Interview with Poet Martha Collins: Author of “Admit One...” a lyrical exploration of scientific racism
Martha Collins is the author, most recently, of Admit One: An American Scrapbook (Pittsburgh, 2016), Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014), White Papers (Pitt Poetry Series, 2012), and Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), a book-length poem based on a lynching her father witnessed when he was five years old. Collins has also published four earlier collections of poems, three books of co-translations from the Vietnamese, and two chapbooks . I spoke with Martha Collins on my Somerville Community Access TV show “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer” about her new poetry collection “Admit One...” that deals with the scientific racism of the early twentieth century, including the Eugenics Movement.
Alien, Part Three
Then Madison Grant met with Congressman Albert Johnson
again to devise a formula for the 1924 Immigration Act,
which was based on the earlier census of 1890 (when there
were fewer immigrants from eastern and southern Europe),
thus reducing to 12% the influx of Jews, Italians, etc., from
a pre-World War annual million to (as it turned out) 20,000.
Seven eugenicists testified, including Harry Laughlin,
who in 200 pages of testimony cited analyzed Army IQ tests
with Nordics on top, Jews on the bottom, and said the formula
would favor Nordics over non-essential members of the community.
Grant, too ill to testify, wrote that the scientific and just formula
would keep out lower types who could displace native Americans
and wrote an article targeting immigrants as criminal insane
while the Saturday Evening Post and NY Times argued for passage.
Suddenly, said an opposing congressman, a new word made its way
into the English language—Nordic, Nordic—everywhere you turned.
But the Eugenicists lobbied congress members, bombarding
them with letters telegrams telephone calls —and after a long
debate on a clause excluding the Japanese (which led a Japanese
publicist to predict eventual collision on the Pacific), the bill passed.
-- From Admit One /Martha Collins