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Eric Smith
The Hidden Peace In Poems
This book contains poetry about life, love and the many obstacles we encounter.  
“When I listen with my heart the words just come,” Smith writes at the start of this intimate debut, which finds the author listening to—and following—his heart. A soaring introductory poem sets the tone (“From jungle bird to jungle boy roaming the cement jungle we conquer”) for a collection of verse and short essays that embraces life as its lived—focusing on childhood, parentage, love, vulnerability, and the glories of Oakland—while finding transcendence in the everyday. “We had the best candy shop in all of Brookfield, and that’s all that mattered to us,” Smith writes in one touching memory piece, a thoughtful reminiscence that acknowledges hard times but also emphasizes the joyous.

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.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-