“Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Emmett Till, Sandra Bland, Amadou Diallo, Philando Castile, and Trayvon Martin are just a few of the victims of race-based violence named in... [continued in Reviews below]”—Robert Archambeau, The Hudson Review
Cameron Barnett's debut poetry collection, selected by Ada Limón as winner of the 2017 Rising Writer Contest
Cameron Barnett’s poetry collection, The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water (winner of the 2017 Rising Writer Contest), explores the complexity of race and the body for a black man in today’s America.
Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS
Reviews / Endorsements
"Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Emmett Till, Sandra Bland, Amadou Diallo, Philando Castile, and Trayvon Martin are just a few of the victims of race-based violence named in The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water, Cameron Barnett’s debut collection of poems. Images of water pervade the book. They are often threatening, evoking an element in which we must either preserve ourselves by constant effort or drown: in Barnett’s hands, water becomes a metaphor for many things, most notably for America as experienced by people of color."
http://hudsonreview.com/2018/01/my-race-sees-me-three-african-american-poets/#.Wnh4EqinGUl—Robert Archambeau, The Hudson Review
"The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water is not a book to tear through. The care and meticulousness with which poet and educator Cameron Barnett deconstructs his relationship to his Blackness demands that we as readers slow down." http://www.wintertangerine.com/the-drowning-boys-guide-to-water—Noor Ibn Najam, Winter Tangerine
"In his vivacious and impressive debut, Cameron Barnett examines the intricacies of blackness and reflects on how identity is inevitably complicated by questions of race. Like most first books, The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water is, to some extent, a self-portrait, but Barnett’s poems never suffer from naivety or navel-gazing. Instead, they ache to reconcile our vast, imaginative, and jumbled inner lives with the inevitably reductive cruelty of labels, particularly when those labels facilitate the harm or obliteration of people of color." http://plumepoetry.com/2017/11/two-reviews-in-brief-2/—Adam Tavel, Plume
"As one of the four classical elements, water represents life, and symbolizes purification of the soul. In Pittsburgh-based poet Cameron Barnett’s anticipated debut collection, The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water (Autumn House Press), water serves as a complex and versatile metaphor. In “Letter to Sandy,” Barnett writes, “Water can be so difficult sometimes /… but pain is more than feeling.” The many references to water and pain (emotional, physical and existential) gush forth in powerfully perceptive ways." https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/cameron-barnetts-debut-poetry-collection-the-drowning-boys-guide-to-water/Content?oid=5655920#.Wig96otvYWI.facebook—Fred Shaw, Pittsburgh City Paper
"Barnett goes on to claim famous songs, architecture and the constellations. 'I learned so many things/could be secrets, but my love told me a secret is just a valley/ between a truth and a lie.'" http://www.mysanantonio.com/lifestyle/article/Book-review-Two-accomplished-poets-deal-with-12347554.php#photo-14526516
—Roberto Bonazzi, My San Antonio
"As a whole, Cameron Barnett’s “The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water” is a collection of poems reminding us that the racial harmony once envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr. is a goal that is as urgent and necessary as ever. King’s Nobel lecture encapsulates the way unity, peace, and love revitalize a people: “Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation.” Barnett’s book only reinforces the need for King’s insistence that love, not hatred, transforms society." http://www.journal-news.net/weekender/2017/09/barnett-explores-complexities-of-americas-race-relations/—Sonja James, The Journal (WV)
“‘Maybe if my blood were blue I’d have three hearts like you,’ Cameron Barnett writes in one of the many imaginative poems of The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water. Maybe Barnett’s blood isn’t blue, but it’s fueled by the clarity and candor of the blues. Moreover, his poems pulse with the generosity of a three-hearted sensibility: ‘one for forgiving, one for forgetting, one for moving on.’ These poems weave the personal and public histories rooted in our natures—our gardens, our spirits, our bodies. Compassionate, shrewd, and mature: this is a marvelous debut.”—Terrance Hayes
“Ceaselessly honest and uncannily self-aware, the poems in The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water dance between grace, music, and truth. With a voice that’s leaning in instead of away, this collection is a lively and necessary debut that cracks open the complications of skin color, love, and the natural world.”—Ada Limón
“Complexity and surprise arrive with each page turn of Cameron Barnett's debut collection, The Drowning Boy's Guide to Water. Barnett's poems push past the “likes” of these digital days toward the deeply difficult work of self-reflection and discomfort. There is no one way to be Black in the United States and these poems affirm that reality. They are an answer to both Black-checking and America's tired legacy of racism. These poems know to be Black is a beautiful and varied state of being. “I was told it was a bad thing,” they admit, and then turn that lie on its head.”—Yona Harvey
From the Book:
The slow silhouette of your pouring is thin
against the wall, and for that I thank you.
I'm walking, floorboards like piano keys, but the air
in the room is just air. The yawn of the glass looms rouge.
I have never been in a mouth so big. Hello, pinot. Hello,
cork dust. Hello, sulfites. You have a way of making
each second feel like two, and tonight is a good night
for ghost stories. The label goes dark. Your neck goes dark.
Wide lips are tinted. When I put your mouth to my ear it's the throat
of the ocean that's the loudest. I will see dead children crawling
up the walls if that's what you want, but don't let them laugh. Goodbye,
pillow. Goodbye, shut eye. Goodbye, nighttime. Thank you for the red
mouth, for complicating my relationship to sweet things. Because
of this, the muscle beneath my teeth is learning to quick twitch.
- Winner of the Rising Writer Contest (2017)
Short-Listed for the NAACP Image Award in Poetry (2018)
CAMERON BARNETT earned his MFA in poetry at The University of Pittsburgh, where he was poetry editor for Hot Metal Bridge literary magazine and co-coordinator of the Pitt Speakeasy Reading Series. His honors include the O’Donnell Award for Excellence in Poetry from Duquesne University and The Academy of American Poets Graduate Poetry Award from The University of Pittsburgh. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he works as a middle school language arts teacher, and is an associate poetry editor for Pittsburgh Poetry Review. The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water is his first book.