July 13–19, 2015
Recently listed by Black Youth Project as a “Black Girl From the Future You Should Know,” poet, speaker and organizer Camonghne Felix is an MFA Candidate at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, an MA candidate in Arts Politics at NYU, a 2012 Pushcart Prize nominee and the 2013 recipient of the Cora Craig Award for Young Women. She is also the founder of the social justice initiative POC 4 Solvency. You can find her work in various spaces, including YouTube, and publications like PANK Magazine, Union Station Mag and Poetry, with work forthcoming in Apogee and Callaloo. She is also the author of the chapbook Yolk, published via Penmanship Books.
To Whom This May Concern
This morning I took a bath under an open
roof. Check it: me, dressed in an immature pond,
looking up at the earth — but school taught me to look
down on it, so now I know to ask permission.
Earth? Sky? Why you be so glass hungry? Why you be
so ready to big up everything? Some things don’t
deserve cultivation — let’s keep our garden
private, just me and you. I live next to a safe-house for
the deaf. Last night the thunder
came without the big light, I was scared for
them — how they know when the rain is
coming? I know. I always know. My body holds
ninety-two percent of its own water. I stand in the
middle of the street — I buoy. I make my
mouth a trademark, I lighthouse, I scream “land”, I
know bones all vibrate with me. You? You elite.
You make me jealous. I don’t get jealous. I wear all the
–From Yolk, Penmanship Books, 2015.
Tell us about the making of this poem.
In “To Whom This May Concern” is an introduction of myself to myself. It was the first time in my life that I started to feel brave, in my life decisions and craft. I wanted to take risks with line and white space and isolated power, which broke open an ongoing compulsion with line, space and power in my work. It’s one of the first pieces I’d gotten published, and I didn’t know it then, but would later become a sort of anthem for myself. I light. I buoy. I hold 92% of my own water.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on a full-length collection tentatively titled Build Yourself a Boat. It’s about a lot of things, but succinctly, what it means to be in a state of post-survival, and mobility.
What’s a good day for you?
A good day for me is a day when someone isn’t significantly affected by oppression.
How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?
I have been in Brooklyn for four years, but have been in NYC for my entire life. I love Brooklyn because its individual culture is so strong that it permeates everything. You know a Brooklyn person when they walk into the room. That being said, I am very okay with being a Bronx girl.
Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.
I can’t prove that Brooklyn gave me celiac diseases but it sure makes it easy to find gluten-free food. So there’s that.
Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?
Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Mahogany L. Browne, Alex Cuff, Angel Nafis, Morgan Parker, Cornelius Eady, Aziza Barnes, Charity Coleman, Kimiko Hahn, the homey Walt—I could go on and on …
Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?
Unnameable Books and Greenlight Bookstore, where the dream Angel Nafis works.
Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?
Urban Vintage Café, Pratt Lawn.
Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?
Park Slope Movie theater, Parkside Ice-skate Rink, First Saturdays @ Brooklyn Musuem, Habana Outpost, Sunset Park park and my roof.
Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?
For the last year, I have not been able to get Alex Cuff’s “A Common Amnesia” out of my head. I just … it’s incredible.
Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:
I celebrate June,
And what I most prefer is that you unfollow me,
For every stupid fucking prejudice you mouth is to me
as good as a night absent of you.
Because it makes me look right at myself in clear light.