Black Movie by Danez Smith
Published 2015, Read February 2017
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (of 5)
” Kevin, 19, doesn’t hang
out far from his headstone.
He is the greenest grass
in a graveyard that reads
like an attendance sheet.”
-The Secret Garden in the Hood
I’m not sure I can put into words how incredible this chapbook is. Danez Smith does something truly incredible, something I think readers will agree only great literature does. He tells the truth. Some may view his poetry as political, but in fact his work is simply a vivid portrayal of lives made political. He is not coming down on one side or the other of a divide. He is telling you the truth of his experience, that his life is forever endangered, traumatized, and changed because of the color of his skin.
This tiny book, only 40 pages long, is packed to bursting. At points I found myself weeping, but then a page later Danez Smith challenged my tears, forcing me to ask myself if I was crying the unproductive and pointless “white tears” that currently plague our discussion of race in this country. Every poem strikes like a hammer blow, but Smith is a true artist, approaching each subject with equal parts finesse and raw, emotional power.
I believe he is attempting to address white people. One piece is titled “Dear White America,” which specifically addresses both the violence and apathy we’ve directed towards black American for four hundred years. The only salvation Smith can imagine from our failures (speaking as a white American) is to imagine a separate world, far distant among other stars “where [his] kin can be safe, where black people ain’t but people the same color as the good, wet earth.”
Thank you, Danez Smith. We have work to do.