Jessie Lilley
Buddy Barnett
Brad Linaweaver
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The Dreams You Carry

On Your Back

A Review of The Poetic Works of

William Smith

(First Printing September, 2009)

Missouri is a land of rivers and lakes. William Smith saw that world as a child, same as Mark Twain, and grew up surrounded by her beauty; but Missouri has her price. She is a hard state with challenging work. From this combination of beauty and hard times came a breed of men rarely found today. Men whose hands, filthy from hard work, can tenderly cradle the most fragile of creatures as easily as they can form a fist and deliver a blow.

This first book of poetry by William Smith is actually two books. His career as one of the toughest guys in movies is here. There is a torrent of film and TV credits. There are many photographs--snapshots that any fan would want to see and pictures of the good things in his life, especially his great love, Joanne, who has been there for him in the madness of Hollywood. But this book is not really about the movies; nor is it about his time as a body builder. In this book of poems, Smith is pressing verse rather than weights.

Smith's natural sense of rhyme is just a bonus; what matters is that he forces the reader to feel every emotion he has ever had to deal with, good or bad culminating in bare knuckles art. There comes a point in reading these couplets where the reader remembers all the faces of William Smith on screen. We suddenly realize why we believed his smiles; because we had been with him when he wore the faces of pain. We knew those eyes had seen far more than what one finds on a movie set or location.

Joanne and William Smith

Consider the poem, "Awake"; a cold, cruel piece about a man on death row who killed the woman who cheated on him. There is no plea for mercy. No justification. It's an exploration of agony, the kind that a normal, well adjusted person should thank the gods he will never feel. This is a cancer in the soul so pervasive that a cell on death row is like a holiday resort compared to the blind rage that lead to murder. We don't want to understand, not really, but Smith shows it to us just the same.

This same book has love poems that seem all the more genuine because the artist is not afraid to give us hate poems. Life is what it is. Death is not a joke. Jealousy is the great demon that can swallow us all, one way or another.

Here are poems of patriotism and war and soldiers without a whiff of political lies. Here is a celebration of bikers because they want to run free with the wind and the sun, not because they have to get drunk and prove a goddamned thing. Here is a lament for the lost drive-in where so many of us first discovered the pleasures and dangers of adulthood on dates that were more real than anything on the big, white screen.

William Smith is a warrior poet. That means he gets shit from every direction. He takes it. He throws it back. Then he writes verses as pure and clean as a Missouri spring.

— Brad Linaweaver

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