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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 Night Unto Night (Milkweed Editions, 2018), 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

Night Unto Night (Milkweed Editions, 2018)
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)

Alien, Part One

If you were Chinese, you had (mostly) been excluded since 1882.
If you were Japanese, things were complex after 1907–8.

If you were anything else, you were not excluded as such in 1916

although there were many who thought you should be
if you were the eastern or southern European
that you increasingly were: Russian / Polish
Jewish    Italian    Polish    Slavic    Greek . . .

—and you could have been excluded as a convict
lunatic   beggar    pauper    polygamist    anarchist
prostitute    epileptic    contract laborer    mental defective
bearer of loathsome / contagious disease . . . : a growing list.

If you came after 1892, you probably (90%) arrived on Ellis Island,
where in 1906 you were still likely (99%) to be admitted,

but where, if you came in 1914, you might have been given
an intelligence test by Henry Goddard, the results of which
were inconclusive (and your chances of being excluded small)
but in 1916 you might (10%) have been marked X mental defect.

If you came in 1917, the new Immigration Act could have excluded
you for 33 reasons, and for the first time would have done so
if you could not pass a literacy test (for which Madison Grant
had lobbied) or if you came from an extensive Asiatic Barred Zone.

If you were admitted, you might have taken a train
from New York to southern Illinois, where you probably
would have worked in a mine, especially if you were Italian.

From Admit One: An American Scrapbook, by Martha Collins, © 2016. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

From Admit One: An American Scrapbook, by Martha Collins, © 2016. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Martha Collins

Martha Collins

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

by this poet

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
could get a credit card loan car

come and go without a never had

to think about a school work job

to open doors to buy a rent a nice

place yard park beside a walk

in any store without a never had

to dress to buy a dress shoes under-

wear to understate or –play myself 

to make myself heard to get across
poem
Wanted that red, wanted everything tucked inside
that red, that body, it seemed, turned inside out,
that walking flower, petals furled, leaved
by the trees by the forest path, the yellow basket
marking the center--

			wanted to raise that rose
petal skin to my gray face, barely to brush
that warmth with my cold