Danez Smith


Danez Smith was born St. Paul, Minnesota. They are the author of Don't Call Us Dead (2017), a finalist for the National Book Award; [insert] Boy (2014), winner of the Lambda Literary Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award; and the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship Books, 2013). Smith is the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, Voices of Our Nation (VONA), and elsewhere. They are a founding member of the multigenre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. Their writing has appeared in many magazines and journals, such as Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Kinfolks. In poetry slam, Smith is a 2011 Individual World Poetry Slam finalist and the reigning two-time Rustbelt Individual Champion, and was on the 2014 championship team Sad Boy Supper Club. In 2014 they were the festival director for the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam, and were awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Smith earned a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where they were a First Wave Urban Arts Scholar. They are a co-host of the Poetry Foundation's podcast, VS. Source


dear suicide


how is the war? is it eating?

tell me of the girls charging

backwards into dumb tides

death’s wet mouth lapping

their ankles, knees, eyebrows.

tell me of the sissies like drunk

fireworks, rocketing into earth

afterimage burned into river

& cement memory.

how is the war? does it have

a wife? does she know how

the bodies got in her bed?


dear suicide


i know your real name.

i bind you from doing harm.

i enter the room like a germ.

i say your name, it is my name.

the walls cave around me like a good aunt.

the window hums. the door rocks me.

the dresser leaves to go make tea.

the room knows my name.

it binds us from doing harm.


dear suicide


where are you keeping my friends?

every cup i turn over holds only air.

i jimmy open a tulip expecting their faces

but find only the yellow heart.

what have you done with them?

yesterday i took my body off

beat it on the front steps with a broom

& not one of them

came giggling out my skin

yelling you found me!

not one of them i called for

was already in my hand.


dear suicide


you a mutual friend

a wedding guest, a kind

of mother, a kind of self

love, a kind of freedom.

i wish you were a myth

but mothers my color

have picked ocean

over boat, have sent

children to school

in rivers. i known [  ]

who just needed

quiet. i seen you

dance, [  ]

i would not deny you

what others have found

in the sweet mildew

behind your ear. i know

what happens when you

ask for a kiss, it’s all

tongue, you don’t

unlatch, you suck

face until the body

is gone.


dear suicide


that one? i promised him

i would kill for him

& my [  ] was my [  ]

& my word is my word.

dear suicide, where are you?

come see me. come outside.

i am at your door, suicide.

i’ll wait. i’ve offed my earrings

& vaselined my face. i put on

my good sweats for this.

i brought no weapon but my fist.


dear suicide


you made my kin thin air.

his entire body dead as hair.

you said his name like a dare.

you’ve done your share.

i ride down lake street friendbare

to isles of lakes, wet pairs

stare back & we compare

our mirror glares. fish scare

into outlines, i blare

a moon’s wanting, i wear

their faces on t-shirts, little flares

in case i bootleg my own prayer

& submit to your dark affair.

tell me they’re in your care.

be fair.

heaven or hell, i hope my [  ] all there

if i ever use the air as a stair.





Literary Movements:

Spoken Word

Anthology Years:




Faith & Hope

Mental Health

Poetic Form

Strength & Resilience

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence


(of a literary work) in the form of letters

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered