Frank, unsparing, often violent and disturbing, these poems speak in the voice of a young man trying to navigate the city he loves as he lives in the long shadow of its decline with a sense of grace and hope. With the city of Baltimore as his backdrop, accomplished poet, author, and editor Dean Bartoli Smith offers a wrenching examination of our troubled attachments to place and the deepest wounds of the American psyche.
In Baltimore Sons, the city rises inside the breath of memories that are the history of a place. In Smith’s terse language, Baltimore is the heart of the nation, containing all the hopes and wrecked dreams, drawing them along the persistent presence of our tragic bonding with drugs, guns and violence. Walking the aisles of an army surplus store, finding a loaded revolver inside an old shoebox, sitting alone in a diner with a hot roast beef sandwich, these are the markers of the common experience of men growing up in cities where, even with muted imaginations, make the major points in the nervous system of this country. There is that centrality that Baltimoreans know as the Baltimore attitude. Smith breathes the complex dust of the language of a border town, one whose southern heritage was made into twentieth century monuments for the Confederacy. The poems are given a deftness in bones that sing songs of the commonality of loss in a great city, a loss that the poet carves alongside a faith in the idea that it could still become a haven for dreamers of hope and change, a resurrection with an indelible humor. Baltimore Sons is the vision of a just life rising in the consciousness of a believer whose hope is rooted in what is real.
Afaa M. Weaver, author of Spirit Boxing