Camille Dungy

Camille T. Dungy is the author of Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010) and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), a finalist for the PEN Center USA 2007 Literary Award and the Library of Virginia 2007 Literary Award. She has received fellowships from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the American Antiquarian Society. Dungy is Associate Professor in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University. She is co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea Books, April 2009), editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (University of Georgia Press, December 2009), and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006). Dungy’s poems have been recently appeared in anthologies and print and online journals including, American Poetry Review, Poetry Daily, Drunken Boat, Electronic Poetry Review and When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Poetry by Contemporary American Women.

All Books

Suck on the Marrow

Camille Dungy

Publication Date: April 1, 2010

$18.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 1-59709-468-4


Suck on the Marrow is a historical narrative, revolving around six main characters and set in mid-19th century Virginia and Philadelphia. The book traces the experiences of fugitive slaves, kidnapped Northern-born blacks, and free people of color, exploring the interdependence between plantation life and life in Northern and Southern American towns and illuminating the connections between the successes and difficulties of a wide range of Americans, free and slave, black and white, Northern and Southern. This neo-slave narrative treats the truths of lives touched by slavery with reverence but is not afraid to question the ways the old stories have too often been told. In addition to creating new stories, Suck on the Marrow develops new ways of telling those tales.


“Camille Dungy’s important new collection, Suck on the Marrow, explores the lives of African Americans in the 19th century, illuminating parts of slave and free black experience that are often overlooked. Plainspoken and unflinching, these poems enter the interior landscapes of the characters’ psyches to examine the nature of desire and longing and loss. With restraint and wry wit, Dungy shows us these things underscored by ownership and commodity. Foregrounding the stories of people for whom fewer records have been left, Suck on the Marrow offers us a fuller view of our collective American experience.”—Natasha Trethewey

“Camille Dungy’s Suck on the Marrow exhumes a troublesome history through imagery and focuses us in the modern psyche. The metaphors are so apt and concrete that we not only witness and experience slavery within an artful frame, but also with all the nerve endings exposed. This collection embraces the act of imagining acutely, whereby imagination becomes almost an action. In fact, Suck on the Marrow plots a path back to the Southern soil, to common people, back to a double-binding pathos of pain and beauty through language.”—Yusef Komunyakaa

What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison

Camille Dungy

Publication Date: February 28, 2006

$15.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-000-1


In each section of What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison, the life experiences of individual Americans (family, famous, and infamous) serve as a frame of reference for exploring 20th century American life, specifically the role of race in the development and sustenance of personal relationships and aspirations. The book’s three sections are framed by sonnets which serve as meditations on certain disappeared and disappearing aspects of the natural world, reminding us that just as with family, authority, and urban spaces, conflicted relationships with plants, animals, and open spaces are an enduring legacy of our histories.


“Camille Dungy knows where she comes from. What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison is one of those family dinners where, hours later, everyone is still talking across the table. But, as in every family, things are complicated. Here, beneath overt sweetness, lurks covert rebellion. Which is just another way to say that these poems have both heart and irony. This is a fine first book.”—Lola Haskins, author of Desire Lines (Boa Editions)

“In the title sequence of What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison, Camille Dungy invites her readers to “taste/what the world has to offer.” It is a tall order and the author herself leads by example and fulfills it marvelously, offering a stunning first collection that is both sweet with the richness of life and laced with the bitterness of knowledge. Through lyrics, portraits, narratives, and monologues, she explores the intricate relationship between her own family and the human family, personal history and American history, the human world and the ways humans have treated the Earth. What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison, is a work of sweep, breadth, and abundance—a major and magnificent book.”—Stuart Dischell, author of Dig Safe (Penguin) and Evenings and Avenues (Penguin)


Camille Dungy on Verse Daily and PSA

The Poetry Society of America has a great interview with Camille Dungy about that nebulously national literature, American Poetry. Read the full thing here. Her poem “Sunday Morning,” from her new […]

Suck on the Marrow wins an American Book Award!

Camille Dungy’s Suck on the Marrow has won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation! For those of you keeping score at home, that’s the sixth significant honor this book […]

Red Hen on the Radio: A Double Feature

Red Hen writers are taking over the airwaves. Check out Camille Dungy talking about Suck on the Marrow and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison with Word Ballast’s Billy […]

Suck on the Marrow in the San Francisco Examiner

The San Francisco Examiner's LJ Moore gives Suck on the Marrow a rave review, writing "Suck on the Marrow is ambitious, complex, unflinching, and ultimately welcoming, so that the ugliness, […]

Suck on the Marrow wins the NCBA

Congratulations to Camille Dungy, whose Suck on the Marrow has won the Northern California Book Award! Against some pretty tough competition, might we add. Full list of nominees