Don’t Call Us Dead

Danez Smith. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-55597-785-6
Smith follows the Lambda Literary Award–winning debut [insert] boy with a further display of transcendent talent for close-to-the bone articulation, celebrating the lives of “we citizens/ of an unpopular heaven// & low-attended crucifixions.” Poised at the bruising intersection of black and queer identity, poems such as “dear white america” (“I tried to love you, but you spent my brother’s funeral making plans for brunch”) lose no impact moving from spoken-word stage to page. Smith brilliantly metaphorizes the experience of receiving an HIV diagnosis in Lorca-esque fashion, as becoming “a book of antonyms” and leavens the gravity with moments of mordant wit. An erasure of Diana Ross lyrics leaves the message “if there’s a cure for this/ i want it,” capturing camp’s confrontation with the intolerable. Though visually and formally varied, the collection’s most striking pyrotechnics are rhetorical: “& he will say tonight, I want to take you/ how the police do, unarmed & sudden.” Describing a “down-low house party,” a speaker observes: “we say yo meaning let my body// be a falcon’s talon & your body be the soft innards of goats.” Luminous and piercing, this collection reassembles shattering realities into a shimmering and sharp mosaic. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/17/2017
Release date: 09/05/2017
Discover what to read next
TIP SHEET
MORE BOOKS YOU'D LIKE
X
X