Portrait of Danez Smith
Image by Hieu Minh Nguyen

As their biography on their website explains, “Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN.” Their most recent poetry collection, Don’t Call Us Dead (2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award. This collection is a “heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth.”

Smith’s other works of poetry include [insert] Boy, published in 2014 and winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award. Smith has an impressive list of awards, fellowships, publications, and social justice work, which you can read about here.

Today, we chose a poem by Smith titled ‘The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar” from the February 2017 issue of Poetry. It begins:


The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar

this gin-heavy heaven, blessed ground to think gay & mean we.

bless the fake id & the bouncer who knew

this need to be needed, to belong, to know how

a man full on vodka & free of sin. i know not which god to pray to.

i look to christ, i look to every mouth on the dance floor, i order

a whiskey coke, name it the blood of my new savior. he is just.

he begs me to dance, to marvel men with the

dash …


You can read more of Danez Smith’s work on their website. This podcast also features them reading an excerpt of their poem “summer, somewhere” from Poetry’s January 2016 issue.