Award-winning poet explores individuality at UVM

Bridget Higdon, Assistant Arts Editor

In the age of social media, Americans are exposed to millions of different voices every day.

The UVM Program Board is hosting a reading by Danez Smith, a new voice in poetry, as part of the “Week of Welcome” festivities this year.

Smith, originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, is a black, queer and HIV-positive writer and performer. Smith’s fourth book, called “Don’t Call Us Dead” will be released next month.

Smith’s second book, “[insert] boy” won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry in 2014, according to the poet’s website. Smith received the Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation in 2014, and has performed at the Brave New Voices slam poetry showcase.

“I don’t seek to write political poems,” Smith said in a March 2017 interview with Publishers Weekly. “The idea of politics can’t be bigger than the poem,” Smith said. “I write poems that try to tell and trouble the truth, that scream and shout and pray and sing, that move and demand movement.”

Smith is also a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective, which is a multiracial, multi-genre ensemble of poets who seek to use spoken word to critically engage listeners, according the group’s website.

Smith said that “poetry is not an indoor cat.” It can be found “in basement bars and middle school classrooms, on barbecue restaurant billboards and on Netflix,” they said on the Poetry Foundation’s podcast, “VS.”

Smith’s voice has been gaining attention. Patricia Smith, a National Book Award Finalist, calls Smith “the crown prince of innovation and ferocity, a stunningly original voice . . . a reason to romp and stomp in your church shoes.”

Danez Smith will be performing August 29 in the Davis Center Grand Maple Ballroom. Admission is free.