My tenth book, Because What Else Could I Do, has just won the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award.
The judge was Alice Fulton. Here is her citation:
Alice Fulton’s Citation:
Throughout her distinguished career, Martha Collins has devised a poetics of justice and revelation. Her singular aesthetic reaches its apogee in this sequence that witnesses personal devastation and testifies to the terrifying forces of love and grief. William Carlos Williams asked poets to write “a new kind of measure,” “the poem as a field of action,” and Collins’s innovative work answers the challenge. A life-altering tragedy is enacted in a prosody built from silence and fractured language. Radical loss decimates lines that stumble and stutter in resonant spasms. The “story”— and its emotional backlash—levitate from the fissures of a flayed syntax.
Williams also advised poets to “listen to the language for the discoveries we hope to make.” But Collins must listen to discoveries she never hoped to make. Because what else could she do? The pathos of that desperate question transfigures these minimalist poems that testify to the excruciations of shame, the malevolence of scams, the sadness of delusional disorders, the helplessness of guilt and mourning. The linguistic surface is planed; the rhetoric free of pedantry or archness. Negative space vibrates with contained emotion, and it is especially moving to feel such intensity emerge from a purposefully limited palette. I could not stop reading.