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Imagine a hardhat construction worker who writes poetry as easily as he wields a jackhammer and you'll be on your way to Cumberland Station. Dave Smith is a straight-talking poet who has little time for literary niceties or embellishments, even when his subject is another poet (in this case, Walt Whitman): ""the faces of young men I see aren't Christ/ . . . though they wear the green clothes of Park Rangers,/ the polite smile of Toledo, and one/ thinks you sold him a Buick."" Though humor does surface in these poems, the tone is mostly stark: ""Later you hang/ your feet in a river but it is/ only wet and cold like the rain/ sifting over you all night where/ you have lain cool and quiet, barbed/ on the hook at the end of a fine line."" Clean, uncluttered images distinguish Smith's poetry: ""There are apples in the yard, red and soft/ . . . Their seeds more perfect than reason."" Because it does not depend upon literary props, poetry like this must hit the mark or falter completely. Smith does indeed get off the track at times and puffs hot air (""Damn death""), but his successes make the ride well worth it.

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 1977
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois Press