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Martha Collins

Martha Collins was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1940. She earned a BA at Stanford University and holds a PhD from the University of Iowa.

Collins is the author of Because What Else Could I Do (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), Night Unto Night (Milkweed Editions, 2018), Admit One: An American Scrapbook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016), Day Unto Day (Milkweed Editions, 2014) and the book-length poem Blue Front (Graywolf Press, 2006), winner of an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as four other books of poetry: Some Things Words Can Do (Sheep Meadow Press, 1998); A History of a Small Life on a Windy Planet (University of Georgia Press, 1993); The Arrangement of Space (Gibbs Smith, 1991), winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Competition; and The Catastrophe of Rainbows (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1985).

In his review of Day Unto Day, Kevin Prufer writes, “Martha Collins delves into the shiftiness of gender, the power of romantic love, the nature of the divine, the troubles of American national identity, and the certainty of mortality. Musically brilliant, psychologically intricate, movingly humane—Martha Collins is one of our most vital poets."

A translator of Vietnamese poetry, Collins has also cotranslated books of poems by Ngo Tu Lap, Nguyen Quang Thieu, and Lam Thi My Da.

Her honors include the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award, a Lannan residency grant, and the Laurence Goldstein Poetry Prize, as well as fellowships from the Bunting Institute, Ingram Merrill Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, and Witter Bynner Foundation.

Collins established the creative writing program at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and was the Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College for ten years. She is currently the editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and an editor at Oberlin College Press. She lives in Oberlin, Ohio, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Selected Bibliography

Because What Else Could I Do (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019)
Night Unto Night (Milkweed Editions, 2018)
Admit One: An American Scrapbook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016)
Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014)
Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006)
Some Things Words Can Do (Sheep Meadow, 1998)
A History of a Small Life on a Windy Planet (University of Georgia, 1993)
The Arrangement of Space (Gibbs Smith, 1991)
The Catastrophe of Rainbows (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1985)

By This Poet


The Good Gray Wolf

Wanted that red, wanted everything tucked inside
that red, that body, it seemed, turned inside out,
that walking flower, petals furled, leaved
by the trees by the forest path, the yellow basket
marking the center--

			wanted to raise that rose
petal skin to my gray face, barely to brush
that warmth with my cold nose, but I knew she'd cry
for mercy, help, the mother who'd filled the basket
that morning, Wolf, she'd cry, Wolf, and she'd
be right, why should she try to see beyond
the fur, the teeth, the cartoon tongue wet
with anticipation?

			And so I hid behind
a tree as she passed on the path, then ran, as you know,
to her grandmother's house, but not as they say, I knocked
and when she answered I asked politely for her
advice. And then, I swear, she offered me tea,
her bonnet, an extra gown, she gave me more
than advice, she tucked me into a readied bed,
she smoothed my rough fur, I felt light
as a flower, myself, stamened and stemmed in her
sweet sheets.

			Not ate her, you see, but rather became
her, flannel chest for the red head, hood
that hid the pearl that when I touched it flushed
and shone. What big eyes! and she opened the cape,
tongue, mouth to her mouth, and opened everything,
I crooned, crawling inside, wolf to flower,
gray to rose, grandmother into child
again, howl to whisper, dagger to cloak,
my mother father animal arms, disarmed
by love, were all she ever dreamed of.

[white paper #28]

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 

a street a never mind point I never

had to earn the right to climb  

my own if I should lose my key or

all I own my open door world was all 

before me where to choose to and I

Animal / Anima

all of us     all but us     only

(but not us) the mammals     or only

us: animal in us     or only

the male of us:     brute


no animals     in the Bible

only beasts     as  of the field

not us:     it says    breathed

into     in our image     of the dust


anima breath     to anima

soul     but all animals

breathe the     same     one

long song     the same     air