DOI: 10.1515/culture-2022-0194 ISSN: 2451-3474

“And the House Burned Down”: HIV, Intimacy, and Memory in Danez Smith’s Poetry

Toni R. Juncosa
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


Danez Smith’s [insert] boy (2014) not only bears witness to the intricacy of the intersection between queerness and Blackness in the United States of the twenty-first century, but also illustrates an overcoming of multiple forms of oppression through poetry. In Smith’s second collection Don’t Call Us Dead (2017), this experience is further complicated when a positive HIV diagnosis enters the equation. This paper wonders about the possibility of reading the speaker's account of HIV as following a narrative arc from anxiety to agency. With this idea in mind, and probing into issues such as intimacy, kinship, memory, and the notion of home, this paper presents a comparative analysis of Danez Smith’s poetry focusing on the metaphors used to explore the penetration of HIV into the body and the alterations this experience imposes on the perception of intimacy and memory.

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