About the Book
The second book by NAACP Image Award finalist Cameron Barnett, Murmur considers the question of how we become who we are. The answers Barnett offers in these poems are neither safe nor easy, as he traces a Black man’s lineage through time and space in contemporary America, navigating personal experiences, political hypocrisies, pop culture, social history, astronomy, and language. Barnett synthesizes unexpected connections and contradictions, exploring the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and the death of Terence Crutcher in 2016 and searching both the stars of Andromeda and a plantation in South Carolina. A diagnosis from the poet’s infancy haunts the poet as he wonders, “like too many Black men,” if “a heart is not enough to keep me alive.”
Praise for Murmur
Cameron Barnett’s Murmur is in fact a glorious shout. These poems shake up histories, both intimate and political. They stir and disturb the ways we look at love, at race, at our people and ourselves. A bold, beautiful, and brilliant collection!
—Deesha Philyaw, author of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
Cameron Barnett’s collection Murmur is simply stunning—simultaneously expansive, inventive, and intimate. . . . It urges us to center the corners, the ghosts, the murmurs, the stories, and the sights that live, breathe, and are essential if we want to have fullness of heart. An excavation of things forgotten, and both unremembered and misremembered, Barnett’s poems remind us that “sometimes flecks in the corners . . . are more than aberrations.” With poems spanning histories, both personal and collective, and poems that center Blackness as a site of joy, promise, pain, and possibilities, these poems compel us toward knowledge we are deeply implicated in. Using the heart, its murmur, and ghosts as a connective thread, Barnett’s poems require us to listen to “our hauntings,” as they tell us in lyrical language and form “how to give . . . ghosts a home” because “the silence of ghosts becomes a lesson.” This is a collection to revel in, to read, and to return to again and again. Barnett invites us to listen for the magnitude of stars and intimacy of histories still being made. I found myself breathless as I kept reading for the murmurs within and without.
—M. Soledad Caballero, author of I Was a Bell
In Murmur, Cameron Barnett navigates race, family, love, politics, and the intersections of these topics much like a well-versed singer performing their most familiar song. Whether addressing would-be white audiences of a Black poet’s work, past lovers, or recent presidents, Barnett’s use of language and imagery rings at the right frequency at each turn. He knows which poems and the notes within them need to be belted at the top of his lungs, which are a smooth croon, and which need to be whispered—murmured, even. With these poems, he “invite[s you] up to the mic” with him, dares you to stand as his song vibrates through you, and see if the bass bumping through your bones doesn’t move you to join him in song.
—Malcolm Friend, author of Our Bruises Kept Singing Purple
Cameron Barnett’s Murmur plays jazz on the spinal cord. It tastes like a sweet drink on a hot day, like heritage-made poem. Reminiscent of Terrance Hayes, Jericho Brown, and Ayinde Russell, Barnett invites soul and wisdom to the page and reinvents the action of murmuring to relinquish fear, hate, and disappointment—an inheritance his speakers refuse to accept. Rather than bringing us to our knees, Murmur levitates us, points a new path forward. Celebrate with these poems. Pray and celebrate.
—Monica Prince, author of Roadmap: A Choreopoem