Don't call us dead Poems

Danez Smith

Book - 2017

Smith's unflinching poetry addresses race, class, sexuality, faith, social justice, mortality, and the challenges of living HIV positive at the intersection of black and queer identity. The collection opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved on earth. "Dear White America," which Smith performed at the 2014 Rus...tbelt Midwest Region Poetry Slam, has as strong an impact on the page as it did on the spoken word stage. Smith's courage and hope amidst the struggle for unity in America will humble and uplift you.

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 811.6/Smith Due Jul 22, 2022
Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press [2017]
Physical Description
88 pages ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references (page 85).
Main Author
Danez Smith (author)
Corporate Author
Bemis/Flaherty Collection of Gay Poetry (-)
  • Summer, somewhere
  • Dear white America
  • Dinosaurs in the hood
  • It won't be a bullet
  • Last summer of innocence
  • A note on Vaseline
  • A note on the phone app that tells me how far I am from other men's mouths
  • & even the black guy's profile reads "sorry, no black guys"
  • O nigga O
  • ...nigga
  • At the down-low house party
  • Bare
  • Seroconversion
  • Fear of needles
  • Recklessly
  • Elegy with pixels & cum
  • Litany with blood all over
  • It began right here
  • Crown
  • Blood hangover
  • 1 in 2
  • Every day is a funeral & a miracle
  • Not an elegy
  • A note on the body
  • You're dead, America
  • Strange dowry
  • Tonight, in Oakland
  • Little prayer
  • Dream where every black person is standing by the ocean
  • Notes.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In "a note on the body," slam poet Smith (insert boy, 2014) writes, "Everyday you wake you raise the dead / everything you do is a miracle." Smith accomplishes both in this searing exploration of systemic violence and what it means to be black and queer "on land who" doesn't always love "you back." The stunning opener, "summer, somewhere," envisions a lavender-laced afterlife for black boys killed by police. Here, "everything / is sanctuary & nothing is a gun." With piercing precision and striking formal variation, Smith grapples with America's insidious past and present, pangs of desire ("if love is a room / of broken glass, leave me to dance / until my feet are memory"), and an HIV-positive diagnosis. The poet summons hope, too, in a movie dubbed Dinosaurs in the Hood, the modest promise of tomorrow, and, in "little prayer," a most divine demand: "let ruin end here." Part indelible elegy, part glorious love song to "those brown folks who make / up the nation of my heart," Smith's powerhouse collection is lush with luminous imagery, slick rhythms, and shrewd nods to Lucille Clifton, Beyoncé, and Diana Ross. Incandescent, indispensable, and, yes, nothing short of a miracle. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In this remarkable second collection from Kate Tufts/Lambda Award winner Smith, the content as well as the writing is transcendent. A core poem, "dear white america," already viewed in a YouTube reading by over 300,000 people, opens with the observation, "i've left Earth in search of darker planets," and every line that follows is a stab-in-the-heart summation of the consequences of racism, delivered in taut, pearlescent prose. Claiming that "my grandmother's hallelujah is only outdone by the fear she nurses every time the blood-fat summer swallows another child," Smith demands, "take your God back," adding "I am equal parts sick of your go back to Africa & I just don't see race." In the end, the poet looks for a place where there's a "history you cannot steal or sell or cast overboard…or redline or shackle or silence." That longing also surfaces in the opening poem, which evokes a sort of sunlit afterlife where black males killed violently gather freely and "jump// in the air and hang there," unburdened by fear. These two poems alone are worth the price of admission, but the whole collection measures up. VERDICT Highly recommended. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Smith follows the Lambda Literary Award–winning debut boy with a further display of transcendent talent for close-to-the bone articulation, celebrating the lives of "we citizens/ of an unpopular heaven// & low-attended crucifixions." Poised at the bruising intersection of black and queer identity, poems such as "dear white america" ("I tried to love you, but you spent my brother's funeral making plans for brunch") lose no impact moving from spoken-word stage to page. Smith brilliantly metaphorizes the experience of receiving an HIV diagnosis in Lorca-esque fashion, as becoming "a book of antonyms" and leavens the gravity with moments of mordant wit. An erasure of Diana Ross lyrics leaves the message "if there's a cure for this/ i want it," capturing camp's confrontation with the intolerable. Though visually and formally varied, the collection's most striking pyrotechnics are rhetorical: "& he will say tonight, I want to take you/ how the police do, unarmed & sudden." Describing a "down-low house party," a speaker observes: "we say yo meaning let my body// be a falcon's talon & your body be the soft innards of goats." Luminous and piercing, this collection reassembles shattering realities into a shimmering and sharp mosaic. (Sept.) Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An awarding-poet presents a collection of works that opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police—a place where suspicion, violence and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love and longevity they deserved here on earth. Original.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Finalist for the National Book Award for PoetryWinner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection“[Smith's] poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joy.”—The New Yorker Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality—the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood—and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “Some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, “some of us all at once.” Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America—“Dear White America”—where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.