The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Cameron Barnett: A writer on the rise

2022-2023 Emerging Black Writer Cameron Barnett
Zachary Zeigler
2022-2023 Emerging Black Writer Cameron Barnett

The 2022-2023 Emerging Black Writer in Residence at Chatham University Cameron Barnett is evidence that it is never too late for someone to discover their passion and transform it into a profession. He is a writer, poet and teaches a semester-long workshop that covers multiple genres of creative writing for master’s students. 

The purpose of the Emerging Black Writer in Residence program is to support and uplift Black writers. The position to become an Emerging Black Writer in Residence was presented to Barnett as a surprise in spring 2022. 

“I was excited and also had no idea where to start,” Barnett says. “I’ve never even taught undergraduate courses.”

Despite the uncertainty, Barnett shared the support he received from the creative writing program and English department at Chatham. He entered the position with a cohort that made the transition to teaching graduate students smooth. 

Since diving into this position, Barnett has received opportunities to hold and be a part of various workshops and poetry readings for adult writers in the community.

Ta’Niya Nored ‘26 said Barnett’s work spoke volumes to her while attending a poetry reading session featuring Barnett that was hosted by the English department at Chatham University on Oct. 16, 2023. 

“While hearing Cameron Barnett read his poetry, feelings of vulnerability and insightfulness washed over me,” Nored says. “Standing tall in our truth and our experiences helps to inspire others to share their story and allow others to know they are not alone.”

Even though Barnett is a writer, he struggled in English while in school and had trouble completing assignments. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Barnett loved anything that involved storytelling, history and the sciences. Creating and writing were passions that started at a young age, and he believes this is one of the first places where he found success. Barnett defines success as liking what he does and it making him feel good. 

This changed when he encountered a teacher during his senior year of high school who made the content in class click.

“I had a really serendipitous run in with my former teacher at the Falk [Laboratory] School [a K-8th grade school in Pittsburgh] for the end of my MFA program” Barnett says. 

His teacher asked if Barnett ever thought about teaching kids/children. 

“No not really but I’m not opposed to it,” Barnett says.

One thing led to another and he received the opportunity to be the artist in residence at Falk Laboratory School in 2016.

“It was a really unique on-the-job learning experience,” Barnett says. “How do you teach poems to kindergarteners who do not yet know how to hold a pencil or write poetry?’

In his writing, Barnett mainly focuses on incorporating race as it pertains to his upbringing and background. Growing up, Barnett described feeling as though he was between living a genuine or “real” Black experience and something different. 

“Growing up with the particular background and family experiences I had, I felt sort of in between what seemed like a genuine real authentic black life and something different. Something not quite what most people thought of when they thought of a black experience,” Barnett says. “There were challenges that came with that. Around feeling like I could claim to be something or part of something.”

Barnett brings this theme to life in his writing by locating his identity and helping readers through a similar journey of self-realization. Barnett also enjoys writing about space metaphors and nature metaphors, especially anything that has to do with trees, which he finds poetically fascinating. 

“I just think there is just so much to investigate and explore in those spaces,” Barnett says.

Barnett finds it imperative to weave his identity into his work. 

“To me, that’s what writing is,” Barnett says. “Your voice and identity is what makes the writing.”

As a writer, Barnett fills his bookshelves with others’ poetry for inspiration. He admires writers like Yusuf Komunyakaa for his work with imagery and Yona Harvey for her sound quality and rhythms. 

For children or adults who would like to begin writing and were in a similar starting point like Barnett, he says that all writers should have a writing practice. This can come in many different forms such as simply expressing oneself on the page, writing in a journal or having conversations with those within the community and writing about those encounters. 

“Do not compare your work to other writers, especially to those who have more experience,” Barnett says. “Writing never begins at the end and do not feel intimidated or hesitant if your writing does not look like the final product.”

Barnett believes that people do not need permission to tell their story. “It is important to own your own story and your voice.”

Barnett is expecting to release a collection of poems titled “Murmur” on February 27, 2024. To learn more please visit this link:

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