“Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems” by Danez Smith: A Powerful Exploration of Black Experience by PHT

Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems

Award-winning poet Danez Smith’s collection “Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems” is a poignant and unflinching exploration of black life, love, and loss. Published by Graywolf Press in 2017, this groundbreaking work has left an indelible mark on contemporary poetry.

Synopsis and Themes

The collection opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police. In this imagined realm, suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten, replaced by safety, love, and longevity. Smith then delves into desire, mortality, and the dangers experienced in skin, body, and blood. The poems confront, praise, and rebuke America, where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

Key Points

  • Poetic Craftsmanship: Smith’s deft lyrics and performative power infuse each poem. Their language is enriched to the point of volatility, paying out in sudden joy.
  • Themes: The collection grapples with police brutality, violence, AIDS, and the resulting culture of danger, suspicion, grief, and psychological pain.
  • National Recognition: A finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, “Don’t Call Us Dead” has garnered critical acclaim.
  • Forward Prize Winner: The collection clinched the Forward Prize for Best Collection in 2018.
  • Dear White America: The poems directly address America, challenging its racial dynamics and societal norms.

Quotes from “Don’t Call Us Dead”

  • “Some of us are killed / in pieces, some of us all at once.”
  • “Every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.”


“Danez Smith is angry, erotic, politicized, innovative, classical, a formalist, an activist, and blends all of this without seeming to strain,” says NPR. “Don’t Call Us Dead” is essential reading for anyone seeking powerful, urgent poetry that grapples with the complexities of existence.


  1. Amazon: “Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems”
  2. Google Books: “Don’t Call Us Dead”
  3. Goodreads: “Don’t Call Us Dead”

1 Comment

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