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Photograph of Danez Smith by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Photo Credit: Hieu Minh Nguyen

Danez Smith

Distinguished Visiting Writer 2019

About Danez Smith

Danez Smith is a Black, Queer, Poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. Smith is the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection, the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and a finalist for the National Book Award; they also wrote [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Montalvo Arts Center, Cave Canem, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Smith's work has been featured widely, appearing on platforms such as Buzzfeed, The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Best American Poetry, Poetry Magazine, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Smith is a member of the Dark Noise Collective and is the co-host of VS with Franny Choi, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and Postloudness. Smith’s third collection, Homie, will be published by Graywolf in Spring 2020. Find more at

Find Classes with Danez Smith

Date: Wednesday, September 11, 2019, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Type: Conversation, Generative Workshop, Lecture, Workshop
Genre: Poetry

This workshop seeks to explore the idea of audience while debunking the myths that our audience is either everyone or no one. We will hone in on what tools writers use to signal to their audiences that the poem is to/for them, how we add love, empathy, and intimacy into our writing, and how we can be more in use of our work as gathering grounds and private lines of communication.

More About Danez Smith

Smith, Danez. "Dear White AmericaButton Poetry, June 16, 2014.

Dear White America, I've left Earth in search of darker planets, a solar system that revolves too near a black hole. I left a patch of dirt in my place and many of you won't know the difference. Give it my name if it makes you feel better while you run your hands through its soiled scalp. I have left in search of a new god. I do not trust the God you have given us... 


---. ", February 1, 2017.

 in the morning I think about money

           green horned lord of my waking

                      forest in which I stumbled toward no salvation

                                 prison made of emerald & pennies

           in my wallet I keep anxiety & a condom

I used to sell my body but now my blood spoiled

           All my favorite songs tell me to get money

                                              I’d rob a bank but I’m a poet


Kellaway, Kate. "‘Every poem is political’: Danez Smith, the YouTube star shaking up poetryThe Guardian, January 18, 2018.

It needs to be said straight away, if only for practical purposes, that Danez (stress on the second syllable), who is African American, gay, gender-neutral and HIV positive, prefers to be referred to as “they”. When we meet, Smith confirms that “they” feels more comfortable than the alternative “ze” because: “I feel like many people sometimes.” The plurality is also perfect for a poet who speaks for, and to, so many and who should be read by everyone.


Parmar, Sandeep. "Interview with Danez SmithThe White Review, June 2018.

For me, it’s about writing a good poem. The questions of page and performance come later. My first allegiance is with what the poem wants to be, in terms of how it looks. The question of performance is something I ask myself at a later date once the poem is finished, when I ask myself, ‘can I read this to an audience one time through and be able to make them feel something?’

 Smith, August. "Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith - ReviewBookPage, September 5, 2017.

Vivid, unsettling and uplifting all at once, the second full-length from award-winning poet Danez Smith is part elegy, part celebration and part poetry-as-witness. Smith is a black, queer, HIV-positive poet, and these are the poems of a person not only navigating their complex place in the world, but dictating it firmly and without recourse to everyone in earshot.