- Publisher: University of Georgia
- Available in: Paperback, hardback
- Published: May 1, 1993
Martha Collins’s third book of poems, A History of Small Life on a Windy Planet, was chosen by David Ignatow in 1990 for the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola work-in-progress award. Citing the “jazz staccato” with which Collins “presents our lives and loves in their perpetual and rapid transformations.” Ignatow praised the collection for “its unique ability to fix each passing phase of a swiftly moving, rootless society in triumphant style.”
Collins’s stunning graphic poems achieve a perfect balance of the horrific and the playful. . . . With a few deft strokes, Collins endows the merely topical (the Gulf War, the news story about a murdered woman whose intestines were torn out) with universal dimensions. . . . The intensity of all of Collins’s poems might be their most memorable quality, but such fervor could not be realized if she did not have impeccable facility with language. She delights in wordplay: ‘The funeral march is a children’s chant: / dum-dum-dum, he is dumb-and-done-and-gone.’ The volume’s arrangement expertly juxtaposes related themes, resembling a focused camera’s panning, stopping now here, now there.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Terror and beauty frame this book, in which the world emerges as the mutable and impermanent space between poet and poem and between reader and text. . . . These poems suggest that our wary relationship to language may be the most historically significant fact about our time.” —Boston Phoenix
A virtuoso display of craft weaving political and all sorts of other purposes.” —June Jordan, Ms
In painfully exact, meticulously direct verse, Collins explores the connections between self and world in an increasingly conflicted time. The very first poem, The Border, exemplifies her ability to capture the ambiguities and urgencies of this life. Collins has a voice filled with a sense of dire emergency. This is an unrelenting book.” —Booklist
In A History. . . the boundaries of consciousness and selfhood have become wonderfully porous, allowing the world—in all its raucous, distracting, surprising transformations—to come rushing in. This is writing of the highest order.” —Boston Review
Hasta luego and over you go and it's not serapes, the big sombreros, not even coyotes, rivers and hills, though that's more like it, towers with guards, Stop! or we shoot and they do but you don't need a border for that, a fence will do, a black boy stuck to its wire like a leaf, a happy gun in the thick pink hand that wags from the sleeve, even a street, the other side, a door, a skin, give me a hand, and she gives him a hand, she gives him both her hands, the bones of her back are cracking, the string has snapped, she's falling, she's pleated paper, paper is spreading and there you are again, over the edge, you open your hands and what have you got but confetti and what can you do with confetti, our side won, a celebration, shaken hands, it matters now, whatever it is, but how close you are, your street, the fence behind your house is the zero border where minus begins, roots turn branches, cellar is house, you close your busy mouth to speak, an anti-lamp darkens the day, and you love that street, its crazy traffic, you climb that fence, you wave across, there's a rock in your hand but it's not your fault, you like to travel, the colorful people, but what if you fell, your house, your children, the work that gets you up in the morning, the language gone, the grammar, the rules, the family talent, those searching eyes, but think of the absence of eye, a higher tower, a little more wire— Border? You crossed the border hours ago.
The window fell out the window and having only a frame to refer to, we entered a new field, the space filled with lightness, wheat field, sweet field, field of vision, field and ground, and the puzzle became the principle, a page without a single tree, but you kept coming back to the place, your fingers reading my skin, and I cried Love! before I could stop myself, love is a yellow shirt, light is what it thinks when it thinks of itself, and now it shines through both our skins, in the field, out of the field, two in the field where none had been, field to field with particles stirred into being where we touch.