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Honestly and openly, sometimes simply, sometimes eloquently, Smith takes the reader on a journey of what it was like to be a young man living early in the 20th century. Through his poetry we learn about Smith's life and the events that consumed him -- the sea, a world war, death, heroes, Smith's fellow sailors, dreams and speeches of young men, books, whimsical meanderings, and, of course, love.
Many of the poems in Haunts and By-Paths were originally published by the Naval Reservist journal The Broadside during WW1 and The Smart Set, a literary magazine founded in 1900 that gave a start to many up-and-coming authors. Others were written while Thorne was hospitalized in France in 1918.
Critical reception of Smith's poetic debut was unenthusiastic. In fact, Smith was so crushed by reviews that he never published another collection. Time has, of course, changed our perspective in many ways.
Written before he became famous, Smith's poems were those of a young man who survived a terrible war and hoped, as did many young men, that his life would not be ordinary. They tell us that story. In light of what Smith would later achieve, they also reveal something about Smith's beginnings, threads of his whimsy and humor, and a glimmer of his renown wit. In that way, his honest and open reflections have become deeply important to us.