Headshot of Danez Smith laughing with the Writing Process podcast typewriter logo

01:07: Poet Danez Smith

For as subjective as poetry can be, there is little ambiguity is being named a finalist for a National Book Award in poetry.

That’s what Danez Smith earned with the 2017 poetry collection Don’t Call Us Dead. Hear from Danez in today’s episode of my Writing Process Podcast.

Danez, who uses they/them/their pronouns, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they were first introduced to editing. First in high school as a poetry performer, Danez was accustomed to writing by “adding words and reading them faster.” Then in college, the idea of creating for hours to find just that “little bit of language” that is worth sustaining.

This became a dominant part of the conversation I had. Here are a few takeaways that I took:

  • The writing process is about creation to then throwaway what should remain. You create the rock and then sculpt from it.
  • The first draft is for the author, to exorcise whatever is needed. Everything after is for the audience, including reader experience and clarity.
  • Gather small bits of language whenever you can find them.

Danez was fun and bright and oh so patient with early technical challenges.