Social Work and Other Myths is the result of Smith's experience as a social worker combined with his passion for the reading and writing of poetry. His 43 year career as a social worker has taken him to varied locations. Smith started as a youth outreach worker in Chicago in the 1970s, moved to Detroit in the 1980s to work as a community organizer, and then became a homeless shelter director in Ypsilanti, and most recently to Chelsea, Michigan.
Over the last several years, Smith has written poems that are portraits of the people he's worked with throughout his career. Being a social worker has given him the opportunity to meet some exceptional people who have somehow weathered both trauma and marginalization. Their stories are poignant, tragic, and sometimes humorous, but never boring. The majority of the poems in Social Work and Other Myths were written over the last 17 years while working with the low income community of western Washtenaw County.
What people are saying
Poet, Critic, and Author of The Bird While
Author, Doug Smith, has done the work: fed the hungry and housed the homeless without any great hope that he can do much good, without any certainty of his own motivations. But the poems sing and they remember, clearly, and with such compassion.
M. L. Liebler
Author and Co-founder of the Midwest Literary walk
Social Work & Other Myths, is an insightful and very realistic journey into the heart of darkness that we call contemporary America. Doug Smith’s poems shine a light on the cruelty of our society and, yet offers hope to nourish our souls.
Award winning Michigan playwright
Social Work and Other Myths is a poignant expression of compassion. These poems beseech us to identify with the humanity in the desperate, the afflicted, the abandoned, the evicted and the exiled.
Selected work from Social Work and Other Myths
He ties knots, he skips rope, he runs in place,
he launches satellites with a sling shot,
he tans himself off the light of the moon.
Just once the man would like to go to jail
for a good cause, to walk without being ordered
to find someone a little broken like himself to love.
Into a blood twilight swollen with melting trees,
through clouds of mosquitoes, he rode his bicycle
from California to Michigan beneath clear skies
into blackness, over the great flat basin of Illinois
along rivers, lakes and growling tractor trailers.
Townspeople threw bottles, spit on him
but who were they to call him a freak?
How long could they stand up to voices
louder than a choir of Pentecostals awaiting
baptism, or pedal hundreds of miles over asphalt
so hot your legs caught on fire?
He would still be sitting on that bluff watching
waves pound the headlands of Mendocino
drenched in surf and silt, smelling of dead fish
if ghosts hadn’t stolen his tent and sleeping bag
all his food and the guitar his brother gave him.
Some nights he collapsed by the side of the road
slept in a drainage ditch, massaged
his scaly ring-wormed arms with apple cider vinegar
strummed an imaginary guitar and sang,
“don’t call me homeless, the earth is my home.”
After the snow melted the man showed up at the shelter
tan as a lifeguard, intent on setting the record straight.
He never rode with the Hell’s Angles, loves America
but this ruthless competition is bringing him down,
he quit taking his meds years ago and is none the worse.
The man can almost remember what he looked like—
captain of the hockey team, kissing a girl at the drive-in,
hanging drywall with his dad, boy without a diagnosis
before fireflies big as humming birds found him sleeping
in an abandoned house, told him true love and peace
of mind would have to wait, the invasion had begun.