Smith combines a strong line and a knack for historical narrative to deliver a compelling collection of poetry. His poetic journey takes him deep into the South where he looks back at history and tries to answer the question – why? Some of the poems are downright haunting and they have a tendency to dwell on the darker sides of human character. John Wilkes Booth – heartthrob, brother, cousin, murderer – Smith devotes an entire section to this infamous actor viewing him from all angles. Among his odes to musicians, his portraits of Robert Johnson (Rust spots where somebody touch magnolia flower / showed him moods) and Sara Carter (a wandering ghost, / with a voice so private it could shave ice.) are the best. But I thought his poem about Emmett Till was the most striking poem in the collection.
he said, and the syllables yet echo into this raw night
like a poem that won’t be silenced, like the choir
of seventeen-year insects, their voices riddling strange
as sleigh bells through the summer air, the horrors
of injustice still simmering…