We are pleased to announce that Pittsburgh-based poet Cameron Barnett is the guest for our next Wheeling Poetry Series, the sixteenth program in the series so far.
Barnett, who also has a career as an editor and a middle school teacher, is an African American poet whose work explores the political, personal and cultural nuances of the Black experience in North America. Barnett’s work focuses on two main questions: “Who are we? And who are we to each other?” He focuses on how portrayals of groups of people, particularly Black people, are often monolithic and presented from the perspective of the dominant society, a perspective that leaves little room for empathy and nuance.
“My belief is that stories are the binding thread of all communication. Stories are what bind us, and how we create empathy, understanding and growth. As a society we are always revising and line editing our past and present selves,” said Mr. Barnett. (Read more at https://pittsburghfoundation.org/meet-cameron-barnett.)
Mr. Barnett will join us along with West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman, host and organizer of the Wheeling Poetry Series.
This program will be available to watch live on Facebook Live, on YouTube, and on the OCPL website's LWB Livestream page. Log into your Facebook or YouTube account during the program to leave questions for Cameron in the comments box. He will answer them during the live broadcast.
Cameron Barnett is a poet and teacher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A quasi-native of the city, he attended Taylor Allderdice High School, and later received his BA in English from Duquesne University in 2011, where he was the recipient of the O'Donnell Award for Excellence in Poetry. He holds an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was poetry editor for Hot Metal Bridge Literary Magazine, co-coordinator of Pitt’s Speakeasy Reading Series, and winner of the 2014 University of Pittsburgh/Academy of American Poets Graduate Poetry Award. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Superstition Review, Rattle, TriQuarterly, and IDK Magazine, among others. He currently serves as an editor for Pittsburgh Poetry Journal. Cameron’s poetry explores the complexity of race and the body for a black man in today’s America. His work has been nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize, the 82nd Annual Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards, and the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt Prize. He is the recipient of a 2019 Investing in Professional Artists Grant Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments; he is also the 2019 Emerging Artist Awardee for the Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards, co-sponsored by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments. He is the author of The Drowning Boy's Guide to Water, winner of the Autumn House Press 2017 Rising Writer Contest, and finalist for the 49th NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. An avid fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates, he enjoys reading, writing, running, playing card games and board games, hip hop, following politics and current events, and challenging people to beatbox battles. Cameron teaches middle school language arts and social studies at his alma mater, Falk Laboratory School.
Cameron Barnett’s debut 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.
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. - Robert Archambeau, "The Hudson Review"
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. - Adam Tavel, "Plume"
Launched in September 2015, the "Wheeling Poetry Series features readings by some of the finest poets from our Appalachian region and beyond. The series came about as a result of an ongoing conversation with West Virginia Poet Laureate, Marc Harshman, who felt that there was a need for a dependable venue in which to present major American poets reading and talking about their work here in West Virginia and more specifically here in Wheeling.
Harshman had long lamented the loss of the James Wright Festival which had been held for many years in Wright's
home town of Martins Ferry, Ohio. "That annual event was a towering success," Harshman explained, "lauded by poets across the U.S., and I see no reason why such a success cannot be replicated here in Wheeling. And some will remember that frequently some of the programming for the Wright festival was, in fact, held at various locations
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