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Reader Meet Author: Personal Advice from Poet Danez Smith

Reader Meet Author: Personal Advice from Poet Danez Smith

Author: William Johnson

May 20, 2015

Do you have problems with your love life? Do you hate your job? Is your social life lacking a certain zing? All of these questions and more can be answered through literature—or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at the Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader Meet Author.” Think of the column as a sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send “Reader Meet Author” questions for publication to

This month’s author is Danez Smith. Smith is the author of the 2015 Lambda Literary Award nominated poetry collection [insert] Boy (YesYes Books, 2014) and the chapbook hands on ya knees (Penmanship Books, 2013). Smith is the recipient of fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Cave Canem, Voices of Our Nation (VONA) and elsewhere. Smith is also the founding member of the multigenre, multicultural Dark Noise Collective. Their writing has appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kinfolks and elsewhere.


Dear Author,

My best friend (who is a liberal like myself) just started dating a Republican. I can’t reconcile how my friend, who has been somewhat active in grassroots liberal politics since I have known him, can so effortlessly start dating someone whose worldview is directly opposed to our own. When I bring this up to him, he gets defensive and says, “…their connection is beyond politics” and that he and his new boyfriend “connect on a deeper level.” We have been fighting about this endlessly, and it is really damaging our friendship. I’m trying to make him understand that the political is personal and that who you choose to love is directly related to your belief system. He tells me their relationship is inexplicable and “that they just get each other.” I don’t think I can maintain a deep friendship with someone who is so cavalier with his affections. I really need advice on how to handle this. Should I just distance myself from my friend until this relationship (hopefully) ends? 


Liberal in Love and Life

Dear Liberal in Love and Life,

Thank you for your concern for your friend, now I want you to say the following words with me: It’s none of my damn business. This phrase will help you maintain your friendship and your sanity. Frankly, your friend’s relationship is not yours. Your job as the friend is to support them and be there for them when needed, but you are not needed in this case. Sure, I’ve had friends date folks I didn’t necessarily like, still got a few homies in situations I’d pull them out of if I could, but that is your friend’s journey to take and yours to witness and support when needed. If its really that big of a deal, it will end, at which point your friend will need you and some good red wine to heal, but until that time, remember that your friend’s intimate relationships are not yours.

And, this is gonna sting, but have you thought about the ways in which abandoning your friend because their dating someone with different political views is, like, totally fucked up? Nothing you’ve said implies a change in your friend, so just don’t hang out with his BF. Have a seat, grab some smart food, watch them break up and live for the moment when you get to say, “Trick, I told you.” If they don’t end up breaking up, I suggest bringing a selection of books by Angela Davis and George W. Bush–in what is sure to be an interesting gay wedding.

Remember: It’s none of my damn business. And be a good friend.



Dear Author,

Over my decades long dating life, I have come to the startling realization that every relationship I’ve been in comes with a self-induced four year timer. I always become bored and restless with my partners at the four year mark–no matter how dynamic the partner. I am simply not built for long term partnerships. I am okay with this; I believe everything has a life cycle, nothing is forever. For me, a relationship’s perfect life cycle is about four years. The trouble comes when I start dating someone new. I always tell them upfront that I love to date, but I do not want anything long term. You know, easy-peasy. They are okay with it at first, but then when I invariably start edging away they call me selfish and tell me I have commitment issues. I think I’m fine with the “idea” of commitment, but the thought of one soul mate is ridiculous. We change constantly, so why not how and who we love? The ex-partners often tell me how I might need therapy and that I need to learn to have long stable relationships–blah, blah, blah. I am happy, so I really don’t see the problem. What are your thoughts on this? Is it okay not to want a long term commitment?


Alone Naturally

Hey A.N.,

I have two answers for you:

  1. It’s totally ok. You have nothing to worry about. But… have you heard the good word of polyamory? I agree with you, one soul mate sounds ridiculous. I think of monogamy as consenting to keep those other soul mates at a particular distance because you have agreed to make one of them not only the primary, but the only. It’s not always for me. Sounds like it’s not for you either. But I think polyamory, when done with healthy attitudes and a lot of communication, can be great for people who are not happy with the one-ness of monogamy. (check out this little link that might give you some pointers)
  1. It’s totally ok, but you might want to investigate what that pattern means. What is it about that four year calendar that leads your partners to say these things? Do you have a similar pattern with friends or is it only with romantic partners? Are you friends with any of these ex-partners? Do you get bored with them sexually or completely? I bring this up because I’m weary of patterns in my own life. Some are cool (I wake up around 6:30am everyday), but some warrant interrogation (why are all my relationships ending in the same way?). It’s never a bad time to sit down and ask yourself some hard questions when it comes to how we are living, loving, and moving through the world. If you are happy with how your love life is going, then go ‘head and do you, boo. But if you think there might be something that warrants change, don’t go gently into that mothersucka. Change it.

Play on playa,



Dear Author,

How do I get my top boyfriend to give up the cookies? When we first started dating a year ago I was fine with him being a straight-up strict top (honestly, I found it hot!). But now I find myself longingly looking at his nice tight butt. I like bottoming, but I now realize I need a little more variety in my sexual diet. When I broach the subject he tells me “that I knew he was strict top when we started dating and that he is simply not going to change.” He has never bottomed and I think he is just afraid of the pain. Any tips on how to change his mind or convince him of the joys of bottoming?


From The Bottom to the Top


Signing up to date a strict top is a sacred contract between bussy and bologna. If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t want to, but if he never bottomed he might just not be aware of the range of pleasure waiting for him back there.

Define “strict top”? Does he get into any kind of booty play (outside of yours that is)? See if he’s ok with you tossing his romaine for a little bit and go from there. Take it slow with him, you know well that the bussy is a delicate seed must be gently coaxed until it finally blooms into a rosebud, but… if he doesn’t like it, he don’t like it.

Sorry honey, I hope you get what you want out of this/I hope he finds joy in this trunk junk. If not, send him my way. (The author would like to take this moment to say thank to all the tops and vers tops reading this column for their years of service. He also encourages them to holla).

Hope you get to have your cake and eat it too, boo.



Photo: Danez Smith via YesYes Books
William Johnson photo

About: William Johnson

William Johnson is the former Deputy Director of Lambda Literary.

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