Water I Won't Touch

Kayleb Rae Candrilli

Both radically tender and desperate for change, Water I Won’t Touch is a life raft and a self-portrait, concerned with the vitality of trans people living in a dangerous and inhospitable landscape. Through the brambles of the Pennsylvania forest to a stretch of the Jersey Shore, in quiet moments and violent memories, Kayleb Rae Candrilli touches the broken earth and examines the whole in its parts. Written during the body’s healing from a double mastectomy―in the wake of addiction and family dysfunction―these ambitious poems put new form to what’s been lost and gained. Candrilli ultimately imagines a joyful, queer future: a garden to harvest, lasting love, the insistent flamboyance of citrus.

ISBN: 9781556596179

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Kayleb Rae Candrilli is a 2019 Whiting Award Winner in poetry and the author of Water I Won’t Touch (Copper Canyon Press, 2021), All the Gay Saints (Saturnalia, 2020), and What Runs Over (YesYes Books, 2017). Candrilli was a 2017 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender poetry and a 2017 finalist for the American Book Fest’s Best Book Award in LGBTQ Non-Fiction. They have received fellowships from Lambda Literary and are published or forthcoming in Poetry, The American …

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“Whiting Award winner Candrilli evokes the ever-changing topography of American landscapes—from Wildwood, New Jersey to the Grand Canyon—in order to tap into the beautiful fluidity of their own physical and metaphysical self.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

“…A candid and tender collection… Candrilli’s poems generously and poignantly invite readers to share in the promise ‘to try and live/ and live and live/ until the earth caves in.'”—Publishers Weekly

“With thoughtful contemplations on home, the body, and adulthood, Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s new collection is full of confidence. These poems feel secure in what they are and to whom they are speaking, and are ready to leave the past behind and move forward into their blessings. With tender words to their partner and themself, Candrilli’s new collection speaks not only to the nonbinary/trans experience, but the experience of coming into one’s own self and finding happiness.” —Electric Lit

“…The love poems in Water I Won’t Touch are among the more vibrant and moving I’ve ever read.”—The Rumpus

“When I read Water I Won’t Touch, I dog-eared many pages, underlined many lines. Candrilli’s poems are intimate, nimble, glinting with tenderness and an astonishing lyricism. The physicality of violence electrifies memory, a refusal to conform and the euphoria of love sweetens the future. Language this good, this deftly composed fills me with gratitude. Candrilli is a fearless and brilliant poet.” —Eduardo C. Corral, author of Guillotine 

“Kayleb Rae Candrilli mesmerizes again in Water I Won’t Touch, a work of acoustical grace, and the marvelment of lived-in joy through settled dust.” —T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls

Water I Won’t Touch loops through the eddies of transgender experience, finding solace and surprises at the
intersections of illness, transformation, connection, adaptation, and joy.”—Foreword Reviews

“Candrilli is fearless with poetic convention… both deliberate and dangerous, a thrilling combination.”—Booklist

Water I Won’t Touch is the call to empathy, hope, and joy that we all desperately need to hear… This collection burns with a desire to be alive, to consume and to be consumed, that is unmatched in its beauty and complexity.”—New York Journal of Books

“What is innovative about Candrilli’s narrative of transness is their insistence that it does not disavow the complicated lessons of gender receive from a cis-normative society. Instead, transness subsumes them within its broader poetics of embodiment . . . In Candrilli’s subtle yet generous poems, the trans experience becomes a conduit to a broader world of possibilities, including the possibility of love and joy.”—BroadStreet Review

“Candrilli’s new collection is a tender book, told in vivid, plainspoken language. Their poems sing of queer love, the pain of family addiction, the vitality of trans people, and the earth’s brokenness—while making space for joy. I read it breathlessly in one sitting, then read it again, imagining a better world through language.”—Electric Literature

“…Water I Won’t Touch is a rumination on what it means to be trans in an often hostile world. Candrilli wrote the poems that make up their third book while recovering from a double mastectomy. Candrilli’s examination of the transformation of their own body and the impact of that seismic change on them is presented alongside meditations on the impact of ecological harm and the legacy of familial violence.”—NBC News

“This portrait of trans life in an inhospitable landscape tells a tender and unforgettable story . . . their poems have their own way of healing and pushing forward. They move from violence and trauma to a verdant hope for a better future for queer bodies.” —Book Riot

Water I Won’t Touch is a brave and thoughtful autobiographical sequence in which Candrilli ponders the confusion implicit in growing up trans. . . . heroic, for sure, a courageous coming-to-terms with one’s identity, challenges and aspirations. It’s also very lyrical, beautifully and honestly written.”—The Lake

As featured in:

O, The Oprah Magazine, “42 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape This Spring”

The Rumpus, “What to Read When You Want to Celebrate Poetry”

Ms. Magazine, “2021 Poetry for the Rest of Us”

Electric Literature, “7 Queer Books I Wish I Could Give to My Teenage Self”

NBC News, “12 Queer and Trans Poets to Read for National Poetry Month”