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Don't Call Us Dead

4.56  ·  Rating details ·  2,121 Ratings  ·  380 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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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 absolut
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, favorites, 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
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 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
Elise (TheBookishActress)
“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?”

— — — — — — — — —

This is one of the best poetry collections I have read in my life , and I don’t even particularly like poetry. But Danez Smith has changed my view, just a little bit.

dinosaurs in the hood → why must it always be a moment of racis
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.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down the best poetry collection I’ve read in a while. And I also found a new favorite poem, like an absolute fave. Sorry Oscar but Dinosaurs in the Hood has usurped The Ballad of Reading Goal. So there is that.

Danez, who prefers the pronoun “they”, confronts race, police brutality and gender in their collection, Don’t Call Us Dead, as well as their HIV-positive diagnosis. In its opening sequence, summer, somewhere, Danez imagines an afterlife for black men shot dead by the police. In dear
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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2018, poetry, own
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 re
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, apl, lgbtq, poetry
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."
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.
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
Rod-Kelly Hines
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-owned
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.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Powerful and brave
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
history is what it is. it knows what it did.

This is a stellar collection. Danez Smith's poems document the many forces, external and internal, that imperil black bodies: suicide, self-hatred, police violence, and "black-on-black" crime. His pain from his lived experiences with these forces as an HIV-positive, queer black man is palpable, and every poem brims with anger, regret, and unfathomable sadness. Take your time with this one—each poem is rich, complex, and worthy of reading and rereading.
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.
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.
charlie shaw
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lovelies
"please, don't call / us dead, call us alive someplace better"
"i can't tell if I'm crying / or i'm the sky"
"i'll plant a garden on top / where your hurt stopped"
"outside our closet / i found a garden. he would love it / here. he could love me here"
"we earned this paradise / by a death we didn't deserve"
"you look in the mirror & see a man you refuse to love"
"& we call him faggot meaning bravery"
"instead of getting tested / you take a blade to your palm / hold your ear to the wound"
"i say
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-j-september
... I’ve accepted what I was given
be it my name or be it my ender’s verdict
when I was born, I was born a bull’s eye

🦊 My Thoughts

This is the best poetry collection I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I haven’t read a lot of poems but I feel like it won’t get any better than this particular book for me. Any other poem I read after this will be held at the standard of Don’t call us dead, and will lose sorely. The poems in here were so beautiful and so full of EVERYTHING. They draw out feelin
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Where the stakes of living are high, Danez Smith puts their body right on the front line--"i survived yesterday," they write, "spent it ducking bullets." In an America that conspires against black, brown, queer and trans bodies, Danez writes poems of insistence and resistance; they anticipate a better world for all of us "where everything is sanctuary & nothing is a gun."
Maddie C.
Oct 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, lgbt
Don’t Call Us Dead is a powerful, raw and riveting collection of poetry tackling what the author’s experiences as a queer black man living in America. From poems that mirror the current social atmosphere in the USA regarding police brutality, while still capturing the sentiment that’s been unchanged over the many years of the country, to heart-felt and shattering poems about being HIV positive.

Some poems really struck a chord with me and had me completely floored: beautiful yet strong imagery to
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This floored me. Danez Smith is an exceptional poet articulating intelligently and powerfully life as a young, gay, HIV positive black person. Anything I could write about this collection would be reductive as the poems manage to do and be so much. They mourn a cruel reality while imagining a better one. They protest while making peace. They are filled with both haunting and beautiful images. Smith is a true wordsmith; their handling of language is masterful. Nothing much else to say but: read t ...more
Vivek Tejuja
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think for the longest time I avoided reading poetry as a genre because I was scared. Prose will kill you. Let me correct that: Good prose will kill you. Great prose will leave you bereft. Or the other way around, but once poetry gets into your veins, you are an addict my friend! There is no way out of it. I was introduced to Neruda. Never say never also might work brilliantly as an adage.

Circa 2018. I love poetry. I love poems that seize my heart and wring it with ease. Sometimes brutally. I
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who knows what it's like to be ignored because of things you cannot change.
Recommended to Jazzmin by: Amazon
This poetry collection was outstanding. I read this aloud to myself and might I say I felt every emotion within my self. Smith is definitely one of my new favorite poets.
Here's some of my favorite poem: dinosaurs in the hood

"let's make a movie called dinosaurs in the hood
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happiness
there should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out in a window
& sees the T.rex because there has to be a T.rex
Aya Wael
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I felt first that maybe it's difficult to understand poetry but then it seemed like telling a story, giving a hope, some pain, and sometimes death, the way of writing is easy to understand and close to the mind and heart, the way he described every detail from the small black boy and he wants him to grow up in a land that loves him to call it like it's home, church or sweet love, to make him grow up avoiding violence, protecting himself from police brutality, he mixed talking about his point wit ...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.
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I didn't know words could do that.
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
Danny Caine
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is incredible. Danez Smith is more focused and clear than ever in this exploration of two threats to the black male body: police violence and AIDS. The opening sequence envisions a kind of afterlife for the victims of police violence and it alone is worth the price of admission. But stay for the rest, as Smith investigates threats from within and without with great humanity, clarity of purpose, and even occasional humor. An essential read, and one of the best poetry books I've read in ...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 ...more
“...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…