Don't Call Us Dead: Poems

Don't Call Us Dead: Poems

By Danez Smith
96 pages
September 2017

Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry
Winner 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.

“These poems can’t make history vanish, but they can contend against it with the force of a restorative imagination. Smith’s work is about that imagination―its role in repairing and sustaining communities, and in making the world more bearable. . . . Their poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joy. . . . But they also know the magic trick of making writing on the page operate like the most ecstatic speech.”The New Yorker

“Danez Smith is angry, erotic, politicized, innovative, classical, a formalist, an activist, and blends all of this without seeming to strain. . . . This will be one of the year’s essential books.”―Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR

“[A] stunning collection. . . . These pieces pulse with the rhythms and assertiveness one expects from poetry slams.”The Washington Post

“Searing. . . . Smith’s capacity for compassionate invention is epic. . . . Smith races across lexicons and spectra, pushing even the boundaries of typography in wrestling with the dreadful fact that the black male body is imperiled from both within and without.”―Tracy K. Smith, O, The Oprah Magazine

“Smith prophesies an end from which a new beginning might spring. Throughout Don’t Call Us Dead, hope appears as a form of resistance and rebirth.”The Guardian (UK)