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Build Yourself a Boat

(BreakBeat Poets)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  828 ratings  ·  135 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, 64 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Haymarket Books
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Average rating 4.11  · 
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 ·  828 ratings  ·  135 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. ...more
Amy (Other Amy)
I can't get past the lie but the gods
of small things become the gods of all things in the dark

It's hard for me to express how a thing so bloody, woven around trauma, centered on rape and lynching, could be so full of comfort and hope. For me it is the relief when somebody finally says out loud what needed to be said, and says it well. I have said before that all I ask of any poetry is that it set me on fire. This did the job very nicely. Words in a master's hands.
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
Jan 03, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: atonement, poetshere
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?

The blurb from Morgan Parker wasn't noticed when I picked this up at the library. There wasn't any solid sense of expectation. This is grim beauty, a unique voice that betrays scars. I gasped a few times. I marveled.
Sep 25, 2019 rated it liked it
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.
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
May 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a white woman, I have nothing to add. Thank you for sharing.
May 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
*I suppose I'm allowed to write this now.*

A poem review forthcoming, when I'm allowed to write one.
-By Philip Habecker

I kept notes about this book
on a phone
for which I was served a warrant
on Tuesday morning
Now I can't think what to say
Except that I'm living out
The paranoia-inducing fear
I've read into
Oh so many books on the black experience.
The, "why are you looking at me like I'm guilty?"
The, "I tried to do the right thing in a confusing
situation and now I'm caught up in this mess."
"What about j
Feb 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
hm, this was really a mixed bag for me. there were some lines that felt like true gems, but a many of the poems were overwritten or incomprehensible to me. it's also a short collection, so maybe just less of a variety of poems that everyone could find something in. ...more
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: poetry, three-stars
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 27, 2021 rated it it was ok

I honestly feel like so much of this went straight over my head. While I loved some of the poems, in particular, the Zimmerman poems and 'No Shade, Though', I didn't quite love them all enough. It was a little flat for me, especially as I had to read so much of this a few times over to see if I could really connect with it, but I just couldn't. Sadly not for me, but I know there are people who will find home in this book.

Trigger warnings for rape, racism and cutting/self-harm.
Jan 14, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021
A few poems here blew me away but others had too disjointed a structure for my mind to connect as it instead started to wander.

The topics discussed were intimate, raw and made me emotional - however the way they were immortalised in poetry made it a struggle to truly connect.
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.
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.
Damn this is incredible.
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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: contemporary, poetry, 2020
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
🌶 peppersocks 🧦
Reflections and lessons learned:
“What is there to fear when you’ve licked the edge”

Ooof - hurt and defeat filled diarised entries in long form poetry - an important emotional and considered modern world voice - commentary in an attempt to understand the exhausting unfairness that surrounds all

“It is possible for body to be wholly autonomous in how it chooses to preserve itself... no matter what you think you want it’s the body that decides...”
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-audiobooks, 2021
Emily Polson
Feb 06, 2022 added it
Shelves: poetry
"I want to step out if my language
and light up, but the body is a container.
The body is a mold; I fit snugly: I can barely
breathe in here." --On Entropy

Really excellent collection. The recurring forms/motifs and footnotes wove together a series of wonderful individual poems into an even more satisfying whole.
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.
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars!! this was incredible. highly recommend the audiobook!
Apr 12, 2022 rated it really liked it
Some of these poems are awesome and some are over my head. They are definitely written in a modern style and address survival and racism in a moving way. Felix truly has a unique and powerful voice.
My favorites from the collection:
-"Lost Poem 4: Rx"
-"Contouring the Flattening"
-"Google Search Keywords:" (all 3 of them)
-"Statement from Camonghne Felix on the Murders of Jesse Washington, Stephon Clark and her Attempt to Understand the Psychology of Lynching:"
-"On Entropy"
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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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