Shelby Stephenson reviews Stephen E. Smith’s Beguiled by the Frailties of those Who Precede Us


  Review by Shelby Stephenson of Beguiled by the Frailties of Those Who Precede Us written by Stephen E. Smith (Kelsay Books, 502 South 1040 East, A-119, American Fork, Utah 84003:

     These are poems, for one thing, about the “there” – there!

     Beguiled by the Frailties of Those Who Precede Us:  the title tells all, if it could, for Stephen E. Smith shares the joy of family, father and mother, a son, and graves popular as Mortality’s song that others will come along, even after “released on bond.” 

     What mortal words bring to knowing and not-knowing brim in these poems.  See “Stepping Out of Poetry.”  Stephen’s father was a boxer: the poem deals with many subjects, the main one, I think, racial prejudice:  the conviction of Jack Johnson “by an all-white jury of violating the Mann Act—transporting a woman (in this case his wife) across state lines for immoral purposes—and he was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison.”  Stephen presents his father pondering Humanity. The color-line dominates, still does—in our lives and in American poetry.

     Loiter and laugh as wakening comes again:  “Last July” shows the natural Unnatural as a child cries as his father leaves him for a podium to read poetry to an audience, the child, now grown, moving us to the window-light.

     I did that this morning:  opened the blinds.  The world said, Hello!!

     This book does too, gives light–big time. 

     Stephen E Smith lives in Southern Pines, North Carolina.  His reviews and essays are featured in PineStraw, Walter, and O. Henry Magazine. The book is available here from Kelsay Press.