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The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations Paperback – November 13, 2008
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"When you emerge from your battle with Graves Grow Bigger, one thing you're convinced of is that poets grow bigger too, as least in the case of Smith himself." —Hugh Fox, author, Defiance
"Smith not only writes about the hardscrabble life of the workingman, but his own rebirth as a poet." —Ibbetson Street Press
"Smith is unafraid of content in an age when poetry often has nothing to say, and even less on the page except for brilliant wordplay. Smith confronts the major issues of our time, going beyond the merely glib." —Virtual Artists Collective Poetry
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"This evening all across our nation / men are taking the bones from their arms / and rubbing them against each other for heat." --From "Tea Leaves in a Chamber Pot"
Unfortunately for us, the bleakness of man's struggle against the void of space and the onslaught of industry is a constant companion, pulling us down ever farther as we try to climb out of Smith's desolation. And the hidden meanings tend to stay hidden.
This is not to say that the book lacks beauty or strong imagery. There are some excellent and inventive moments interspersed throughout this collection. The title poem is the fresh story of a man who brags that he'll have a larger tombstone than any wealthy man on Wall Street. He gets his wish when, drunk on the job, he stumbles and falls into the unfinished foundation of Hoover Dam and is buried in wet concrete:
"Gonna have it: a bigger grave stone, he said. And he got it all, / two miles wide and big enough to hold a town, a people, / a civilization in the woods even after the refineries failed, / with a drainage area of almost 2200 square miles, and / costing 108 million dollars take that Mr. Carnegie!" --From "The Graves Grow Bigger Between Generations"
Unfortunately, Smith doesn't always know when to stop a poem. Most of these seem to ramble toward the end and lead to ill-constructed conclusions. As well, he doesn't seem to understand the idea of restraint. We are constantly reminded of how evil industry and technology are. Life lacks hope in these pages, and Smith seems as though he has no intention of letting up any time soon.
I would jump at the chance to read a future collection by Smith in which he lets go of the reigns and allows his works to find themselves. This medium allows only a small space in which to work, and (as I have been) Smith is tempted to tackle the biggest ideas he can get his hands on. Often we find that darkness leads to darkness. Perhaps next time he'll bring the candles and matches.
also reminds us that our modern world, our post-lapsarian psyches that negotiate that world, are, paradoxically, defined by "lighted shadows," and therefore, at the very least, sputtering with hope. If you are looking for an art that equals the complexity of the truth it presents,
then read this book. Truly it will restoreth your soul, not to mention your faith in the power and promise of poetry.