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Build Yourself a Boat

(BreakBeat Poets)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  435 ratings  ·  86 reviews
2019 National Book Award Longlist

A poetic exploration of trauma, healing, and survival from award-winning poet Camonghne Felix.

This is about what grows through the wreckage. This is an anthem of survival and a look at what might come after. A view of what floats and what, ultimately, sustains.

Build Yourself a Boat, an innovative debut by award-winning poet Camonghne Felix,
Paperback, 96 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Haymarket Books
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  435 ratings  ·  86 reviews

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May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Excellent poems about trauma, self-harm, race, and womanhood. The poems that experiment with form are really interesting. I love how the footnotes and the final piece come together. Grad poetry.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I read it out loud to my husband from cover to cover. It's deep and raw and beautiful.
Renee Godding
Read for O.W.L.s Magical Readathon 2020, Potions: Shrinking Solution; a book under 150 pages

I’ve never pretended to be knowledgeable on poetry, and this collection is an excellent example of me, again, not being qualified to put a rating on someone’s thoughts.
Although there were some poems I really enjoyed, such as Entropy, the collection as a whole didn’t speak to me personally in the way some of my favourite poems do. I can however recognise the important themes the collection addresses and
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
There were a few poems here that were great. Poems on the Zimmerman trial and teenaged confusion were affecting. Many of the poems, however, felt flat. Overall, a collection that was a bit uneven.
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
As a white woman, I have nothing to add. Thank you for sharing.
Kelsey Hennegen
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-poetry
I had encountered one or two of the poems in this collection but I developed a much deeper appreciation reading the collection as compiled in its entirety. I feel one ought to do this with all poetry, to read a poet not only in anthologies and literary magazines, but to experience the full arc of a single collection. Felix is blunt, bold, acerbic, tender, human. A poem like 'Trap Queen' starts unflinchingly smutty, a woman owning her body, her reputation, the way others lust for her. Resurgently ...more
Barton Smock
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I didn’t know art could do this. Do these. As in, I didn’t know a vision could project itself as singular and, with that projection, distract its own shape long enough to give periphery a stomach. Camonghne Felix is an asker and a teller. A thinker one rethinks so that one might get the chance to pose the same question a second time. How was fire born? Fire was born plural. Is nostalgia real? The aftermath of origin is real. Can you describe embodiment? Description is alone; description cannot s ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: three-stars, poetry
There were a few poems I liked in here, but overall I didn't find most of these to be memorable (there were a couple of exceptions.)

I did really like "Imagine??? My Sister an Astronaut???" for the line: some shit only white people think to study because access is a frame of reference. I have a physics degree, and throughout my time in undergrad, there were only two black women and one black man whose time in the department overlapped with mine. This poem reminded me of the fact that STEM in gen
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
for me, to read poetry is to marvel at language, at form. felix is a master of this. there is so much grief and trauma in this collection and it’s exhausting. yet, felix manages to arrange it all in such a way that allows you to walk through it—it’s as if she’s holding your hand as she offers these moments of her life. the poems about the zimmerman trial made me flush with anger all over again and think how unfair it is to be young and black in this country, and at no fault of our own. yet, ther ...more
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Stunning. I meant to savor this, and instead inhaled it over two sittings. Felix is very good at riding the knife-edge of discomfort and pulling you along with her.

After reading this collection it’s easy to imagine that I know her and have known her for years, as she wraps the reader in the kind of web of personal experiences that normally comes from years of shared history. Of course, it’s one sided.

I look forward to see what Camonghne Felix does next, as a writer, and a political strategist.
Tara Betts
I reviewed this book for NewCity, a Chicago-based arts & entertainment publication. Click the link to read the review. ...more
Jun 19, 2019 rated it liked it
The poems about the Zimmerman trial (Zimmerman Testimonies: Day 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5), Contouring the Flattening and the ending letter connected the most for me. The others will require another reading. I appreciate that the author played with form and structure and forced you to look head on at the pain, self-mutilation, and what remains.
Damn this is incredible.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2019
There’s a scattered (or perhaps patterned) cycle of poems about the Zimmerman trial in here. This is essential reading for them alone.
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, poetry, contemporary
Sealey Challenge 2020 - 1/31
I wish I had been in a position to read this out loud, or listen to it being read, because I think the rhythm of these poems would come through stronger out loud. As it was, this is a beautiful and heart wrenching collection that will weigh heavy as you read. But getting through it feels cathartic, like a snake sloughing off a layer of skin. When you can't swim, you build yourself a boat.
Zora Satchell
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm still digesting this work. It spoke of hurt and heartbreak in relation to the body that I'm still mulling it over... The manifestation of water, memories, and violence is what is sticking with me the most right now. The footnotes intrigued me and I didn't know how to read them until the letter at the end. Now I'm going back through and rereading each poem with those foot notes to see how they shape the narrative of the poem differently. I LOVE the foot notes.Poets that left me feeling shaky ...more
Paul Swanson
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"if this happens to you, what do you want me to do?"
"Burn the city down"
The poem could just die right here
but it is not at all tempered
not any of it real
I crawl into his lap, put my mouth
to his cheek and scream, holler, you can still hear
me, can't you?

This collection is intimate, angry, reflects on trauma, and throws a few haymakers.

Search Google for: Camonghne Felix "Meat"
Watch a video of her performing this piece.
It is raw.
It is bloody.

"Meat" is my favorite poem
Keondra Freemyn
really enjoy how felix employs form to further the themes in the collection. the collection is less cohesive than i prefer - likely a result of the thematic thread of the collection not being revealed until the very end. it’s a quick read that sparks a lot of reflection. looking forward to reading more by the author.
Carla Sofia Sofia
Aug 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A really stunning debut! I listened to the audiobook read by the author and Felix is a phenomenal reader. Eager to get the physical book now so I can reread.
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I consume collections of poetry erratically, and only make it through those that I really connect with. This was one of those special cases. Camonghne Felix's compelling debut drew me in and never let go as I progressed through Build Yourself a Boat. Felix's ability to convey emotion and shape her words so beautifully. She masterfully tackles themes of trauma and healing in this collection that equal parts powerful and evocative.

I received my copy of Build Yourself a Boat from Haymarket Books vi
Frank Karioris
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
"If the they is an us / I make myself an example."
There are poems in here that strike a chord on a harp.
Content Warning: sexual assault, self-harm

(view spoiler)
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I picked this one up hoping that I would be able to find more contemporary poetry that I enjoyed and I was not disappointed. In this collection Felix explores a wide range of topics that could be very triggering or hard to read. Her writing is very raw and heavy, but in my opinion her voice is clear.

The styles of her poems do vary, but perfectly fit their subject matter and as you progress through the collection you can see the story that she weaves through her words. The content is very charge
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I liked the experiments with form. The changes that it makes to the flow of the way you read it make a lot of sense. It supports the text, there's a reason for the words to be placed the way they are. I liked how the footnotes came together with everything at the end.

The content of the collection, I'm going to have to sit with some more before I feel comfortable speaking about it. One of the things that makes poetry so difficult to review for me, is the deeply personal nature of it. Not just th
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
**3.5**Felix’s play with form really demonstrated what an adroit writer she is— much like Fatimah Asghar. “Beer Pong” and “After the Abortion, an Older White Planned Parenthood volunteer asks if my husband is here and squeezes my thigh and says, “You made the right decision,” and then “look what could happen if trump were president, I mean, you might not even be here,” were particularly evocative, accentuating Felix’s visceral observations and experiences of being and being a black woman in Amer ...more
Matt Sautman
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The poetry here is occasionally experimental but never so abstract to impede a reader from accessing these meditations on the body, Blackness in America, trauma, queerness, and self-harm. I do think that some of these poems could be triggering for readers who have experienced suicidal ideation. Scattered throughout the margins of many poems are excerpts from a letter Camonghne Felix received from her most her, which I find as interesting as her poems based on Google Search terms and the Zimmerma ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: tea-for-others
Build Yourself a Boat is a fast read but only if you're okay with the writing format. Some of the poems I was fine but some I wasn't which made the book somewhat of a chore to finish. On the upside, I admire the author's candid reflections on their experiences. And there were a few poems I enjoyed (especially liked the "google search" format; very unique idea) but overall this book just wasn't my cup of tea.
CWs for mentions of murder, incestuous CSA, and abortion plus depictions of violence, ra
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't say that I'm good judge of poetry, but I know what I like, and I liked this. Camonghne Felix does some really cool things with form and language, and this really neat thing with footnotes that speak both to the poem they're a part of but also a larger story about memory and trauma. There are a lot of connections between the poems that tell what feel like intimate and complete stories. Favorite poems include "On Entropy," "No Relief," "Mirror Talk," "Tanya Harding's Fur Coats," and "Wi ...more
Caroliena Cabada
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A bold, beautiful, and demanding collection. All of the poems work together to build a boat for the speaker in the poem, for the speaker in the footnotes, and even for the reader as they, all three, navigate the rough waters of a Black woman's (and her subsequent generations') pain and memories. A powerful response both to the current U.S. political environment and to the history that has so maligned Black women.
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Camonghne Felix is a poet, political strategist, media junkie, and cultural worker. She received an MA in arts politics from NYU, an MFA from Bard College, and has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Callaloo, and Poets House. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she is the author of the chapbook Yolk and was listed by Black Youth Project as a “Black Girl from the Future You Should Know.”

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