poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver in 1972. She received a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Dungy is the author of Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press, 2017), Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Book Prize, Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010), and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006). She is also the author of Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (W. W. Norton, 2017) and the editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009) and coeditor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009).

Among Dungy’s honors are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cave Canem, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is also a two-time recipient of the Northern California Book Award, in 2010 and 2011, and a Silver Medal Winner in the California Book Award.

About her book Smith Blue the poet Ed Roberson has said:

These are large, open-hearted lyrics about love: its pleasure, its neglect, loss and remembrance. Love here is not just parental and fraternal or of lovers and husbands, but a love for butterflies, things and their places. With a subtle variety yet balance of line, these are not ponderous pronouncements, but the voice of a graceful wondering about the world and the way we carry on.

Dungy teaches at San Francisco State University and lives in San Francisco, California.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan University Press, 2017)
Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011)
Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010)
What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006)

Prose
Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History (W. W. Norton, 2017)
 


Daisy Cutter

Pause here at the flower stand—mums
and gladiolas, purple carnations

dark as my heart. We are engaged
in a war, and I want to drag home

any distraction I can carry. Tonight
children will wake to bouquets of fire

that will take their breath away. Still,
I think of my life. The way you hold me,

sometimes, you could choke me.
There is no way to protect myself,

except by some brilliant defense. I want
the black iris with their sabered blooms.

I want the flame throwers: the peonies,
the sunflowers. I will cut down the beautiful ones

and let their nectared sweetness bleed
into the careless air. This is not the world

I'd hoped it could be. It is horrible,
the way we carry on. Last night, you catalogued

our arsenal. You taught me devastation
is a goal we announce in a celebration

of shrapnel. Our bombs shower
in anticipation of their marks. You said this

is to assure damage will be widely distributed.
What gruesome genius invents our brutal hearts?

When you touch me I am a stalk of green panic
and desire. Wait here while I decide which

of these sprigs of blossoming heartbreak I can afford
to bring into my home. Tonight dreams will erupt

in chaotic buds of flame. This is the world we have
arranged. It is horrible, this way we carry on.

Copyright © 2014 by Camille Dungy. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2014 by Camille Dungy. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Camille T. Dungy

Camille T. Dungy

Camille T. Dungy is the author of several books of poetry including, Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011).

by this poet

poem

for Adrienne Rich in 2006


The poet's hands degenerate until her cup is too heavy.

You are not required to understand.
This is not the year for understanding.

This is the year of burning women in schoolyards
and raided homes

poem

Don’t you think you should have another child?

This girl I have is hardtack and dried lime
           and reminds me, every groggy morning,
what a miracle it must have been
           when outfitters learned to stock ship holds
with that one long lasting fruit. How the sailors’

2
poem
A fifth of animals without backbones could be at risk of extinction, say scientists.
—BBC Nature News

Ask me if I speak for the snail and I will tell you
I speak for the snail.
                          speak of underneathedness
and the welcome of mosses,