- Publisher: Sheep Meadow Press
- Edition: Paperback
- ISBN: 9-781878-81874
This volume brings together Martha Collins’s new collection, Some Things Words Can Do, and her prize-winning book A History of Small Life on a Windy Planet, praised by David Ignatow in his presentation of the Alice Fay De Castagnola Award for its “unique ability to fix each passing phase of a swiftly moving, rootless society in triumphant style.” In her new poems, Collins explores our capacity for violence and subtle forms of cruelty, as well as the disturbing power of words themselves to hurt and divide us. But she also reminds us that the language of lyric is most restorative when it makes demands upon us; when it is, as in these deeply intelligent poems, both graceful and athletic.
In the very aptly-titled Some Things Words Can Do, Martha Collins presents a world—our own—in which ‘touch [has become] mere fiction,’ and the flesh forms an ever-shifting field whose erosion reveals what, for Collins, has always been the case: that language itself is both most animate and the most trustworthy familiar we are likely to find. While verbal play, characteristically, figures in these poems—reminding us that words too can be slippery—what Collins finally suggests here is dead-serious: what words must be made to do, finally, is bring us back to ourselves and (if we’re listening) carry us safely past all we do—in the name of science, power, the heart—that may otherwise destroy us. The message is as critical now as these poems are wise, chiselled, essential.” —Carl Phillips
The idiosyncratic territory of Martha Collins’s work lies south of Emily Dickinson, west of H.D., a little to the left of Louise Bogan, and within easy commuting distance of Gertrude Stein. While her poems deal with war and oppression, contemporary relationships, civil rights and censorship and homelessness, she is fluid, musical, full of wit and wordplay and suggestiveness. Or think of her as a juggler: each time she catches an object and releases it, it becomes something different. This is exciting, you think, and then you see (or rather you don’t) that the juggler has disappeared, and the objects are doing it all on their own.” —Pamela Alexander
What Martha Collins’ words can do well is draw attention to themselves as surface objects that can be fractured into simultaneously discrete and multiple meanings without becoming entangled. . . . She often points our attention towards some threat of violence. . . . She invites us to feel the gravitas of the issues, while she alters the direction of meaning with the light inconsequence of a camera shutter. She performs, with the skill of a magician, the act of transformation, and with a magician’s attention to the trick.The very intensity of Collins’ preoccupation with what things words can do, pulled against the horror at what lies below, is what may catapult her work into transcendence.” —Boston Book Review
Some Things Words Can Do
Play. Teach us to play. Play for us. Take us. Take us in. Take us out. Introduce us. Make something of us. Make us ours. Leave us. Leave us wanting.
He had no rights, they beat him up, you've got no right, he said, and he was right, we thought, we saw them beat him up, right? it happened right over there, but it was proper form, the jury said, and they were right, if you could judge the beating by what happened next, our driver said, right off they up and burn the place, this rights stuff goes too far, next thing it's an- imal rights, vegetable rights, mow 'em down I say, he said, and turned, he had the right of way, license to get where he needed to go, but what it they stopped him anyway, they're the law and that's their right, the right side of the body's on the other side of the heart.