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About this poet

Martha Collins was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1940. She earned a BA at Stanford University and holds a PhD from the University of Iowa.

Collins is the author of Admit One: An American Scrapbook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016), Day Unto Day (Milkweed Editions, 2014) and the book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf Press, 2006), winner of an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as four other books of poetry: Some Things Words Can Do (Sheep Meadow Press, 1998); A History of a Small Life on a Windy Planet (University of Georgia Press, 1993); The Arrangement of Space (Gibbs Smith, 1991), winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Competition; and The Catastrophe of Rainbows (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1985).

In his review of Day Unto Day, Kevin Prufer writes, “Martha Collins delves into the shiftiness of gender, the power of romantic love, the nature of the divine, the troubles of American national identity, and the certainty of mortality. Musically brilliant, psychologically intricate, movingly humane—Martha Collins is one of our most vital poets."

A translator of Vietnamese poetry, Collins has also cotranslated books of poems by Ngo Tu Lap, Nguyen Quang Thieu, and Lam Thi My Da.

Her honors include the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, a Lannan residency grant, and the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize, as well as fellowships from the Bunting Institute, Ingram Merrill Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, and Witter Bynner Foundation.

Collins established the creative writing program at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and was the Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College for ten years. She is currently the editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and an editor at Oberlin College Press. She lives in Oberlin, Ohio, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Selected Bibliography

Admit One: An American Scrapbook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016)
Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014)
Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006)
Some Things Words Can Do (Sheep Meadow, 1998)
A History of a Small Life on a Windy Planet (University of Georgia, 1993)
The Arrangement of Space (Gibbs Smith, 1991)
The Catastrophe of Rainbows (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1985)

[ 14 ]

black keys from trees white keys locked

on black shoulders locked together above

skeleton ribs keys to 45 keyboards from one

tusk the word ivory rang through the air

one tusk + one slave to carry it bought

together if slave survived the long march

sold for spice or sugar plantations if not

replaced by other slaves five Africans died

for each tusk 2 million for 400,000 American

pianos including the one my grandmother

played not to mention grieving villages

burned women children left to die the dead

elephants whose tusks went to Connecticut

where they were cut bleached and polished

while my grandmother played in Illinois

my mother played and I— there were many old

pianos and slaves were used till the 20th century:

an African slave could have carried a tusk

that was cut into white keys I played, starting

with middle C and going up and down

From White Papers by Martha Collins. Copyright © 2012 by Martha Collins. Reprinted with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

From White Papers by Martha Collins. Copyright © 2012 by Martha Collins. Reprinted with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.

Martha Collins

Martha Collins

Martha Collins was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1940.

by this poet

poem

stock     strain     family     line


breed     blood     skin     shape


of the head     of the pack


animal     human     judge



better     fitter

poem

not as in pin, the kind that keeps the wheels
turning, and not the strip of land that marks
the border between two fields. unrelated
to link, as in chain, or by extension whatever
connects one part to another, and therefore
not a measure of a chain, which in any
case is less than the

poem


all of us     all but us     only

(but not us) the mammals     or only

us: animal in us     or only

the male of us:     brute