Episode 15: Pulsing, Possible Dreams: Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead

About Don’t Call Us Dead:  “Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with 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 the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality—the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood—and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “Some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, “some of us all at once.” Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America—“Dear White America”—where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.”

Once again the Spoilers take on a poetry collection and the result is astonishment, tear-filled silences, and general veneration of the genius of Danez Smith. As usual, we ask more questions than we give definitive answers, in the process modeling an engagement with poetry that requires only that the reader/listener have an emotional response — and we have SO darned many. Bottom line is that this collection both destroyed us AND elated us. Take a listen to hear what that sounds like in all its messy glory. And don’t worry if you haven’t read the entire collection – we’ve already thought of that. In this episode we each take turns reading our favorite poems and then we talk about them together. We, of course, hope you read the entire thing (redistribute wealth to poets!), but it isn’t necessary for listening to this episode. And keep on listening after the closing music for something extra special – Danez performing “dear white america.” You’re welcome, ALL AMERICA.

What the spoilers are reading/listening to?


Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower and  Parable of the Talents

Koritha Mitchell (Ohio State University) on Teaching and the N-word (blogpost) (podcast episode)

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