Smith (Don’t Call Us Dead) presents an electrifying, unabashedly queer ode to friendship and community in their exuberant and mournful second collection. Smith alternates colloquial and lofty language, often within the same poem, and eschews most punctuation and grammatical strictures. In “ode to gold teeth,” the poet writes of their grandfather, “gold gate of grandpa’s holler/ midas touch his blue hum/ honeymetal perfuming prayers,” later referring to him as the “OG of the gin sermon & front-porch pulpit.” These poems are a celebration of black culture and experience, and a condemnation of white supremacy and its effect; in “dogs!,” Smith excoriates racist dehumanization: “i too been called boy & expected/ to come, heel.” In “sometimes i wish i felt the side effects,” Smith explores conflicting feelings related to an HIV diagnosis—simultaneous devastation and relief (“it felt like i got it out the way, to finally know it”), acceptance, and shame (“i braved the stupidest ocean. a man. i waded in his stupid waters”). The collection’s final poem, “acknowledgments,” is a beautiful love poem to a best friend, one that is as heartfelt as it is quotable: “if luck calls your name, we split the pot/ & if you wither, surely i rot.” Smith is a visionary polyglot with a fearless voice. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 11/14/2019 Release date: 01/21/2020 Genre: Poetry
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