NEA Literature Fellowships

Danez Smith

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(2017 - Poetry)

it won’t be a bullet

becoming a little moon - brightwarm in me one night.
thank god. i can go quietly. The doctor will explain death
& i’ll go practice.

In the catalogue of ways to kill a black boy, find me
buried between the pages stuck together
with red sweet stick. ironic, predictable. look at me.

i’m not the kind of black man who dies on the news.
i’m the kind who grows thinner & thinner & thinner
until light outweighs us, & we become it, family
gathered around my barely body telling me to go
toward myself.

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer and performer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Danez is the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, and Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017). Danez is also the author of two chapbooks, hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books) and black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize. They are the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Danez's work has been featured widely including in on Buzzfeed, Blavity, PBS NewsHour, and on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. They are a two-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, three-time Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, and a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective.

Photo by Hieu Minh Nguyen

Author's Statement

What this award means for me is time to invest deeper in my art and my communities. It means the freedom to exist a little easier out of traditional capitalist structures and to hopefully stir up good mess. It means a cushion to take risk that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to take, to travel and research for future collections, and to provide my family with a little comfort to repay all the ways they have kept me safe and sane.