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


we were kindergarten sweethearts. you asked me. i said yes. you were a white girl & not pretty. i liked the shape of your face. it looked like a ball with hair. you were red & puffy. we broke because we were five. it mattered until it didn’t. how big a fact at six seven even nine. i treated you like poop. everyone treated you the same. you were the girl with the puffy red face. you were mean. so we were mean. or we were so you. we were nine ten eleven. we were so small & evil. you & barbara sliverman wrapped a jump rope around my neck after i called you a puffy-faced something.   when we learned the word bitch, we called you bitch. someone was always willing to remind you of your shit. we were shit, ugly & needed to direct attention everywhere else. girls fought you. said you got around. made you untouchable & easy. you screamed. i remember you always at the top of your lungs. you were kind to your friends. no one liked any of y’all. it was dangerous to be your friend. you were red & dated. your folks shit broke. you were a girl & everyone wanted you to know you were a white frog. if you wished we all watched the last of our water turn to feathers or prayed our children are born with teeth where eyes should be, your prayer was fair. you deserved to parade us through a city of grandmas, smacking our faces, beating us with belts & shoes & whistling branches, pinching ears. if you saw me & stabbed me in the foot i’d understand. we were so mean. i was the bastard fuck in the mob of bastard fucks. the easily swayed torch. o rose, saint of getting roasted in the hallway, warrior queen of the misfits, my love, how did you survive us? if this finds you if there is still a you to find if you know this is about you if you read poems if you take breath into & out of your lungs & find this in a book or in the blue aurora of your phone & this is you: at times i wake in the middle of the night & think

we killed that girl.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Childhood & Coming of Age

Literary Devices:


an exclamatory passage in a speech or poem addressed to a person (typically one who is dead or absent) or thing (typically one that is personified)


written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure

Interrupted Clause

a word group (a statement, question, or exclamation) that interrupts the flow of a sentence and is usually set off by commas, dashes, or parentheses


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


replacing the name of a thing with the name of something closely associated


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”