrived yesterday -- 125 copies in all. We took pictures, drank a celebratory glass, and called friends. It was a moment worth savoring. I received word that my book was accepted for publication almost two years ago (Jan. 2012), so it has been a long time coming.

Now, I must mix business with pleasure. I have already sold several copies and feel proud that friends are promising to take their book home and read it. Other friends and family members have bought their copies on-line through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

In a few weeks, I will have my first poetry reading/signing with Calliope at the West Falmouth Library (Sunday, Jan.12). For several years in a row, my poet friend and director of Calliope, Alice Kociemba has held Epiphany parties on or around Jan. 6 to celebrate this time of renewal. Poets have brought poems about new beginnings, the new year, transformation, etc. Somehow, it seems fitting that my first reading with my brand new book should fall near this time. For me, it truly is the beginning of a new life, the beginning of a new adventure.

Note: I will be reading with Kathleen Aguero and Richard Hoffman.

January 12, 2014   3 to 5 PM. Open mike sign-up at 2:45 PM.
Kathleen Aguero 
Kathleen Aguero’s fifth poetry collection, After That was just released by Tiger Bark Press. Her previous books include, Investigations: The Mystery of the Girl Sleuth, Daughter Of, The Real Weather and Thirsty Day.  She has co-edited three volumes of multi-cultural literature for the University of Georgia Press.  She is a winner of the 2012 Firman Houghton Award from the New England Poetry Club and a recipient of grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Elgin-Cox Foundation.  Kathi teaches Creative Writing in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Pine Manor College and in Changing Lives through Literature, an alternative sentencing program.

Richard Hoffman
Richard Hoffman is the author of the poetry collections, Without Paradise, Gold Star Road, winner of the 2006 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the New England Poetry Club’s Sheila Motton Book Award, and Emblem.  His poems have appeared in Agni, Harvard Review, The Literary Review and Poetry, among other journals.  He is the author of the memoir,Half the House, as well as the short story collection Interference & Other Stories.  His new memoir, Love & Fury will be published by Beacon Press in June.  Richard teaches at Emerson College.

Robin Smith-Johnson
Robin Smith-Johnson’s first volume of poetry, Dream of the Antique Dealer’s Daughter was published in December 2013 by WordTechPoetry. Her poems have appeared in The Aurorean, CAPEWOMEN, The Larcom Review, Sandscript, Voices International, Yankee Magazine and elsewhere.  Robin grew up in Orleans, and currently works as the newsroom librarian at the Cape Cod Times and teaches at the Cape Cod Community College.  She is the co-founder of the Steeple Street Poets, and lives in Mashpee.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

As a writer I have found several things that help me practice my craft. Although I tend to draft prose pieces on the computer, I almost always write my poems in longhand. There’s something freeing about filling up the pages of a lined pad. Often I use a #2 pencil with a firm eraser so I can easily erase or cross out words. When I feel that the poem is finished (or nearly), then I copy the poem into a computer file.

I also like to collect scraps of ideas on loose paper. Often I bring home words written on the back of a napkin, an envelope or post-it note. These I throw into a shoebox or desk drawer. I don’t have any filing system, but if I’m stuck for an idea, I’ll rummage around in my scrap box and sometimes pull out a phrase, line or image that I can use to start a new poem.

Although I can search the Internet for word definitions, I find there’s nothing more satisfying than looking up a word in a hard bound dictionary. I also occasionally use a thesaurus to help me find alternate words. Sometimes the easy word (the one that comes immediately to mind) is trite. It’s fun to play with less common words in a poem.

The books on my shelf also inspire my words. One of my favorites is Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual. It’s full of practical advice for beginning poets. His chapters include writing about feelings, working from memory and fine-tuning similes and metaphors. His final chapter is my favorite: Relax and wait. He describes writing poetry as “re-freshening of the world.”

Another favorite read is Michael J. Bugeja’s Poet Guide: How to Publish and Perform Your Work. He talks about workshopping your poems, giving poetry readings and steps to publication. More general guides that I find useful: The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates and The Company of Writers by Hilma Wolitzer. These books give thoughts on the writing life and also the craft of writing. Fiction writers might enjoy a recent book by Noah Lukeman called The First Five Pages or a Writer’s Guide to Staying out of the Rejection File.

But, when all is said and done, I have to take my pencil in hand and start writing. Cue the music, pour hot coffee (or wine if the hour is late), and begin. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

My book is out!


DREAM OF THE ANTIQUE DEALER'S DAUGHTER by Robin Smith-Johnson explores themes of loss, longing, and imagination by using natural images to better convey her inner world. Her poetry grows out of a need to discover what is authentic and meaningful in human relationships. The poet seeks the universal by paying attention to the small, telling details of her life as a mother, wife, lover, and quiet observer.

"Robin Smith-Johnson's work is grounded in the concrete and is, at the same time, luminous and ethereal. She seamlessly joins our conscious and unconscious perceptions of the world in fresh and surprising ways.These are poems to linger over."-Sheila Whitehouse

"Find a cozy corner and open this book. The poems in Robin Smith-Johnson's first collection, DREAM OF THE ANTIQUE DEALER'S DAUGHTER, draw the reader into a world of wistful longing. 'I cannot bring back/what has been taken away/All I can do is visit my life.' Travel with the poet as these dreamy memories evoke emotions we might recognize from our own private lives."-J. Lorraine Brown

"In her beautiful first book of poems, Robin Smith-Johnson tells the reader that 'There are four spaces in my heart:/ I could call them/ air, fire, earth, water;/ but I listen to the emptiness/ and hear: rage, betrayal, loss, despair.' Her poetry builds on letting go, pulling in and disappearing. Her words often times draw us images of women as mad, tired, assaulted empty vessels, all the while striving, hopeful, resilient, introspective and powerful. Her uses of water images are sad, brilliant and surprising and in poems like 'Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia' and 'The Next Wave' their haunting last long after the last poem in the book is read. This manuscript provides treasures that force slow and patient reads. I found it fascinating how Smith-Johnson juxtaposes poems in her well-crafted sections. The grouping titled 'Once Upon a Time' holds Smith-Johnson's variations of English language nursery rhymes. Within that section, 'Gretel's Complaint' reminded me of a poem included in 'The Landscape of Dreams' titled 'To a Brother Traveling West.' Nicely done. This book is not a 'world of small things' but an adventure of great depth and insight."-Jacqueline Murray Loring

Robin Smith-Johnson grew up in Orleans, Massachusetts where she honed her love of reading and creative writing. She has degrees in English from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts and Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Her poems have been published in various journals, including THE AUROREAN, CAPEWOMEN, THE LARCOM REVIEW, SANDSCRIPT, VOICES INTERNATIONAL, YANKEE and elsewhere. Currently, Robin works as the newsroom librarian at the Cape Cod Times and teaches at Cape Cod Community College. She is also a co-founder of the Steeple Street Poets of Cape Cod. Robin lives in Mashpee with her family.

ISBN: 978-1625490629, 110 pages, $19.00

Available from booksellers everywhere

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