Just like that, it’s another bookworms post for your Tuesday.

Even though it’s summer, I’ve had surprisingly less time on my hands lately with a new full-time job and other things to attend to. That being said, less time never means no time for books— that would be preposterous.

The book I have for you today is a bit of a cross between my Poetry Place and usual Bookworms, mostly because I’ve found myself missing poetry more lately these days. Additionally, I have been turning to more voices of color and specifically, Black voices, to hear what those around me who are like me need to say.

Amidst the education that many have been doing and the pleasure reading that I hope you have all indulged in at least a little bit, I think some space should be left for things like poetry. Like so many other forms of expression, sometimes it gets left out of the usual reading lists, and unfortunately, doing so leaves behind countless voices that have too many important things to say.

Today, I bring you just one book that I hope may invite you to listen.

Homie—Danez Smith

First things first, this collection of poems does not lie to you; even the title, though listed as “Homie” is representative of something else. When asked about it, Smith (they/them) answered later “this book was titled homie because I don’t want non-black people to say my nig out loud. This book is really titled my nig.”

That title is confirmed when flipping through the first title page of the book reveals a second one with the revised title on it. Does that make you uncomfortable? Well, I’m sure it surprises some.

Because ultimately, Smith’s poems are incredibly honest and unapologetic, rightfully so for a National Book Award Finalist. They do things with words that tend to pull a lot of other people in, simply because Smith’s poems are like well-paced stories— they start in one place and even as you go along, you may not quite see the ending coming the way it does, but you can feel the words hit you at just the right intervals to make you want to read a little bit faster and pay more attention until somehow, it’s over.

So what exactly is Homie about?

For starters, the collection of poems is about friendship and camaraderie— it’s about a community in both having one and what it’s like to constantly lose members. In some cases, this is the Black, queer, and Black queer community acknowledging the violence that they face every day just trying to exist in the same space as everyone else. In other cases, this is calling all people of color, immigrants and US citizens alike, to come together against all xenophobia felt within the States.

And, that’s just the surface of what this collection covers.

Because like so many writers, Smith seems to have a big heart and when it comes to being Black or queer or HIV positive or loved or grieving or joyous or all of the above… there’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of emotion packed within. Yet, Homie manages to make its readers feel all of it.

If a reader isn’t feeling it, they have to dig deeper. They have to let the words sink in.

Reading through a poetry collection like this isn’t something that you do just once. You might read through the poems the first time, then mark through the pages a second time reading it aloud, feeling all the syllables as they fall across your tongue. If you’re like me, you might even look for videos or an audiobook just to hear them read these words out loud, to listen to how they sound from the author’s mouth.

Then, you read it again; this time, the goal is to understand what’s going on underneath the words. What is it about the life the people like Smith live that make a community so central to a poetry collection like this and what do their words have to say about these communities? Why is the poem Fall starting off about a season and ending about something that comes around so much sooner than anything considered seasonal?

These are the questions I found myself asking and the questions that I hope you might be asking too. After all, once you get into it, I don’t think you can stop yourself from wandering farther into it all. There’s a lot to learn; in the meantime, there’s also a lot of incredible poetry to appreciate.

Even though I’ve shared a bit with you here, there is so much to read in this collection that I know I haven’t even begun to uncover all of it for myself. What I do know is that I have found a new author to discover more poetry through and someone new to share with you all in the process.

If you’re interested in learning more about Smith, their website is here. If you’re looking for the book, here is a link to it and I’m also happy to tell you more about it too. Happy Tuesday everyone, take care and I’ll see you Friday.

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