Wednesday, March 07, 2012

WHITE PAPERS by Martha Collins

Martha Collins
University of Pittsburgh Press
ISBN 13: 978-0-8229-6184-0
2012 $15.95

Martha Collin's poetry mixes metaphor with concrete
images. Sometimes the breakdown and repetitiveness
of phrases and words, helps the reader to ascertain
their own reality, identity, their own rag tag submission
to our own skin, thin enough to see through:

“black keys letters learn
to play read write dress
shoes purse suit grown
up clothes hat tie night
out morning coffee not
yet sin will find you out
dirt sheep eye and blue
mark so it seemed wrong
that in the meant good
book word confused with
Middle English blac pale
(see bleach) oh no never”

When the reader reads the poems aloud, one can hear
the word clicking rhythm that could be, if we
continue to recite with an accent on what is being written,
an accent that is familiar and then clicks into another
pentameter, like jazz bends a note:

“...a dark sky the coming
in of the kept out
in the wind waves
of whites only within

city limits after dark
whites only under
the stones no skin

And there is history, and color clarification, and experi-
mental writing. And there is the History in the text books
or not, ethics or not, this is a principled reality and not
the History taught. Collin's music is in the revolutionary
in the same way hip hop and rap lyric the 'revolution.'
Each verse, each awareness addresses the reader. The
song so long ignored by some, we are naked in front
of this verse:::

“could get a credit card loan car

come and go without a never had

to think about a school work job

to open doors to buy a rent a nice

place yard park beside a walk

in any store without a never had

to dress to buy a dress shoes under-

wear to understate or -play myself

to make myself heard to get across...”

 Collins plunges into herself, her image and all the foibles
we all believe, but are afraid to reveal and research, and with
book in hand, fingers ink stained, “playing in the dark.” we
are participants:

“although my father although
my mother although we rarely
although we whispered

although the silence although
the absence although even now
some TV books not to mention

radio websites new militias hate
groups raging against our socialist-
communist-fascist although but still...”

This book brings me to the great poet Susan Howe and her intense
study of her subjects in the same way Martha Collins has studied
her subject, even on the personal level. I also think of Cornell West,
his book, “Race Matters” in the same way Collins denotes colors.
Color matters in this book of white papers with black ink. I counted
color words because color matters and because I enjoy what color
represents and their many representations. There are variations on
color so my count is approximate. These are the colors in this book:

white 101, black 43, green 3, pink 5, browns 13, red 8, blue 1, gold 3,
yellow 7, gray 1:

“...and although I've gone back
and filled in some blanks
I'm still learning this un-

learning untying
the knot of Yes but re-
writing this  Yes  Yes”

The poems are masterfully rendered, using space and time
in newer forms and classical form. This is another must read,
another thoughtful book by Martha Collins

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor: Wilderness House Literary Review
Reviewer: Ibettson Street Press

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