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Don't Call Us Dead

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  7,985 ratings  ·  1,242 reviews
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. ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Graywolf Press
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Seiler Smith The poems are separated by titles! The // is just Smith's technique for breaking up sections within each poem.…moreThe poems are separated by titles! The // is just Smith's technique for breaking up sections within each poem.(less)

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Average rating 4.51  · 
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 ·  7,985 ratings  ·  1,242 reviews

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Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is poetry as fierce fire. There is such intelligence and fervor in these poems about black men and their imperiled bodies, gay men and their impassioned bodies, what it means to be HIV positive, and so much more. Every poem impressed me, and particularly the epic poems. The level of craft here is impeccable. Loved this one.
Larry H
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
After reading Rupi Kaur's gorgeous Milk and Honey (see my review), my first encounter with poetry in quite some time, I decided to delve a little deeper into the genre.

I picked up Danez Smith's Don't Call Us Dead , which was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry in 2017. At turns searing, sensual, provocative, tragic, and evocative, Smith's collection is a potent commentary on race, sexuality, violence, prejudice, promiscuity, homophobia, AIDS, and death. Some of the poems abs
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, recs, poetry
Beginning with an extended meditation on the traumatic effects of police brutality in America, Don’t Call Us Dead consists mostly of short poems that address the emotional toll of racism and homophobia upon the lives of queer Black men. At once impassioned and deliberate, Smith writes poems of great insight and intelligence; their attention to bodily experience makes their poetry read as hyper-relevant to our time, while their reflections on American social life are penetrating. It’s rare to rea ...more
Lala BooksandLala
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Book 3 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge!

Flawless. Period.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry, lgbt
Anything is possible / in a place where you can burn a body / with less outrage than a flag

Since the day I purchased the wonderful Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith, it has accompanied me everywhere in my shoulder bag. It is a collection that has felt like a companion for a year now, travelling across train, plane, down the familiar roads to work and the coffee shops where I do homework and most importantly often in my heart and mind. Yesterday, Danez Smith was awarded the high honor of the For
Elle (ellexamines)
“dear ghost I made
I was raised with a healthy fear of the dark
I turned the light bright, but you just kept

being born, kept coming for me, kept being
so dark, I got sca… I was doing my job

dear badge number

what did I do wrong?
be born? be black? meet you?”

— — — — — — — — —

When I first read this book, I commented that it was one of the best poetry collections I had read in my life. It remains such, but deserves higher praise than that: this book is the reason I love poetry today. When I read this bo
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-writers
Don't Call Us Dead was my favorite poetry collection of 2018. Ever since then, I read every single work that Danez Smith has published. They remain my favorite poet until this day. Their poetry is so real and raw and truly comes alive on the page. There are just very few artist who manage to completely capture my attention and move me so deeply with their words. Last month, I thought it was time to reread this brilliant collection.

In my humble opinion, Don't Call Us Dead is Danez's best work and
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A stunning poetry collection about the black queer experience, Danez Smith captures the dangers of police brutality and HIV with visceral imagery and a heartrending call for change. Their focus on the embodied effects of racism and homophobia makes this collection pulse with a beautiful, searing fire. What I loved most about Don't Call Us Dead: how Smith portrays the pain of being black and queer while still envisioning a utopia for himself and his black comrades. Their vision of a kind, safe, a ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtqia, poetry, race
Don't Call Us Dead is an eloquently powerful collection of poems about racism, homophobia, and police brutality against blacks in America.

Click here to see Smith performing their poem "Dear White America" and you will see why you should read this book.

Excerpt from another favourite poem:

"be it my name or be it my ender 's verdict.
when I was born, I was born a bulls-eye.

i spent my life arguing how i mattered
until it didn't matter.

who knew my haven
would be my coffin?

dead is the safest i've eve
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Discussing and dissecting race, sexuality, America, HIV, gun crime, sex, police brutality, life and death... this is some of the most incredible and vital poetry I’ve ever read. A must read for all of us.
Elyse  Walters
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
“i loved a boy once & once he made me
a red dirge, skin casket, no burial.
left me to become a hum in a choir of bug mouths. he was my pastor
in velvet, my night nurse my tumor, my sick heart, my bad blood
all over his Tims. he needed me so much he had to end me.
i was his fag sucked into ash
his lungs my final resting place.
my baby turned me to smoke
choked on my name ‘till it was gone.
i was his secret until i wasn’t
alive until not. outside our closet
i found a garden. he would love it here. he
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, own, read2018
I saw the poet perform/read at AWP (to a giant room with every seat filled and people lining the walls and sprawling in the aisles) and have been holding off reading this book because I knew it would be great but that also that then it would be over. This collection was a finalist for the National Book Award last year but somehow I didn't read it then, and I usually always read all the poetry. It was named to the ALA Over the Rainbow list for 2017, for which I am a committee member this year, so ...more
my tears just kept rolling down my cheek as i read this unshakable poetry book. i cried from understanding, from witnessing, from the lack of knowing, from reading the truth.

“if we dream the old world
we wake up hands up.

sometimes we unfuneral a boy
who shot another boy to here

& who was once a reaper we make
a brother, a crush, a husband, a duet

of sweet remission. say the word
i can make any black boy a savior

make him a flock of ravens
his body burst into ebon seraphs.

this, our handcrafted religi
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
These poems express outrage at the deaths of so many young black men. They are angry but also elegiac, powerful but often tender, sometimes simultaneously. They celebrate love and the complicated nature of our relationships. Gay love is often the focus but the poems while specific also (as all great writing does) goes beyond that.

I found myself moved to tears, to anger, and sometimes to feelings of guilt as well. All of the poems are driven by a language both clear and skillfully used.

Strongly r
Ebony Rose
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A thousand stars. I devoured this in one sitting. I may just have a new favourite poet.
Read By RodKelly
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Danez Smith of the most brilliant poets writing today! His ability to turn a phrase and move from tenderness to bitterness in a few lines is so unique. He truly holds nothing back in this brilliant new collection.
Eric Anderson
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my goals this year is to read more poetry and I feel lucky to have started with a new book which totally gripped me with the intensity of its voice. The poems in “Don't Call Us Dead” by Danez Smith have the urgent force of a rallying cry. They pay tribute to individuals and groups who will not be silenced no matter how much they are oppressed, incarcerated or killed. Specifically Smith speaks powerfully about the experience of being a gay African American: how skin colour can lead someone ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, poetry, 2018, apl
3 stars

Average. Some poems stood out, while others fell into its shadow. Interested in comparing with the author's other works. Favorite selections include: "DINOSAURS IN THE HOOD", "ELEGY WITH PIXELS & CUM", "1 IN 2", & "EVERY DAY IS A FUNERAL & A MIRACLE."
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
how old am i? today, i’m today.
i’m as old as whatever light touches me.

some nights i’m new as the fire at my feet
some nights i’m a star, glamorous, ancient

& already extinguished. we citizens
of an unpopular heaven

& low-attended crucifixions.
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Danez Smith confirms their space as my favourite living poet. Their poems document the emotional lives of black men, of queer men, of HIV+ men, while they place these thoughts firmly within the human body. The best poems, to me, are ones that are visceral, that make me feel my humanity across the bumps and hairs of my skin. I can't hear or read a Smith poem without that feeling.

Don't Call Us Dead is a startling collection of poems, arresting in its lament & defiance, impressive in its rhythm & s
Traci at The Stacks
Jul 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Some of these poems are just WOW. Smith is a powerhouse of mood and language. The way they engage with emotion without excessive manipulation is great. Some of the poems didn’t land and I got off course with others. Overall a big yes. So impressed with all that this collection says about fear, sex, Blackness, queerness, violence, and pleasure (and of course much more).
Athena Lathos
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5* (Warning: mini-rant on the ~literary establishment~ ahead)

Recently, I overheard a woman dismiss some of my favorite young contemporary poets, including Kaveh Akbar and Danez Smith, as "over-hyped." It really bothers me that people are getting salty about the popularity of poetry in the lit market. I mean, yeah, I am not a fan of Rupi Kaur's broken-up cliches either, but literary gatekeeping is pretty gross, especially when it serves to unfairly dismiss incredible collections like this one.
Z. F.
i stand in the deepest part of night/singing recklessly, calling/what must feast/to feast.

Just an absolutely astounding collection, the kind of poems poetry was invented for. Smith pulls from a stylistic toolbox any reader of modern poetry will recognize, but they do things with those tools I've never seen done before.

The book starts with a long piece called "summer, somewhere," about a paradise for black boys where "there is no language / for officer or law, no color to call white"
Val Timke
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
this movie can't be metaphor / for black people & extinction."
This is my first experience with Danez Smith (other than "dinosaurs in the hood" for a class). I am pleasantly reminded of Hanif Abdurraquib's style (though both poets are different in their own ways, they break lines in interesting places as well as use clear-cut, impactful language). I read this whole book in essentially one sitting; I really needed some good poetry to get me in my feels. This did it. I want to read all of Dane
Elizabeth A
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, poetry
I don't read much poetry, but I keep picking up collections hoping to expand my horizons. This slim volume is an exploration of the intersection of being black and gay in America. There were poems that I didn't get, some that were OK, and some that stopped my breath. These were powerful enough to bump my rating by an additional star. ...more
If you want a snapshot of where poetry is in 2018, this might be the book. Trump & Cronies may be having their way inside the Beltway, but minority voices--raw and angry and visceral--are loud and clear in verse being written partly in response. Like this.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was drawn to this one after hearing the author read "summer, somewhere" for the Poetry Magazine podcast:

Highly recommend a listen and read. One of the few books of recent poetry that brought me to tears.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
An amazing collection that deserves every last bit of attention it's been getting.

Watch my full review:
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, lgbtq
I honestly don’t have the words to describe these poems.
Like Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, this is a book whose aims I can admire even though I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it. It’s about being black and queer in an America where both those identifiers are dangerous, where guns and HIV are omnipresent threats. “reader, what does it / feel like to be safe? white?” Smith asks. “when i was born, i was born a bull’s-eye.” The narrator and many of the other characters are bruised and bloody, with blood used literally but also metaphorically for kinship ...more
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Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy (2014, YesYes Books), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. Their 2nd collection will be published by Graywolf Press in 2017. Their work has published & featured widely including in Poetry Magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal, Buzzfeed, Blavity, & Ploughshares. They are a 2014 Ruth Lil ...more

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“...paradise is a world where everything
is a sanctuary & nothing is a gun...”
“who knew my haven
would be my coffin?

dead is the safest i've ever been.
i've never been so alive.”
More quotes…