Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Danez is the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017). Danez is also the author of two chapbooks, hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books) and black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Danez’s work has been featured widely including in on Buzzfeed, Blavity, PBS NewsHour, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They are a 2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, 3-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, and a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective.
Danez was featured in American Academy of Poet’s Emerging Writers Series by National Book Award Finalist Patricia Smith. Like her, Danez bridges the poetics of the stage to that of the page. Danez’s work transcends arbitrary boundaries to present work that is gripping, dismantling of oppression constructs, and striking on the human heart. Often centered around intersections of race, class, sexuality, faith, and social justice, Danez uses rhythm, fierce raw power, and image to re-imagine the world as takes it apart in their work.
Dinosaurs In The Hood
Let’s make a movie called Dinosaurs In The Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happiness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T-Rex, because there has to be a T-Rex.
(It’s a dinosaur movie, duh)
Don’t let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic brontosaurus or triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene
where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don’t let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don’t want any racist shit
about Asian People or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks –
children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exile – saving their town
from real ass Dinosaurs. I don’t want some cheesy, yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny, yet strong, commanding
Black Girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors
with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cecily Tyson to make a speech, maybe 2.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur’s long, cold-blood neck. But this can’t be
a black movie. This can’t be a black movie. This movie can’t be dismissed
because of its cast or its audience. This movie can’t be metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can’t be about race.
This movie can’t be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can’t be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can’t be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie
who can’t say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless
his dreams possible, pulsing, & right there.
“Ooooh, you look like”
usually heard in the context of trying to receive services from a service industry employee when you make it to the front of the line & as said employee is ringing you up looks upon your face & sees a face not yours & so says I know you don’t I? to which you say Maybe you went to Central? to which she says Naw but you know Shanice? but you don’t know any Shanices particularly well so you say Naw but then her face lights up & fingers snap in the way your mother does when she has a revelation & says Ooooh, you look like Kenneth & so calls over Tasha to confirm that you indeed do look like Kenneth to which Tasha says Hell yeah! dragging out the whole thing to let you know how much you look like the man you don’t know & this whole moment you hate not because you hate this small little ritual of looking like someone but because you the whole time ask yourself What the fuck does Kenneth look like? & so take to the phonebook to look up any man named Kenneth but upon realizing that the phonebook is listed by last name you take to the internet to look up every Black man in the metropolitan area named Kenneth Kenny or Ken with only minimal breaks to look at a little porn & knowing that photos lie decide to find Kenneth & over the course of three months of sleepless nights of waiting outside of the homes & jobs of every Black Kenneth in town & nineteen visits to prisons for the nineteen Black Kenneths in prison & tracking down two Black Kenneths who ain’t been home in a while & laying six flowers on six graves with only minimal breaks to watch porn & only having one situation get a little weird when Kenneth 47 caught you looking at more than his face in the restroom you followed him into you conclude that nigga Kenneth looks nothing like you. Tasha be lyin
at the down low house party
don’t expect no nigga to dance.
we drink Hen, hold the wall
graze an elbow & pray it last forever.
everybody wants to touch a nigga, but don’t.
we say wats gud meaning I could love you until my jaw
turns to dust. we say yo meaning let my body
be a falcon’s talon & your body be the soft innards of goats
but we mostly say nothing, just sip
some good brown trying to get drunk
with permission. sometime between here
& being straight again, some sweet
boned, glittering boy shows up, starts vogueing & shit
his sharp hips pierce our desire, make our mouths water
& water & we call him faggot meaning bravery
faggot meaning I often dream
of you, flesh damp & confused for mine
faggot meaning Hail the queen! Hail the queen!
faggot meaning I been waited ages to dance with you
Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017)
[insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014)
hands on your knees (Penmanship Books, 2013)
black movie (Button Poetry, 2015)
Finalist, National Book Awards, 2017
Button Poetry Prize, 2015
Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry,2014
Kate Tufts Discovery Award, 2014
2-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, 2nd place, 2014
3-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion