Don't Call Us Dead: Poems

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Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry

“[Smith's] poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joy.”—The New Yorker

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.
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About the author

Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy, winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Smith has received fellowships from the McKnight Foundation and the Poetry Foundation, and lives in Minneapolis.
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Reviews

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Additional Information

Publisher
Graywolf Press
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Published on
Sep 5, 2017
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Pages
96
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ISBN
9781555979775
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Poetry / American / African American
Poetry / American / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Kaveh Akbar
“In ‘Heritage,’ a fierce poem dedicated to an Iranian woman executed for killing the man attempting to rape her, award-winning poet Akbar proclaims, 'in books love can be war-ending/...in life we hold love up to the light/ to marvel at its impotence.' Yet if real-life love is disappointing ('The things I’ve thought I've loved/ could sink an ocean liner'), Akbar proves what books can do in his exceptional debut, which brings us along on his struggle with addiction, a dangerous comfort and soul-eating monster he addresses boldly ('thinking if I called a wolf a wolf I might dull its fangs'). His work stands out among literature on the subject for a refreshingly unshowy honesty; Akbar runs full tilt emotionally but is never self-indulgent. These poems find the speaker poised between life’s clatter and rattle, wanting to retreat (‘so much/ of being alive is breaking’) yet hungering for more (‘I'm told what seems like joy/ is often joy'). Indeed, despite his acknowledged disillusion and his failings (‘my whole life I answered every cry for help with a pour'), he has loved, and an electric current runs through the collection that keeps reader and writer going. VERDICT Excellent work from an important new poet.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal, STARRED review “Akbar has what every poet needs: the power to make, from emotions that others have felt, memorable language that nobody has assembled before.” —Steph Burt, The Yale Review “John Berryman and James Wright (and his son Franz Wright) haunt Calling a Wolf a Wolf, but Akbar also has a voice so distinctly his—tinted in old Persian, dipped in modern American, ancient and millennial, addict and ascetic, animal and more animal. In the end, nothing brings man—human or man—down to Earth more than the kingdom of flora and fauna.” —Porochista Khakpour, Virginia Quarterly Review "Kaveh Akbar has evolved a poetics that (often) suggests the infinite within each object, gesture, event. The smallest thing in these poems pushes one up against something intractable and profound. Surface and depth constantly turn into each other. Narrative, the dilemmas of personal history and anguish are handled with equal sophistication. 'Odd, for an apocalypse to announce itself with such bounty.' This is bounty, an intensely inventive and original debut.” —Frank Bidart, author of Metaphysical Dog and Watching the Spring Festival "The struggle from late youth on, with and without God, agony, narcotics and love is a torment rarely recorded with such sustained eloquence and passion as you will find in this collection." —Fanny Howe This highly-anticipated debut boldly confronts addiction and courses the strenuous path of recovery, beginning in the wilds of the mind. Poems confront craving, control, the constant battle of alcoholism and sobriety, and the questioning of the self and its instincts within the context of this never-ending fight. From "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before": Sometimes you just have to leave whatever's real to you, you have to clomp through fields and kick the caps off all the toadstools. Sometimes you have to march all the way to Galilee or the literal foot of God himself before you realize you've already passed the place where you were supposed to die. I can no longer remember the being afraid, only that it came to an end. Kaveh Akbar is the founding editor of Divedapper. His poems appear in The New Yorker, Poetry, APR, Tin House, Ploughshares, PBS NewsHour, and elsewhere. The recipient of a 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation and the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Akbar was born in Tehran, Iran, and currently lives and teaches in Florida.
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