Smith’s follow-the-heart approach to writing seems reflective of an inviting approach to life itself. That’s not to suggest that The Hidden Peace in Poems and its many moments of warmth shy away from this world’s harshness. Instead, pieces like “Shelter Inside” center on an agitated narrator who feels disconnected from those around them (“Maybe I’ll just wait until a real person seeks me, with a sincere spirit”) while poems like “What Has It Done?” express frustrated despair at how “Spirits full of selfishness, vindictive behavior, and scornful thoughts” prevail over our better angels.
The portrait that emerges as the pages pass is of a soul seeking love, beauty, and justice yet sometimes stymied by forces large and small, the societal and the personal. Above all, though, Smith evinces a compelling drive to keep going, making art out of the very struggle to express one’s self. Frank and direct, the standout prose pieces “Longing to Be Heard” and “Feeling Unneeded” state truths so many can relate to: “I may not say everything correctly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. It doesn’t mean I can’t help.” The act of following his heart –and the example of being heard that this book represents—shows that he can.
Takeaway: This touching collection celebrates the transcendent in the everyday while frankly acknowledging the world’s harshness.
Great for fans of: Oakland’s Citywide Poetry Anthology, Arisa White’s Who’s Your Daddy.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-