Don't Call Us Dead: Poems - Danez Smith

Staff Pick

“I am a house swollen with the dead,” Danez Smith writes, and Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf, $16), his powerful second book, might be read as one extended elegy for all the black victims of police shootings, lynchings, street violence, and HIV. Smith imagines not an afterlife but an alternative life for these lost boys. In many ways it’s a beautiful, redemptive, defiant vision, but it’s also heartbreaking and enraging—the fact remains that “we earned this paradise/ by a death we didn’t deserve.” Angry, passionate, and full of lines with the concision and urgency of protest slogans—“i was born a bull’s eye,” “history is what it is. it knows what it did,” “paradise is a world where everything /is sanctuary & nothing is a gun”—these poems are also expertly crafted lyrics. Smith’s formal skills range from the unvarnished prose poem, “dear white America,” to propulsive couplets and preacherly/rap rhythms and repetitions. One tour de force spills “blood” all over the page in a desperate effort to come to grips with all the real blood—including Smith’s—infected with HIV. In another, Smith turns to the demanding technical constraints of the crown of sonnets to channel his grief over the children he’ll never have, the children he can only “un”: “untuck them into bed, unkiss their lil wounds/ unteach them how to pray.” Don’t miss this one.

Don't Call Us Dead: Poems Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555977856
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Graywolf Press - September 5th, 2017

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