Synopses & Reviews
history is what it is. it knows what it did.
bad dog. bad blood. bad day to be a boy
color of a July well spent. but here, not earth
not heaven, we can’t recall our white shirts
turned ruby gowns. here, there’s no language
for officer or law, no color to call white.
if snow fell, it’d fall black. please, don’t call
us dead, call us alive someplace better.
we say our own names when we pray.
we go out for sweets & come back.
— from “summer, somewhere”
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, 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 collection, one that confronts America where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.
“Don’t Call Us Dead gives me a dose of hope at a time when such a thing feels hard to come by. This is a mighty work, and a tremendous offering.” Tracy K. Smith
“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....Incandescent, indispensable, and, yes, nothing short of a miracle.” Booklist (Starred Review)
“...Smith makes of joy — of the expression of joy — both a tool for survival and a form of resistance.” Carl Phillips, Poetry Foundation
“With humanity and heart, Smith contemplates the assaults on a black, male body in America — police brutality, violence, and AIDS, and the resulting culture of danger, suspicion, grief, psychological pain, and resistance.” BuzzFeed
“Smith activates a spectrum of emotions in material that could justifiably remain tragic, bringing pathos and several senses of humor.” The Nation
About the Author
Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Smith has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, and lives in Minneapolis.