An African-American man raises his fist on June 1 in downtown Las Vegas as part of a Black Lives Matter rally in response to the death of George Floyd © AFP via Getty

The two poems below were written before the killing of George Floyd but were both responses to similar awful events in the US.

Danez Smith is a Minneapolis-based poet whose 2018 collection, Don’t Call Us Dead, spoke of the black men and boys killed by the police in the US. The book won the Forward Prize for Best Collection and was a National Book Award finalist. The poem below is from their latest collection, Homie, published in February.

Leke Oso Alabi is a London-based writer and FT journalist. Of “Embracing the Spirit of ‘And What?’ ”, he says, “I wrote this poem after witnessing the sharing of content showing the killing or abuse of black men and women in the US. I wanted to explore how the devaluing of life — wherever this takes place — will lead to acts of violence.”

say it with your whole black mouth

by Danez Smith

© Danez Smith. From ‘Homie’, published in the UK by Chatto & Windus (£10.99) and in the US by Graywolf Press ($16)

Embracing the Spirit of ‘And What?’

by Leke Oso Alabi

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