Baltimore Sons by Dean Bartoli Smith is a chilling poetry collection touching on themes of violence, family instability, and death. The book is split into two parts, each with a variety of poems focusing on guns and other weapons. Laced with diversity and stories of inner-city violence, readers who enjoy serious poetry would enjoy this book.
Told from the perspective of a man named Frank, he narrates the story of his childhood and into his own fatherhood through the brutality of Baltimore’s streets. As previously stated, this collection contains various poems focusing on Frank and his father’s love of guns. I found one of the more darker poems titled, “Pistol Range” where Frank’s father “takes the law into his own hands” as a “disgruntled son out for revenge.” Frank kills this man, “enjoying every moment” for the pain that he has caused him and his family. Similarly, the poem titled “Big Boy” left me feeling the same way the previous poem did. Starting with a light beginning, Frank says he used to watch a popular show with a girl named Queenie, where they took a special liking to the gunslinger characters. Now, after having fallen sick with a terminal illness, Queenie is about to die. Upon visiting her, Frank’s father states something you will not forget.
I found both of these poems gave a real insight into Frank’s childhood and what he witnessed as “normal.” Surrounded by violence and disorder, it’s no wonder in the later poems how Frank gets in trouble himself, with no positive influence to look toward. Although poignant, Frank’s journey is one worth reading, and one that really brings into perspective the heartbreaking reality that others must live.
Although majority of the poems are told from Frank’s perspective, some of the later poems draw a historical focus. “Something to Cool You Off – July 8, 1944” was one of these. Private Booker T. Spicely, an African American solider, was seated near the front of a bus in his uniform to journey home to his wife and son. The bus driver, Lee Council, demanded Spicely move after two white soldiers boarded the bus. Spicely did not move, and the white soldiers found no problem with this, sitting towards the back of the bus. However, the bus driver was not taking no for an answer. You may be able to guess how this poem ends, and how the others that fall under this racial injustice theme do as well. Although these topics are heartbreaking to talk about, Smith does so in a way that is both respectful and insightful.
|Dean Bartoli Smith
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