Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family—blood and chosen—arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez’s friends and for you and for yours.
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 Lilly - Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, a Cave Canem and VONA alum, and a recipient of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. They are a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, placing 2nd in 2014. They edit for The Offing & are a founding member of 2 collectives, Dark Noise and Sad Boy Supper Club. They live in the midwest most of the time.
Danez was featured in American Academy of Poet's Emerging Writers Series by National Book Award Finalist Patricia Smith. Like her, Danez bridges the poetics of the stage to that of the page. Danez's work transcends arbitrary boundaries to present work that is gripping, dismantling of oppression constructs, and striking on the human heart. Often centered around intersections of race, class, sexuality, faith, and social justice, Danez uses rhythm, fierce raw power, and image to re-imagine the world as takes it apart in their work.
Homie (but really that isn't this book's title), is a love letter to friendship, the push and pull of it, the give and take, the good and bad. So many of these poems are unexpectedly moving. Warm. Smith plays with form in several poems. They bring an incredible level of depth and craft to writing about the friends we can't live without, the friends who are just passing through our lives, the differences that create borders between us, the things we try to make peace with so we might survive. Well worth your time. Smith is, by far, one of the most exciting poets writing today. To watch their creative growth from one book to the next is a real pleasure.
Loved the unapologetic blackness and queerness of this poetry collection. I appreciate Danez Smith’s centering of friendship in this collection and their confident, sensitive approach to addressing issues of racism, femmephobia, and other forms of social injustice. The caring and connection they have with their friends and their loved ones radiates with warmth and eloquence. I only give it three stars because I did not find this collection as powerful as their work Don’t Call Us Dead, on top of my general difficulty in fully grasping poetry. Still, definitely recommend for those interested in poetry about relationships, race, queerness, etc. I also recognize that as a non-black person of color, this book was not necessarily written with me as the target audience, so I may have been unable to appreciate the collection’s richness as much as a black person or black queer person.
A dynamic collection of poems exploring friendship, Blackness, queerness, solidarity, and so much more, from one of the country’s most inventive poets. Some of the poems shine more brightly than others, but all, like anything Danez Smith writes, are well worth reading and listening to several times.
what good is hiding the gun & locking the cabinet if the boy
can still find his own hands? if anything that loops can be a rope?
I was born into a masculine body, but I was not born into masculinity. I was not mannish like my cousins, undaunted like my uncles, or hot-tempered like my grandfathers. A hive of women enfolded me; a child swaddled in black femininity. I’ve come a long way since then. Since worshipping at the altar of Trey’s thighs in the dark spaces of my childhood home, since the sun’s warm eye bore witness to Daniel’s wisps of brown hair and unsteady lips kissing my cheek the morning after my 8th birthday, since the gossip of my estranged father’s whereabouts became a thing of legend, since allowing strangers to lay in the wound that was — that is — my body until it became no longer my own.
Depression, identity, dysmorphia, a life of utter silence and stars — I escaped it all through the wrath that could only have been my destiny. I’d like to think I made it here on my own, but who are we without our heroes? In my slouch towards Baldwin and Morrison, I discovered a new god: Danez Smith. When I read [insert] boy last summer, I was not expecting to be heard, to be seen, to be purged of the peril that once mastered my life. When I read Homie last August, its beauty left me speechless. Not anymore.
Smith's latest masterpiece contains some of the most indelible lyrics you'll ever read — from those of multicultural harmony ("shout out to my niggas in Mexico") to those of queer youth groping through the ether of violence and desire ("saw a video of a gang of bees swarming…," "jumped!") to the infinite scroll of crushing confessionals from the heart of an HIV survivor ("undetectable," "all the good dick lives in Brooklyn Park"). By turns silver-tongued and soul-bearing, Homie lays bare all the means by which prejudice, queerness, sickness, and death have made exit wounds of the Black body. In other words, Smith is one of the greatest poets to ever walk this earth.
This was the second time I took this book out of the library to read. The first time… I was busy reading some thing else and never got to it. I kept seeing this book around our year…and I saw that it was nominated for one of the best book of poems by Goodreads ... so I checked it out again. Glad I did.
“This book was titled ‘Homie’ because I don’t want non-black people to say ‘my nig’ out loud. This book is really titled ‘my nig’”.
Love, loss, hope, and healing... these poems must be experienced. Incredibly original!!!! ( sorry I took so long to read it) ....
Here’s a sample ... of just one of ‘many’ deeply felt poems:
“its been a while since. a body was inside my body. summer. & now i think how lonely. i am standing next to the oven for heat. so much depends on sex. once you have had it & had it well. only the little ruins follow. i am no stranger. many a man ruined me for both our pleasures. what recent history because a faggot. what the Greeks called Greek. what some needed no language for. faggot at the moment. i’m always talking. with sam & cam & paula & hieu. my faggots. what makes a fag a fag. one theory rings true. it’s not sex. the being filled. but the emptiness. void you didn’t know was. until someone stopped it up. a particular strangeness. i was a faggot in first grade. full of so little. one day in the car heading somewhere. probably the park. my friend Alex I asked my mom where my father was. never occurred to me. i didn’t have a father. when my friend Ben came over to play all i had was barbies. & he asked whose they were. my cousin’s. my girl cousin’s. i hadn’t a cousin to speak of. i knew to hide. the void. void a more boyish & fathered thing should occupy. plenty straight man faggots too. nothing to do. with what a boy wants. another boy to do to him. everything to do. with how we speak of the silver miles & miles we know. in us. pulsing gray. hungry to be. the land”.
Danez Smith is a black non-binary, HIV positive writer and performer in St. Paul, MN. Smith in genderqueer and uses they/them pronouns. He is one numerable literary awards for Gay poetry.
“Homie” was the first collection of poetry that I have read by Smith. Impressive- remarkable - staggering - breathtaking - miraculous!
I'll read anything that Danez Smith publishes. They are just that good. I know that a 3-stars-rating might seem too average to encompass the genius that Danez Smith is, but since I have read their entire body of work, I like to keep things into perspective. And if I compare Homie to its previous works - Black Movie (4 stars) and Don't Call Us Dead (5 stars) – it simple wasn't as good. (It was still good though, don't worry.)
With Homie, Danez wanted to write a book for their people, their friends, the peeps whom they hold dear. Prompted by the suicide of one of their closest friends, Danez searches for a way to make sense of things. Naturally for them, they poured their pain into their poetry.
Homie starts out in the most brilliant way possible. Danez lets us know that this is basically the title for the world, but their new collection also has a title for their people: My Nig. Danez just didn't want non-black people to say My Nig out loud. I know this has caused quite the furor on twitter. I absolutely love it. :D This is just what Danez does. Deal with it.
Homie weaves its way through the themes of friendship, identity, family, politics ... everything that makes Danez what they are: a person who happens to be Black, and gay, and HIV+, and who happens to have just recently lost a close friend.
Among my favorite poems are my president in which Danez nominates all the people whom they think are better for the job, like Rihanna, their mama, the trans girl in the closet, their auntie, "every head nod is my president".
There are definitely hard-hitting moments in these poems that go right under your skin, nonetheless, Homie didn't pull as emotional of a punch as Don't Call Us Dead did. Danez' language seemed more forced and contrived ... it didn't flow. Judging everything I read by Danez Smith, I was always happy to see that they improved with every published work. Their debut collection [insert] boy was rough, Black Movie was already quite brilliant and Don't Call Us Dead just knocked it out of the park. Sadly, Homie seems to be a step backwards when it comes to the quality of the writing.
Danez evokes a lot of imagery of death and all the threats that they face daily just by living their truth – "my nigga is death any easier if you can call your killer kin", "how silly to miss what you will become", " is it possible to ban guns? even fron this poem?" – and whilst I appreciate the many different layers that are discussed in these poems, there are few poems in this collection that work fully as poems. What I mean by that is that you can always count on Danez to have at least one line in their poem that will absolutely destroy you... but in Homie more often than not we were stuck with that one line per poem, the poem as a whole didn't work as well as the single parts it was crafted out of.
Besides my president, the one poem that really stuck with me as a whole was say it with your whole black mouth: I am innocent / & if you are not innocent, say this: I am worthy / of forgiveness, of breath after breath. This poem is incredibly brave because instead of preaching non-violence, Danez, for once, lets all of their anger out, all the rage they feel at the current political climate in the US, that was borne out of colonialism and slavery.
Another one of those brilliant full poems was entitled my poems, in which Danez declares that art can be a weapon. Their poems are their weapon: "I poem the hands off the men who did what they know they did", "I call my loves & ask for their lists."
I hope I didn't come across as too harsh in this review. I would still recommend Homie because even an average Danez Smith is much better than what most contemporary modern poets can come up with. Homie is not a collection without its faults and there are definitely some poems in here that could've used more revision. Nonetheless, you will find beauty in this collection, you will find hurt ... I promise you, you will find something worthwhile.
As summarized by Smith, this collection is about "intimacy, love, suicidal ideation, and 'when does the revolution start for your loved ones'" which seems rather timely. Everyone should buy it and read it so I'll only quote
from say it with your whole black mouth "...here, standing in my own body, i say: next time they murder us for the crime of their imaginations i don’t know what i’ll do. i did not come to preach of peace for that’s not the hunted’s duty...."
To get a feeling... This performance from Grindr, just 3 minutes of Danez Smith speaking poems into the camera
I found great depth of emotion in this poetry collection. The poems centered mainly around love and appreciation of those close to you, whether by family, friendship, or just kinship through shared experiences or identities. There was both a strength and vulnerability to the language here, and many of the poems ended with what felt like a gut punch of recognition or understanding.
Funny and sad and moving and oddly majestic. Oddly because the word majestic implies a stiff formality and there is nothing stiff about this. Formality though? Sort of yes. The structure of these poems is odd, subversive in both their untraditional beauty and their rejection of conventional form. (Notably, there is a lot of verbification in this, which is something that generally bugs me, but Smith convinces me here that it has a purpose, and that verbification can be better than respecting the rules of grammar and usage.) The musicality and the word choice are consistently immaculate while framing the slang and profanity and truth. Individual poems veer from the intensely political to intimate odes to current friends and to people who have passed through and sometimes out of Smith's life without ever seeming janky or as if they are trying to do too much in a small space. And did I mention that some of this is heartbreaking and raw, but a lot if it is sweet and funny, and playful. It feels like Smith could shoot the shit equally well with Keats and Biggie. I am not much of a poetry reader but I found I was ecstatically happy to immerse myself in the water shooting from this hydrant.
*Favorite poem was. surprisingly to me, one of the most political. "Say it with Your Whole Black Mouth" shook me in a good way. "Oh my people/how long will we reach for God/Instead of something sharper." That is a call for revolution. The "opiate of the masses" discussion is older even than Marx, but when he said it he transformed it and made it real. Smith rephrases and does the same, though instead of making it just real he made it urgent.
**Again this reminds me why I do the Book Riot Read Harder challenge every year. Reading outside my conventional diet of literary fiction, creative non-fiction and romance brings some really great things, and as it turns out sometimes complements my standard fare very nicely.
Every time I try to review poetry, I get mentally tongue-tied. Conveying my thoughts on poetry has never been my strong suit, even in school. But I wanted to find some way to highlight 'Homie,' Danez Smith’s new poetry collection because I really want everyone to give it a try (and this collection meant a lot to me). While reading ‘Homie,’ it becomes quite apparent, very early on, that ‘Homie’ is not the actual title of the collection. I’ll leave it at that. ‘Homie’ is a fiery collection about survival, death, and blackness.
I don’t normally get too personal on this platform, but I’ve been (still) dealing with something that completely reshaped my outlook on life. Last year, one of my close friends died by suicide. And that particular moment shifted something inside of me, and it haunts me every day; the guilt and the knowing that I’ll never be able to see this person again. There is a poem in this collection that touches on this, on what I presume is the poet’s way of depicting the mindset of someone’s struggle with suicide. It is a poem that made me incredibly sad and moody, and I had to close the book for awhile right after; it hit a nerve. I’ll leave you with a part of that poem:
“where are you keeping my friends? / every cup i turn over holds only air. / i jimmy open a tulip expecting their faces / but only find the yellow heart. / what have you done with them? yesterday i took my body off / beat it on the front steps with a broom / & not one of them / came giggling out of my skin / yelling you found me! / not one of them i called for / was already in my hand.”
What more can I say? Read this collection. It was partly therapeutic for me, what will it be for you?
6 out of 5. As vibrant and joyful as the neon cover, even when Smith is dealing with such heavy topics as suicide, HIV status, and the American racist. I don't think I've ever read a poem collection like this and I am so fucking happy it exists in the world. I didn't know how much I needed it, and so I can only imagine how the folks Danez is writing for feel. A bold, exuberant shout in a bleak world. You'll feed off this for days and it'll put a bounce in your step.
Original review: A really lovely homage to friendship. The people who love us as we are. The people who make us better. The people we’ve lost. The people still here. Really beautiful. I love Danez Smith’s writing. I love hearing them read it, too!
“Acknowledgements” made me tear up, esp:
“at the function, i feel myself splitting into too many rooms of static you touch my hand & there i am”
“you made coming out feel like coming in from the storm”
A beautiful, multi-layered collection - humour, love, sadness, anger, all packed movingly into a slim volume. I loved Danez Smith’s use of language and the way their poems were very personal (odes to particular friendships, thoughts on their HIV status), while at the same time distilling the big picture. I think their work will speak to a lot of people.
I’d been waiting for it from the library for a while. It was sadly on point to have it arrive in the midst of surging Black Lives Matter protests in the US and around the world, and to read Smith’s words in “say it with your whole black mouth,”: “say it with your whole black mouth: i am innocent./& if you are not innocent, say this: i am worthy/ of forgiveness, of breath after breath./ i tell you this: i let blue eyes dress me in guilt/ walked around stores convinced the very skin/ of my palm was stolen. what good has it brought?”
4.5, and seeing others’ comments that this might not even be Smith’s best work, I can’t wait to read more of theirs.
These honest and heartfelt poems are unlike any other I’ve read/listened to besides perhaps a poetry slam I’ve attended in some past time. “Homie” is REAL. It is relatable in a way that made me feel right at home the entire book. TOUCHING. MOVING. CHANGING.
I’m glad that I was able to obtain a copy of the audio book which they narrates because there was a sort of bop to it that at most times felt like I was listening to beautiful, poetic song lyrics instead of a bearing of the soul on what it means to be a friend, lose a friend, have friends and also feel alone in our contemporary world. They touched so candidly on issues of sexuality, family, friendships, what it means to be different and also the same.
Several of the poems I listened to countless times. Here is one of my favorite excerpts:
“You have murdered me for centuries and still I fix my mouth to say ‘Love Is Possible’....it is. It is? If you come to my door thirsty, I’ll turn the faucet and fill the glass. If I come to your stoop, don’t shoot.”
This is a love letter. In this collection of poems, Danez demonstrates his love for Black people but especially for Black men; and this is all the more poignant because he does so as a Black gay man seeing Black men as lovers, sex partners, and friends. In other words, Danez desires them and appreciates them.
I began this as an audiobook, read by the author himself--his voice full of emotions and song. It was very compelling and extremely intimate to have his voice in my head. I then read the book in print: I had to. I needed the distance and I needed to have my own intimacy with his words--to confront his words with my proximity. And I am glad to have read it because he does creative formatting. Some poems are shrunk and pivoted on the page, one poem had several lines struck through, another poem had the words split into pieces.
I have made several "highlights" in GR; please see them to get a sense of this beautiful collection. I remain breathless at how he equated autumn with the murder of Black people in "fall poem." His poem about Minnesota is stunning in its musicality and celebrating beauty and life in a way that's singularly innovative.
My favorite poems are: "fall poem," "I'm going back to Minnesota where sadness makes sense," "the flower who bloomed thru the fence in grandmama's yard," and "my nig."
There isn’t much I can say to describe this collection besides the fact that just when I think Danez Smith can’t outdo themselves, they go and put out an amazing collection like this one that completely unraveled me. Their words and structure are unparalleled. They bring a modern twist to romantic classic poetry and it’s not something easily achieved. The way they ensconce their pain and loss into such unique and eye opening schemes is beyond comparison. Danez shows me a side of life I’m not used to seeing, they are an honest poet and I think there’s nothing more beautiful in this world than an unflinchingly brutally honest human with the power and essence of a poet driving their words.
i heart black poets, black poetry. Deep inside things flowing for decades, symbiotic and shouting. Needing to be heard, needing to teach their blood runs wet, warm and copper just the same as yours. A depth of understanding i'll never know, but keep trying. This book had so much.
scooby-doo was trying to tell us something when every time that monster mask got snatched off it was a greedy white dude.
in ’97, a black comic gets on stage, says, you ever notice how white dogs be like woof woof & black dogs be like ruff ruff motherfuckaaaaa!!
the dog upstairs won’t shut up & i’ve thought of ending his little noisy life but i have to remember he matters he matters & if i did the brown girl upstairs would cry forever.
dog (n.): a man’s best friend. (see: fetch, roll over, K-9, good boy, put down.) ex. my dog died, I had to do it with my own hands.
dawg (n.): a man’s best friend. (see: blunt rolled already, handshake, my nigga, put me on.) ex. my dawg died, he did it with his own hands.
dogs in this house eat the same thing we do. we eat greens, he eat greens. fried bologna, neck bones, leftovers.
... he died from the suga, the gout or whatever came for big mama came back for the dog.
everybody love Lassie, but what about Sounder?
possible rite of passage #37: graduating from outrunning the block’s dogs to outrunning the block’s police.
i too have been called boy & expected to come, kneel.
what Animorph did you want to be? i wanted to be the boy who turned into the bird limp in the dog’s wet mouth, holding me toward his human saying I made this for you.
the dog upstairs needs to stop running his mouth talking all that shit I can hear him up there fool don’t think i understand he don’t know i got a bark too teeth too thumbs & a terrible child’s mind.
something about Air Bud felt ... the talented obedient beast, the roar of the eggshell crowd.
dogs aren’t racist but they can be trained to be so as can the water as can the trees as can gravity as can anything marked by a pale hand & turned bloodgold a bitter king’s magic touch.
i’m the kind of werewolf that turns into a shih tzu. ruff ruff motherfucka.
while my grandmama spoke on the clean blood of Jesus i watched the hounds in the mud hot for anything warm & thought of something better to worship.
i stand in the dark bathroom in my tightest shortest shorts my vaselined legs the only things catching light. i say i’m a real bitch 3 times, clap my hands above my head. nothing happens. i walk back into the club, put my hand on a man’s chest & it’s a paw.
the gay agenda made CatDog to offer your child’s gender to their seven-headed god.
a dead dog is a hero, a dead lion is a hero, a cloned sheep is a miracle, a dead child is a tragedy (depending on the color, the nation, the occupation or non- occupation of the parents).
during the new moon i switch from an –a to the traditional –er, i raid the farm, smash the melon patch, swallow chickens whole, spit out the bones ground down to smoke, howl Geee-zuss! toward the sky’s great nothing.
dog bred to smell the coke/dog bred to smell the bomb/dog bred to smell the nigger hid beneath the floorboards.
dude’s dog won’t leave the room won’t let his lord out of his sight won’t let his master disappear won’t let himself go hungry won’t let nothing happen to the one who brings the water even if it means being owned, being witness to his hunger. or maybe he’s just dumb.
Of the 3 Danez Smith collections I've read so far, this may be the one I liked least, but it still gets 5 stars because they are just THAT good. A handful of the poems here are some of the best single poems I've read in the past year, and one in particular ("what was said at the bus stop") destroyed me with its beauty and truth.
Even before the Table of Contents, Smith makes me aware of my whiteness. They don't erase the white reader, but still do make readers consider how our race impacts our reading. Smith themself has said, in an interview with The Guardian, that they are not writing for white readers: "With *Homie* I stopped asking myself: 'What should I do with the white gaze?' Because I realised I wasn’t interested in it. I asked myself: 'Why am I spending so much time worried about this gaze?' I think white people can learn a lot from the poems, but that’s not who I’m writing for."
What I learn from *Homie* is how difficult it can be to find ourselves within the Tribes we are a part of—how we alienate others and regret displacing them and ourselves; why we should embrace and validate and believe in each other, especially those who suffer marginalization together; and ultimately, what badass friendships can and does look like.
The other day, LeBron James pulled up from halfcourt and swished a jumpshot. He didn't need to. There were 10 minutes left in the quarter, 20 seconds on the shot clock. He did it because he's LeBron, and he can, and he knew the crowd would be delighted when he did.
That's kind of the way I feel about this book. Danez Smith simply dazzles in line after line, poem after poem, page after page. When I read books of poetry, I like to dog-ear the poems I particularly like so that I can return to them after I've read through the book. Almost every poem in my copy of this book is dog-eared. HOMIE is at times riotously funny, at times painfully sad, at times lyrical, at times deliciously accessible, often all of these at once. This book is a true accomplishment.
This didn’t connect as I would have hoped. Today has been a knotty rope of estrangement, restless hands pick and attempt to loosen—but the pace of the day cottons more to regular sighs than a gasp. This time at home continues to stretch and I shouldn’t complain.
The poems are dense, steeped in poverty, in HIV, in an implied danger.
For now I’m passing on the stack of poetry my wife bought me for my birthday.
“i want to say something without saying it but there’s no time. i’m waiting for a few folks
i love dearly to die so i can be myself. please don’t make me say who.
[…] if they woke up at their wake they might not recognize that woman in the front making all that noise.”
*internal screaming* how could you say loudly what I’ve been struggling repeatedly all my life to hide behind layers and layers of what I don’t even recognize anymore?
loved the raw language, the creativeness in some of the texts designs, and those poems that impacted powerfully. I’m pretty sure this could’ve broke me if I was in similar situations as the author, but since I’m a non-black poc, who’s not familiar with North American English, and since some of those poems seemed so personal that I doubt I’d get unless I was the author or close to them, for all that, I couldn’t get as connected as I would love to.