Camille T. Dungy

Camille T. Dungy Headshot

Camille T. Dungy’s debut collection of personal essays Guidebook to Relative Strangers (W. W. Norton, 2017), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2019. Dungy’s other poetry collections are Smith Blue (Southern Illinois UP, 2011), finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award, Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010), winner of the American Book Award, and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), finalist for PEN the Center USA Literary Award for Poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Travel Writing, and 100 Best African American Poems. Other honors include two Northern California Book Awards, a California Book Award silver medal, two NAACP Image Award nominations, two Hurston/Wright Legacy Award nominations, fellowships from the Sustainable Arts Foundation, and fellowships from the NEA in both poetry and prose. Dungy is currently a Professor in the English Department at Colorado State University. 

First Fire

Stripped in a flamedance, the bluff backing our houses
quivered in wet-black skin. A shawl of haze tugged tight
around the starkness. We could have choked on August.

Smoke thick in our throats, nearly naked as the earth,
we played bare feet over the heat caught in asphalt.
Could we, green girls, have prepared for this? Yesterday,

we played in sand-carpeted caves. The store we built
sold broken bits of ice plant, empty snail shells, leaves.
Our school’s walls were open sky. We reeled in wonder

from the hills, oblivious to the beckoning
crescendo and to our parent’s hushed communion.
When our bluff swayed into the undulation, we ran

into the still streets of our suburb, feet burning
against a fury that we did not know was change.

From What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006)


“Surviving Is the Crux of Celebration: An Interview with Camille T. Dungy” by Jasmine Elizabeth Smith. Los Angeles Review of Books. 10 June 2021

“Is All Writing Environmental Writing?” by Camille Dungy. The Georgia Review. 2018

“Naming is a Breed of Compassion and Empathy: an Interview with Camille T. Dungy” by Courtney Brown. Nashville Review. 13 December 2017