Camonghne Felix

Poets Against Sexual Violence (Fundraiser for RAINN): Part Six

Donate to RAINN here.

As part of the lead-up to our reading, here’s a poem by one of the eight poets who’s reading next Saturday (see below for more details): Camonghne Felix, who’s also a political speechwriter and an essayist. She is the author of the chapbook Yolk, published via Penmanship Books in March 2015 and in May of that year was listed by Black Youth Project as a “Black Girl From the Future You Should Know.”


Here is her poem "The Therapist Asks 3", which was originally published by Poetry:

The Therapist Asks 3

“But there were times when you offered your consent with older men. You chose them, & you were not afraid. Why not?”

You don’t know the true success of survival till you’ve experienced the adrenaline of a too-close death. What is there to fear when you’ve licked the edge? It is going to be an oppressively hot summer, the New York Post says, but I’ve got a few of my own stowed away, enough to occupy a foreign desert.

There was one summer, his name was Tito and my sisters still say his name just like that, “Tee-toww,” the O a benchmark in the bottom of the jaw. I was just 12 but the gaze itself made me a flame, so no one could tell, I guess,

or no one would tell. He was the kind of heavy swelter that had the whole block at mercy, everyone’s connect to whatever they needed, which was much and in bulk. Power is a switch that yokes me up at the waist — I was young & enamored by this pattern of men who shouldn’t want me but would risk day to touch the stark chant of me. Each time, I imagined a witchcraft enveloping the bone. I remember,

once, at some low hour in the trough* of that summer — my mouth a voyaging boat, Tito’s spine a current of illicit knots, his hand a spindle on the back of my coarse head — he looks down at me, & moans out “Who the fuck are you?”

I say, and the answer is always the same thereafter: nobody, who are you?

*Okay, in any event, Elizabeth and I were in the pool, swimming and playing.

Here, also, is the excellent Killing the Form. And here is Camonghne performing "Meat: a Reflection on Street Harassment"

When she read with The Eagle and the Wren we introduced her as follows: A sequence titled “Google Search” places sequences of collocations—words or terms that co-occur more often than would be expected by chance—scattershot across the page, the clipped and fragmented form enacting the struggle between speech and silence that Camonghne Felix’s theme. Prose poems like “The Therapist Asks” and “Excerpt from Cutting with JB” provide a multilayered reading experience. Here, an apparently confessional style is complicated as the narrator’s adult self interacts with an younger speaker who is vulnerable and full of braggadocio: she seems to know her vulnerability, and is at the same time breezily unaware. This provides a tense reading experience, for these speakers are drawn to situations that verge on or cross over into abuse. Often, the speaker does not realize the danger she entered into until the narrative is taken up in adulthood. These are poems of strength and exposure, where the personal is political, delivered with urgency, verve and wit.

We’re proud that Camonghne can join us next Saturday (29th April at 7 p.m.) at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop. If you missed my post about my motivations for organising the reading, you can read it here. The post has all the information you will need to donate to RAINN (or, go to the top of this post and click the link), and directions if you would like to come to the reading, which is at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop on Saturday, 29th April at 7 p.m. We hope to see you there.