Homie is Danez Smith’s magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith’s close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer.
I’d like to invent or order up new adjectives to describe the startling originality and ambition of Smith’s work. I’d like to unwrap some brand-new words, oddly pronged words, to convey their wary intelligence and open heart ... These poems emerge from places of paradox, and are animated by the spirit of the dozens, where deep love can be best conveyed through imaginative insult ... The radiance of Homie arrives like a shock, like found money, like a flower fighting through concrete ... Each poem feels like a maze designed to take the poet and the reader to some new destination, some new understanding. Smith applies shocks to the language, twists tenses at will ... Smith got their start in spoken word, and their work has always retained the intimacy and directness of performance ... This is a book full of the turbulence of thought and desire, piloted by a writer who never loses their way.
...by hiding the real name of the book, Smith only makes it available to those who take the time to read it. If the poetry were less earnest, this could come off as a gag—just another conceptual stunt. But the writer’s commitment to making black life visible while simultaneously expanding blackness’s scope when people are looking imbues this title with a different weight ... In its plainspoken yet voluminous vocabulary, its full-scale embrace of the body, and its ecstatic rendering of everyday life, Smith’s distinctive song of the self inevitably recalls Whitman ... Smith’s writing presents an identity tempered by a society that is slow to administer acceptance. Smith is a poet of profound abundance and empathy, and in this collection the moments that stay with you the longest are the ones that reflect on abandoning the socialization of a prolifically cruel world.
Perhaps this is one of Smith’s grandest talents: diving into the pool of a poem at one angle (for example, 'my president,' in the singular sense) only to emerge in a new framework (the multitudes of presidents) that makes us see poetry and its meanings anew ... Homie is full of humor and hugs, it’s also heckled by haunts, alive and dead ... profound poetics ... In its cutting compassion, Homie is as much a celebration of loved ones’ lives as it is a lament for their loss, equally a war cry for kinship and the burial dirge after the battle. The collections rings as a heartfelt call to love our beloveds as if they’ll be gone tomorrow, because they just might be. Yet Smith teaches us that one thing is still certain for today: in our homies, despite our most harrowing of hurts, we can always find the hope of healing.