The Raw Power of Danez Smith

· Updated on May 28, 2018

Danez Smith is a powerhouse in the poetry community.

Based in Minneapolis, the queer poet of color is the author ofDon’t Call Us Dead (2017) and[insert] Boy (2014),is a winner of a Lambda Literary Award, and isthe author of the chapbookhands on ya knees.

Today he was placed on the National Poetry Awards Longlist for Poetry.

Below we republish two works, with permission, to celebrate this amazing accomplishment. We encourage you to not stop here, but to continue to dive into the prolific career of a remarkableartist.


& even the black guy’s profile reads ‘sorry, no black guys’

You wake up every morning, look in the mirror & see a man you refuse to love. Imagine the tulip, on seeing a garden full of tulips, sheds it’s petals in disgust, prays some bee will bring it’s pollen to the rose bush. Imagine a shadow longing for a room with light in every direction. Someone made an nigger joke out of our names, we were never supposed to laugh or tell it ourselves. Oh, small boy sleeping near the Clorox, dreaming of soap suds & milk, if no one has told you, you are beautiful & lovable & black & enough & so – my precious, only brother – am I.

Originally published in Quarterly West, January 2015.

my father gives a lecture on the power of good pussy

meanwhile, I smack my dry mouth practicing Darren’s width,
for whom I must make my jaw a legend if I want him to call me
again. I make myself a wet absence of light, almost pussy with the
lamp off & no cellphone glow. I’ve been mustering my way up to
Darren. Before him, Michael. Before Michael, Kendrall. Before that,
God knows who. Before my memory ends, there was me, playing
contortionist in the basement, my body a fucked-up crescent moon,
grandma upstairs cooking something with too much salt, & my
tongue finally reaching the sweet slit, a first kiss all my own. At
this point, my father is explaining what good pussy is & ain’t & gets
mistaken for, how good pastors turn foolhearted nigga at a whiff of
uncrossed legs, how it can make a man ditch a woman with clean
up his mess or give it a name & raise it. But I know what my mouth
is & ain’t & what I try to make it. I try my best to vanish my teeth,
make my mouth soft & warm & almost named Kim. Darren, who
say he ain’t gay, say shit, nigga & shake & rattle & roll his pants
back up. He say it damn near feels like a woman & don’t look me
in my eye. He pounds my fist when he leaves like we just finished
playing horse. I know I should let my daddy finish, but I want to
tell him I already know what my mouth can do. That the slick he
preaching ’bout is a language I’ve practiced in the dark. He say only
good pussy can make a man lose his religion. I say I have heard
Darren speak in tongues, I say my mouth is a shiny, new god.

Originally published in Beloit Poetry Journal, 2015.

Learn more about Danez Smith’s work here at hiswebsite.

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