Book Review: Don’t Call Us Dead By Danez Smith

Don’t Call Us Dead is a poetry collection which I found quite heavy to read due to the depth and intensity of the topics. It varies from a range of issues such as the police brutality, what it means to be black in America and discusses the endemic of HIV.

What do you think of the title?

The title is cemented in the first poem summer, somewhere which states ‘please, don’t call us dead, call us alive someplace better.’  This summarises the political climate of what it means to be black in America.  To simply put it,  I believe the title is a juxtaposition or a bitter-sweet comparison exploring the contrast of death and life.

What are some of your favourite lines in this collection?

1. what good is a name if no one answers back?

This made me think of the reality of death and how stark it can be. When someone is gone, the essence of who they are gets taken away and you are left with the reality that you’d never hear from them again. This line embodies this epiphany concisely.

2. the forest is a flock of boys
who never got to grow up

blooming into flowers
afros like maple crowns
3.i did not come here to sing you blues.
lately, i open my mouth

&out comes marigolds, yellow plums.
i came to make the sky a garden.

give me rain or give me honey,dear lord.
the sky has given us no water this year.

Smith uses a range of nature references to provide the reader with vivid imagery of beauty and nature yet talks about the starkest topics and themes.

What is your favourite piece in this collection?

Although I have heard Smith perform ‘Dinosaur In The Hood’ on YouTube, I enjoyed reading the piece on page. I like this piece because it addresses the entertainment  industry along with societies perception on race and how Smith identifies the importance of this movie because it shows the dreams of a little black boy is possible.

Secondly,  I like ‘you’re dead, america’ because it unapologetically  and bravely speaks on what it is like to metaphorically (and perhaps literally) forsake and denounce everything that makes a person supposedly American such as the flag, national anthem, social perceptions and so on.

Lastly, i found ‘dear white america’ painful to read because of the denouncement of religion. Yet Smith does something very interesting by making statements such as ‘fate of Lazarus for Renisha, want Chucky, Bo, Meech, Trayvon, Sean and Jonylah to risen three days after their entombing’  I felt the need for a miracle intense when reading that line and how this is a sad reality in this world.

Concluding Thoughts

This piece has been very easy to read but difficult to digest. I also feel I have learnt compassion in understanding other people perceptions and gain a small inkling of insight with the police brutality issue in America. Overall, it has been a educative and creative way to learn more about the struggle.

Three and the half stars


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