Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Undercover: What We're Reading in May

Reviews of The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water by Cameron Barnett and Capp Road by Matt Borczon.



The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water
by Cameron Barnett
Autumn House Press, $17.95

It’s no great feat of literary deduction to say that the central metaphor at play in Cameron Barnett’s debut poetry collection, The Drowning Boy’s Guide to Water, is, in fact, water. However, the fluidity of Barnett’s lyricism continually surprises the reader in its ability to find new contours and sparkling insights.

Barnett takes the reader to school in “True Facts About Water:” “Ninety-four percent of life on earth / is aquatic. We all come from the ocean / at some point. The human womb / is a small ocean we all come from.” Later, the poet reflects, “When I see a black body I am reminded of water: / pools, rivers, drinking fountains, triangle trade — / always a removal, a taking away, taking out, taken from.” 

The deft movement from the objective facts of science, which should act as a unifier for people given our shared origin in water, to the subjective point of view, which understands water as a cultural point of segregation, illustrates the poet’s powerful technique.

We see it again in the title poem, wherein Barnett recalls learning to swim as a child: “Remember, the strength of chlorine, / the indoor pool, swim class clinging / to the kickboard then jumping from the ledge.” Here is a near universal experience. As the poet continues his dive into the deep-end, however, it is the culture of America he is submerged in: “Sometimes you will swallow water. Remember, a throat / is the size of a Skittle or a hole in a hoodie, / and Trayvon’s legs kicked hard against the night. Drowning / isn’t loud or splashy, it’s silent.” Echoing Eric Garner’s last words, Barnett concludes “nobody / will save you anymore when you yell I can’t breathe.” 
 

Capp Road
by Matt Borczon
Nixes Mate books, $9.95

Erie poet Matthew Borczon is not someone who minces words. A nurse and Navy sailor, Borczon served in a combat hospital in Afghanistan, and his previous poetry collections have centered on his experiences in a war zone. His latest, Capp Road, offers a look into a different kind of crisis — life on the edge in the rapidly disappearing towns of the rust belt.

Borczon focuses on small lives to tell a larger story. But first he sets the scene, “the air / is full of / diesel smoke / and brown / dust from / dirt roads / the smell / of manure / blue misery / and secrets / kept inside / of dark trailers.”

Characters reveal themselves in Borczon’s unadorned lines, characters such as Laura, who “loved / to tell / me that / the problem / with the / men in / this town / is that / there are / no men / in this  / town,” and Gunga Dan, who “stepped / on an / IED in Iraq / losing his / left arm / both legs / and his / junk as / well” and “spends / all day / smoking weed / and watching / action movies.”  

 

Speak Up
 

May 16/ The Bridge Series seeks to unite our local literary and social-justice organizations in events with readings and discussion. For this event, the Bridge Series teams up with City of Asylum to celebrate the publication of the poetry anthology, “Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence,” with poetry readings from Vanessa German and others, prose by CityLab journalist Brentin Mock, and more. The evening benefits the Pittsburgh chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. (Alphabet City, 40 W. North Ave., North Side; 412/435-1110, alphabetcity.org)
 

May 29/ Sam Hazo wears many hats: editor, critic, translator, novelist, playwright and poet. He was the founding director of the much-missed International Poetry Forum, which closed after 43 years in 2009, and served as Pennsylvania’s first State Poet from 1993-2003. Hazo also served as a captain in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. He reads as part of a special Memorial Day installment of Hemingway’s Summer Poetry Series along with Jimmy Cvetic, Sheila Carter-Jones, William Rock, Matt Borczon and Kathleen Trew Swazuk. (Hemingway’s Cafe, 3911 Forbes Ave., Oakland; jbauer103w@aol.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

HGTV Star Leanne Ford Launches New Home Collection at Target

The “Restored by the Fords” designer’s signature lighting line is set to hit shelves in February.

PM on KD: The Turkey Devonshire

PM Associate Editor and dining critic Hal B. Klein appeared on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss his new sandwich obsession, the Turkey Devonshire, and how it ended up on our February cover.

You Try It, Being a Meteorologist In Pittsburgh Isn't Easy

Aside from a Steelers loss, nothing seems to fire up Pittsburghers more than a blown weather forecast.

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Enjoying memories is fun – but a far cry from pining for the past.

Perspectives: Finding Grace in #MomLife

A Pittsburgh television reporter learns to embrace the imperfection that comes with being a working mom.

The 400-Word Review: Pledge

IFC Midnight's collegiate terror tale is mostly for genre fans, but it lands a few decent punches.

Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Head coach Jeff Capel is restoring respectability and re-establishing the relationship between Pitt’s students and Pitt’s student athletes.

Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

A skeptical novice takes in the troupe's "Corteo" production and is stunned at his own delight.

Three Rivers Champion: Julius Boatwright

Boatwright works to connect everyone who needs it with mental health support.

Turkey Devonshire: Reviving a Classic Pittsburgh Sandwich

The once-famous sandwich originated here but now is largely forgotten. We dive into its history and argue that it's time for a revival.

Navigating the Future of Public Transit in Pittsburgh

Six Pittsburghers share their struggles and hopes for the region’s public transit system.

Why Jamison Farm Is a “A Napa Valley for Sheep”

How a former coal miner and his wife use the resources atop rolling Westmoreland County hills to produce the best lamb in the United States.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Fish nor Fowl

The sixth standalone concept from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group, is DeShantz’s most exciting restaurant yet.

Our 50 Years: When We Tried to Predict the Future

25 years ago, we predicted what the Pittsburgh of 2019 would look like. We were ... close?

Help Pay Tribute to a Pittsburgh Jazz Legend

Mary Lou Williams began as a teenage piano prodigy in the Hill District and made it to Carnegie Hall and beyond. This month, you can discover her musical legacy.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


You Try It, Being a Meteorologist In Pittsburgh Isn't Easy

You Try It, Being a Meteorologist In Pittsburgh Isn't Easy

Aside from a Steelers loss, nothing seems to fire up Pittsburghers more than a blown weather forecast.

Comments

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Our 50 Years: Why I Hate Nostalgia

Enjoying memories is fun – but a far cry from pining for the past.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Fresh Fest Beerfest Is Set to Return to Pittsburgh

Fresh Fest Beerfest Is Set to Return to Pittsburgh

The country's first black brewfest looks to double in size this year.

Comments

Pittsburgh Chef Moves: Csilla Thackray Headed to Legume Bistro

Pittsburgh Chef Moves: Csilla Thackray Headed to Legume Bistro

Thackray's departure from The Vandal will result in a new menu at that Lawrenceville restaurant.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Don’t resign yourself to the gym treadmills just yet – fall is one of the best times of the year to get outside and pound the pavement, surrounded by falling leaves and the possibility of grabbing a hot latte on the way home.

Comments

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

We dove into the local artisan bread scene to find the best places that bake naturally leavened bread in Pittsburgh.

Comments


Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

Why Did No One Tell Me Cirque du Soleil is Awesome

A skeptical novice takes in the troupe's "Corteo" production and is stunned at his own delight.

Comments

My New Neighborhood Bar is The Birmingham Bridge Tavern

My New Neighborhood Bar is The Birmingham Bridge Tavern

After settling into a new neighborhood, PM nightlife editor Sean Collier sings the praises of his go-to corner bar.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Capel’s Basketball Resurrection Has the Zoo Rocking Again

Head coach Jeff Capel is restoring respectability and re-establishing the relationship between Pitt’s students and Pitt’s student athletes.

Comments

Steelers' Organization Shares Blame for Brown Debacle

Steelers' Organization Shares Blame for Brown Debacle

For years now, the Steelers have been working around Brown’s maladaptive tendencies from Monday through Saturday and throwing him the ball on Sunday and hoping for the best.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Pledge

The 400-Word Review: Pledge

IFC Midnight's collegiate terror tale is mostly for genre fans, but it lands a few decent punches.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Glass

The 400-Word Review: Glass

M. Night Shyamalan's crossover film lands with a splat, as the filmmaker once again can't resist his worst impulses.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Pop Culture Touches Made These Weddings Extra Special

Pop Culture Touches Made These Weddings Extra Special

Whether you love all things Disney, “Game of Thrones” or “Star Wars,” there are lots of ways to add some personal — and fun — details into your wedding day.

Comments

It’s a Hockey Wedding in Pittsburgh

It’s a Hockey Wedding in Pittsburgh

This Pittsburgh couple was brought together by their love of hockey — and what better way to celebrate their New Year’s Eve wedding than with an outdoor game?

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
HGTV Star Leanne Ford Launches New Home Collection at Target

HGTV Star Leanne Ford Launches New Home Collection at Target

The “Restored by the Fords” designer’s signature lighting line is set to hit shelves in February.

Comments

Up for Auction: Luxury 200-Acre Ligonier Estate Owned by Former EDMC Exec

Up for Auction: Luxury 200-Acre Ligonier Estate Owned by Former EDMC Exec

Woodmere is one of four high-end properties owned by Robert Knutson scheduled to hit the auction block this week.

Comments