Get Ready for Danez Smith with Anastacia-Reneé
November 13, 2018
By Danielle Palmer-Friedman, SAL Volunteer
When I asked Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Reneé (she/they) why I should go see Danez Smith (they/them) speak on November 26, she had this to say: “Get your life together and get to the reading.” She shared with me Danez’s poem “alternate names for black boys” and added: “If you still need convincing—you will just miss out, and I will feel sorry for you.”
Anastacia’s passion is understandable. Danez’s work is by turns sly, painful, ecstatic, raw, and beautifully constructed. Despite the beauty of their lines, however, their work is concerned with turning conversation into action. “I want to do more than talk beautifully about dead black people,” Danez told Kaveh Akbar in a Divedapper interview. “I want to make sure black people stay alive.” As for Anastacia-Reneé, she says, “Danez makes me both uncomfortable and makes me feel at home in my blackness, in my person-ness, in my anger, and my love.”
After listening to a few excerpts from “summer, somewhere” and securing my SAL tickets, I reached back out to Anastacia-Reneé and asked her what media I could consume to get ready for Danez’s appearance. She had the work of these Seattle-based artists to share:
Visual artist Aramis O. Hamer, whose eye-popping colorful paintings work with the themes of liberation and femininity. Follow her on Instagram @Mis_Liberation or see her paint strokes in person on November 17 & 18 at the Crystal, Gem + Mineral Show.
Spoken word poet, actor, musician (and WITS Writer!) Naa Akua, who was born in Mount Vernon, moved to New York, and then back to the Pacific Northwest to marry the woman they love. You can see their one-person show, Akwaaba: Healing A Queer Black Soul, at Gay City on November 16 & 17.
Poet, playwright, educator, and interdisciplinary artist Storme Webber, who just closed her show Casino: A Palimpsest at the Frye Art Museum. Webber teaches creative writing at the University of Washington and founded the arts organization Voices Rising QTPOC Artists in 2007. Check out her poetry collection, Blues Divine, at The Seattle Public Library.
Prolific author and queer activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, who recently released a novel, Sketchtasy, which City Arts called “entertaining” and “an important book, one that could create positive cultural change.” Catch Matilda’s homecoming reading at Elliott Bay Book Co. on February 21, or read her review of SAL poet Stephanie Burt, written for Poetry Northwest for our 2017/18 Season, here.
Finally, I asked Anastacia-Reneé what single thought should be on my mind as I walked into Broadway Performance Hall to take my seat for Danez’s event. She had the following three recommendations:
- “There is no cookie-cutter version of the black man.”
- “Wisdom is ageless and timeless.”
- “What is a living legacy?”
Danielle Palmer-Friedman is a Seattle-based writer in love with ice cream and local theater and currently obsessed with poetry and taking leftover food home. You can read her published work from The Daily and City Arts, or check out her personal blog here.