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Night Unto Night: Poems (Milkweed)

Night Unto Night cover

Six sequences, each written during a single month, focusing on time, mortality, love, war, and other news of the world. A continuation of Day Unto Day (2014).

In this luminous companion to Day Unto Day, Collins renders the most humbling, gorgeous, and inscrutable features of human existence as if they might be made legible. Collins draws on sacred texts, figures, and rituals to arrive at a very earthly knowledge of finitude—of one’s own mind and body, as well as of beloved others.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Existential questions, great and small, animate the devotional poetics of Martha Collins. Readers of Collins’s extensive oeuvre will recognize in these books a richly textured poetics. Intimacy, love, and mortality are never far from the poet’s daily meditations, and yet they also record broader circulations of events in the world. Collins reminds us, as our best poets do, of the layered complexities of lived experience.

—Julie Phillips Brown Plume Poetry (review of Day Unto Day and Night Unto Night)

This is one of those collections that is not explicitly political, but which still seems to be directly protesting against the violence, the cruelty, the waste, the impermanence, the loss so present in our world. Paired with her previous collection, Day Unto Day, Martha Collins’s Night Unto Night looks at the ways we crash and clash and repeat the same mistakes over and over again, as well as the redemption available in the human experience.

Bustle

Night Unto Night is a collection of six poetic sequences, each composed of 28, 30, or 31 short sections or poems. During one month each year, for twelve years, Collins wrote several lines each day—usually six or seven, though the form changed slightly each month. The first six months were published as Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014); Night Into Night brings together the last six, and is not so much a sequel to the earlier book as a continuation of it.

The passing of time is central: the poems are deeply immersed in the seasons in which they were written. But concerns ranging from the political to the personal are woven into the poems, which often cite news of the country and the world, including wars and threats to the environment, even as they address “my own him,” for whom the entire project is a kind of extended love poem.

From the beginning, thinking about time meant thinking about mortality; but as the title may suggest, this second volume is more elegiac, reflecting on both personal losses and threats to our human existence, while at the same time exploring the spiritual territory of the poetic meditative tradition on which the poems are to some extent based. Spare, oblique, suggestive, most of these “daily meditations” foreground language, challenging the notion that words can easily convey any truth, even as they attempt to delve ever more deeply into questions of time and mortality.

For poems from this book, see:

Poetry Magazine

Plume Poetry (also includes author’s comments about Day Unto Day and Night Unto Night)

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