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Martha Collins

Omaha , NE , United States
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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)

by this poet


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


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

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