Praise for Martha Collins:
“A dazzling poet whose poetry is poised at the juncture between the lyric and ethics, Martha Collins has addressed some of the most traumatic social issues of the twentieth century . . . in supple and complex poems. . . .[N]o subject is off limits for her piercing intellect.”
—Cynthia Hogue, AWP Chronicle
Winner of the 2020 Poetry Society of America's William Carlos Williams Award
Because What Else Could I Do is a sequence of fifty-five untitled short poems, almost all of them addressed to the poet’s husband during the six months following his sudden and shocking death. Perhaps best known for her historical explorations of sociopolitical issues, Martha Collins did not originally intend to publish these poems. But while they are intensely personal, they make use of all of her poetic attention and skills. Spare, fragmented, musical even in their most heartbreaking moments, the poems allow the reader to share both an intimate expression the poet’s grief and a moving record of her attempt to comprehend the events surrounding her loss.
Stylistically innovative, deeply moving, carefully researched, Martha Collins’s eleventh volume of poetry combines her well-known attention to social issues with the elegiac mode of her previous book. She focuses here on race, gun violence, recent wars, and, in an extended sequence, the history of coal—first as her ancestors mined it, then from its geological origins to our ecologically threatened present. Casualty Reports is both indictment and lament, a work that speaks forcefully to our troubled history and our present times.
When Washington Post columnist Edward Hirsch reprinted Lâm Thị Mỹ Dạ's "Garden Fragrance" and "Night Harvest" (from Six Vietnamese Poets), he gave special praise to the simultaneous clarity and complexity of Dạ's poetry. Now, for the first time in English, readers can enjoy a full, bilingual volume of her selected work. While many of her poems deal with her experiences during the Vietnam War, they are grounded in her intimate involvement with the landscape, flora, and fauna of her country, and explore love, motherhood, women's issues, and the sometimes difficult movement into middle age.
For her five volumes of poetry over the course of her career, Jane Cooper (1924–2007) was deeply admired by her contemporaries, and teaching at Sarah Lawrence College for nearly forty years, she served as a mentor to many aspiring poets. Her elegant, honest, and emotionally and formally precise poems, often addressing the challenges of women’s lives—especially the lives of women in the arts—continue to resonate with a new generation of readers.
Martha Collins and Celia Bland bring together several decades’ worth of essential writing on Cooper’s poetry. While some pieces offer close examination of Cooper’s process or thoughtful consideration of the craft of a single poem, the volume also features reviews of her collections, including a previously unpublished piece on her first book, The Weather of Six Mornings (1969), by James Wright, a lifelong champion of her work. Marie Howe, Jan Heller Levi, and Thomas Lux, among others, share personal remembrances of Cooper as a teacher, colleague, and inspiration. L. R. Berger’s moving tribute to Cooper’s final days closes the volume. This book has much to offer for both readers who already love Cooper’s work and new readers, especially among younger poets, just discovering her enduring poems.
Martha Collins University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012 Library of Congress PS3553.O4752W48 2012
White Papers is a series of untitled poems that deal with issues of race from a number of personal, historical, and cultural perspectives. Expanding the territory of her 2006 book Blue Front, which focused on a lynching her father witnessed as a child, this book turns, among other things, to Martha Collins' childhood. Throughout, it explores questions about what it means to be white, not only in the poet’s life, but also in our culture and history, even our pre-history. The styles and forms are varied, as are the approaches; some of the poems address race only implicitly, and the book, like Blue Front, includes some documentary and “found” material. But the focus is always on getting at what it has meant and what it means to be white—to have a race and racial history, much of which one would prefer to forget, if one is white, but all of which is essential to remember and to acknowledge in a multi-racial society that continues to live under the influence of its deeply racist past.