Pride Network hosted its second-annual X Agenda this past Saturday with guest speaker and poet Danez Smith.
The event lasted about an hour and half, beginning with an open mic for any member of Pride or the spoken word group No Disclaimers to perform.
For the remainder of the time, Smith spoke, recited, and answered questions in an inspirational and informal manner.
“You can’t have bravado and feelings at the same time,” Smith said in response to a question, highlighting the elimination of ego when sharing poetry.
He also tried to explain what he feels being a poet means: “If you can’t say, ‘I feel X,’ you can show it through images.”
Smith is a queer African-American poet from Minnesota with a background in slam poetry. He has published three works of poetry: “Don’t Call Us Dead” (published by Graywolf Press in 2017), “Black Movie” (published by Button Poetry in 2015), and “[insert] boy” (published by YesYes Books in 2014).
Pride Network had purchased a number of each of these works and gave them to the attendees of the event, who also had the opportunity to get them signed at its end.
Danez mostly recited from “Don’t Call Us Dead,” his most recent work, which discusses police brutality and the struggle of African Americans and queer people in today’s world as well as identity struggles related to HIV. But he also brought a large, black, and well-loved (duct-taped and battered) journal full of papers with more recent and unpublished poems he felt needed to be shared.
What seemed to resonate most with the intimate group of 20 or so people was the relatability of each poem and the way he recited each piece. He recited one poem called “Dogs,” which had 22 parts and was well received by the attendees. Many of his poems come in parts or waves, all having to do with the same message but shown through numerous perspectives.
Danez is a member of both the Dark Noise Collective and a podcast by the Poetry Foundation of Postloudness. He is also the recipient of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
During the open mic portion, the poems recited covered African-American feminism versus white feminism, Icarus, past hauntings, life after sexual assault, and transgender identity. The final poem worked as an extension to the biblical seven days of creation — days eight through 11 showed how the wonderfulness of the world would be stripped away with the violence and war of today.