Hieu Minh Nguyen
Danez Smith Poetry Reading, 6-7:30 p.m., Kathryn Mohrman Theatre in CC’s Armstrong Hall, 14 E. Cache la Poudre St., free, coloradocollege.edu.
Danez Smith stands poised to become the voice of a generation of poets, too often left out of the limelight in a world that tends to favor the white, the straight and the cisgender. Smith represents a variety of marginalized identities — black, gay, gender-neutral and HIV-positive — and their poetry examines the world from the point of view of someone who has never been its chosen one. Their two collections, [insert] boy
and Don’t Call Us Dead
, have earned Smith accolades such as the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry, but it’s hearing Smith read one of their poems aloud that truly drives the power of their words home. In recent years, a Button Poetry recording of Smith’s reading of their poem “Dear White America”
has racked up more than 350,000 views on YouTube, owing in large part to Smith’s impassioned delivery.
“i’ve left Earth in search of darker planets,” the poem reads, “a solar system revolving too near a black hole. i’ve left in search of a new God. i do not trust the God you have given us. my grandmother’s hallelujah is only outdone by the fear she nurses every time the blood-fat summer swallows another child who used to sing in the choir. take your God back. though his songs are beautiful, his miracles are inconsistent. i want the fate of Lazarus for Renisha, want Chucky, Bo, Meech, Trayvon, Sean & Jonylah risen three days after their entombing, their ghost re-gifted flesh & blood, their flesh & blood re-gifted their children.”
Smith’s memorial poems for some of the people named here, black people lost to police violence, strike a similar chord of heartache and empathy in their listeners. To Smith, these are not just names on the news, but reflections of people Smith grew up with, people they know — even reflections of Smith themself.
Wednesday night, you can catch a rare opportunity to hear Smith read their works, preceded by readings from CC’s spoken-word poetry group SpeakEasy. It promises to be an evening of passion, enlightenment and inspiration from someone who has never stopped using their talents to fight for the recognition not just of their worth, but of their very existence.