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Kalamazoo Weekly News, Vol. 8, Issue 18 

July 29, 2009


Writer Turns Passion Into International Phenomenon

By Jessica Short



“A fine cigar and good literature—two of life’s most enduring pleasures” is the motto behind The Smoking Poet (TSP).


Established in 2006, the literary e-zine (an online magazine) has become a worldwide phenomenon attracting readers and writers from countries including Spain, Singapore, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia.


The ambiance of the website offers its users a unique atmosphere, incomparable to any other.


“What makes The Smoking Poet unique is this cigar-lounge atmosphere,” said Managing Editor Zinta Aistars. “We offer something to nourish the spirit—an atmosphere of relaxation… a moment away from the raucous world to restore the spirit… a retreat into the finer arts.”


As a writer, Aistars saw the need for The Smoking Poet while on a business trip to Austin, Texas. After meeting a man named Charlie, who was the owner of a cigar lounge, and hearing about the day-to-day pleasure he derives from running his business, Aistars and her [travel] companion, J. Conrad Guest, now coeditor of The Smoking Poet, were inspired to begin a similar business of their own—a business that would embody the atmosphere of a classy cigar lounge.


“There is this ambiance of relaxation, of leaving the hectic and stressful world outside, and retreating to this place where one can enjoy a fragrant, hand rolled cigar, and ream a little,” said Aistars, who also works as a health care writer in Grand Rapids.


Raised by Latvian parents, Aistars grew up in a household where the American culture played a near-to-nonexistent role in her upbringing. Growing up, she realized how intertwined art, culture, and language are and how all of the factors play a role in how people truly grasp a style of reading and writing.


“Many of us resolve at that threshold crossing into independence that we must reinvent ourselves and need an entirely new environment around us to do so,” said Aistars. “Later in life, we learn that is not necessary. Wherever we go, there we are.”


“In addition to cigar-themed stories and reviews, the quarterly publication also publishes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, with occasional excerpts from novels, book reviews, and interviews that feature various artists and their work, including those from family and friends.


“I hope our readers enjoy that high quality of literary pleasures and enjoy the beauty of the artwork,” said Aistars.


“I hope they might be introduced to a writer they may not have read yet. And I hope they might be moved to make a difference, too, for a cause we feature, or for one of their own,” she said.


New to TSP is a page called “A Good Cause,” which focuses on select issues about those who have been abused and neglected, an area in which her daughter, Lorena Audra Rutens is both educated and passionate.


Rutens, who works as the editor of “A Good Cause” lives in Chicago. Like many editors of The Smoking Poet who live out of state, the ease of being able to access and utilize the e-zine has given them the opportunity to read and write about areas of literature and society that they feel the most passionate about.


“Home is where you make it, where your heart is,” said Aistars.


“What I love perhaps most of all about TSP is its international flavor. This is a lounge where anyone can drop in, from any point on the globe, and find something for them. Had we opened a lounge in Michigan, we would not have had this international community to such a degree. I can stay in Kalamazoo, sink my roots deep into the soil, and keep on traveling. Or, have the world come to me,” she said.



For More Information


For more info on The Smoking Poet, visit .


For more info on Zinta Aistars, visit .


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