Reviews

  • "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 the level of craft here is impeccable"

    Roxane Gay
  • "Tremendously moving, an exalting and longed-for acknowledgement of historical pain ... Smith’s ability to look death squarely in the eye and seize from it language that is fertile with myth, beauty and intellect is astonishing"

    Sandeep Parmar, The Guardian
  • "A powerful and moving read. Smith pays tribute to the young black men America has lost to police shootings, racism and injustice, and writes disarmingly about life and sex with HIV, all in a restless verse"

    Maria Crawford, Financial Times, **Books of the Year**
  • "Haunting … This material is necessarily bleak, but Smith’s mercurial invention means it’s never merely grim … The visionary 23-page opener, “summer, somewhere” […] is something truly remarkable; a song from a sunlit afterlife, an “unpopular heaven” for black boys killed young, all delivered in taut couplets …Memorable, moving and imbued with moral purpose. I read and re-read this collection (particularly its opening poem) over several weeks… “summer, somewhere” is, by any measure, a brilliant poem"

    Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph, Poetry book of the month
  • "[Danez Smith’s] poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joythey also know the magic trick of making writing on the page operate like the most ecstatic speech. And they are, in their cadences and management of lines, deeply literary. I hear Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit priest who jury-rigged his verse to express personal turmoil, and Hart Crane, whose gentleness was expressed in an American idiom full of thunderclap, and Allen Ginsberg, who loved and learned from them both. The addition of Smith’s star turns a random cluster of points into a constellation, the way new work of this calibre always does… In this moving, unsettling work, the question is not simply one of craft. It’s about how the body and its authority can be manifested in writing, with only the spindly trace of letters to stand in for it"

    Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker
  • "Danez Smith is angry, erotic, politicized, innovative, classical, a formalist, an activist, and blends all of this without seeming to strain... This will be one of the year's essential books"

    Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR, 2017 Poetry Preview
  • "Danez Smith's is a voice we need now more than ever as living, feeling, complex, and conflicted beings. These poems of love extend beyond the erotic into the struggle for unity—not despite the realities of race but precisely because of what race has caused us to make of and do to one another. Don't Call Us Dead gives me a dose of hope at a time when such a thing feels hard to come by. This is a mighty work, and a tremendous offering"

    Tracy K. Smith, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Life on Mars
  • "[An] achingly gorgeous poetry collection by the brilliant Danez Smith ... There is a hope here, pleas and prayers; these poems pierce and they burn, they work as incantations, they lift you up, but refuse to settle you back down. They are miraculous, sublime; if you do one thing for yourself this summer, let it be to read this book, and linger over each and every word"

    Nylon
  • "What is so extraordinary about this collection is its lyricism, its humanity, and its urgency. Don’t Call Us Dead is an historical commentary, a scientific document, a personal narrative, and a formal poetics. Smith uses every tool of craft at a poet’s disposal to deliver powerful, urgent, deliberate, crucial poems. Don’t miss this book"

    The Rumpus
  • "Elegy meets celebration of the black male body on every page . . . Smith can’t help but be breathtaking in style and substance"

    Porochista Khakpour, Virginia Quarterly Review

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