Danez Smith

Danez Smith (b. 1989, St. Paul, Minnesota) writes poems which are simultaneously jubilant and confrontational. Their debut, [insert] Boy, won the Lambda Literary Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. After their poem ‘dear white america’ — included in Don’t Call Us Dead — was featured on PBS NewsHour, Smith’s performance received 300,000 YouTube views in the space of a few days.

Smith is African-American, queer, gender-neutral and HIV positive. They first became aware of the possibilities of contemporary poetry through HBO’s ‘Def Poetry’, and honed their performance skills with theatre training and slams (Smith is the reigning Rustbelt Individual Champion). The poems which excite them most, they say, are those which ‘through language, better equip me to re-enter the world and proceed vigorously’.

Forward Prizes History:

  • 2018 Forward Prizes for Best Collection, winner for Don’t Call Us Dead (Chatto & Windus)
photo credit: David Hong