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.
With current events I’ve been hearing more and more about this poetry collection, so I knew I had to check it out. Be forewarned, this collection is not for the faint of heart. Smith’s use of language and the raw imagery created is amazing, heart wrenching and very in your face real. The collections takes on a lot of current and continuing issues in society regarding racism and prejudices. The collection in and of itself is beautiful, but at times hard to read emotionally – which I think it should be. This is the type of writing where you should slow down and actually absorb what is being said. All in all it’s an amazing collection of poems that definitely shouldn’t be missed.