Recommended Reading: Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

I saw Danez Smith perform Waiting On You To Die So I Can Be Myself on facebook, and that sealed it: I requested off work so I could go to their reading at the Northfield Public Library last night. I’d seen and read a few other poems that also resonated with me, and I went to Content yesterday afternoon to buy copies of Danez Smith’s books.

I picked up Don’t Call Us Dead and read half of it in my car on the street, not even waiting to get home. I read the rest at home and was again bummed that Content hadn’t had [Insert] Boy or Black Movie, two of their other titles. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book of poetry, and I was relieved and overjoyed to read Don’t Call Us Dead.

I’m very much looking forward to reading [Insert] Boy and Black Movie once I get copies.

The reading was phenomenal and extremely well-attended. Smith asked for the audience to bring energy and response that I don’t think we did a very good job of bringing, though I wanted to. They ran an experiment to see if they liked have an audience response during “Dogs,” asking us to “woof” at the signal. We were instructed to consider what kind of dog we were going to be. I wanted to be an Atomic Dog, but couldn’t fit that particular bark into the second response time, which was fine. Here’s the poem where Smith has numbers in the place where audience dogs filled a space last night.

One of my favorite poems is “Dinosaurs in the Hood,” a movie I would very much like to see.


During the Q&A portion, audience members close to Danez Smith’s heart asked some very important questions, and they responded with honesty, grace, and love. One person asked how to deal with white people (in a more eloquent way, but my memory sucks), and every single thing Danez Smith said reminded me of all the ways I attempt to deal and not deal with cis men.

I really want to know when we’ll get it together as a species and stop harming ourselves and each other. When are we going to build the beautiful world, the beautiful lives we could so easily have if only the sickest, most violent among us weren’t in charge and allowed to train the people they harm to harm themselves and each other? When are we all going to be bold enough to reach for love?

I hope everyone reading this will be bold enough to reach for poems by Danez Smith. Give yourself this beautiful, wondering gift. And ask yourself how long you’re willing to wait for progress?

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