Cameron Barnett

Praise for The Drowning Boy's Guide to Water

 (Autumn House Press, 2017)

“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, author of Bright Dead Things

"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, author of Hemming the Water

"‘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, author of How to Be Drawn

"...The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water will leave readers gratified after plunging into its well-crafted insights, swirling with perspective." - Fred Shaw, author of Argot

"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...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." - Adam Tavel, author of Catafalque

"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." - Sonja James, author of The White Spider in My Hand

"Some poets say things others dare not say. The good news is that Barnett does it significantly. He hollows out American tragedies, filling them with hard truths made permanent with poetry and story." - Grace Cavalieri, author of Sounds Like Something I Would Say

"...the fluidity of Barnett’s lyricism continually surprises the reader in its ability to find new contours and sparkling insights." - Kristofer Collins, author of King Everything

"I’m grateful for this book’s brutal beauty, for its complicated pride and validation, for what it’s left me with - a deeper questioning of my own blackness, and the revelation that is its stunning lack of closure." - Noor Ibn Najam, author of Praise to Lesser Gods of Love

"...The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water is a full meal, and not always easy to digest. [Barnett's] craft is superb, pure excellence in both expression and thrust, but the themes are exhausting, necessary...[his] endurance analyzing America’s binary black and white world is honorable, essential, and true, yet leaves the reader bone-tired." - DM O'Connor, New Pages