Martha Collins’s Race Trilogy

Cover art for three books of poems by Martha Collins: Admit One (in red), White Papers, and Blue Front

I first came across Martha Collins’s work at a seminar on taboo at the Mass Poetry Festival. Sharon Olds read a poem about testicles. Jill McDonough read a poem that included a line about a stripper’s “perfect pink asshole.” And Martha Collins read a poem about race. It was the Collins poem that made me the most uncomfortable. I’d spoken about race plenty in conversation with people of color, but for a white person to initialize the discussion seemed uncouth, discomforting, in a way that frank talk about sex is not. To confess the sins of one’s ancestors and acknowledge the privilege of one’s whiteness seems the biggest taboo in our day and age.

Collins read from White Papers, the second in a trilogy about race in the United States. White Papers focuses on the poet’s own recollections of race growing up in the Midwest and living in New England. Blue Front is a book-length poem circling around and around a brutal lynching that her father witnessed in 1909 in Cairo, Illinois. Admit One uses the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis (which her grandparents attended) as a jumping-off point to speak about “scientific racism,” the eugenics movement of the 20th century, and the continuing legacy of racism in the United States. Continue reading “Martha Collins’s Race Trilogy”

Boston-Area Poetry Readings for November and December 2017

Poetry to Beat the Winter Blues

Poetry can bring a little light and warmth into these cold, dark evenings. Go get you some.

Thursday, November 2, 6 pm
Douglas Kearney and Tracie Morris
Edison Newman Room, Houghton Library
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA

Thursday, November 2, 6:30 pm
Barbara Siegel Carlson
Carver Public Library
Carver, MA

Thursday, November 2, 7 pm
Simone John and Ruby Poltorak
Rozzie Reads Poetry and Open Mic
Roslindale House
120 Poplar Street
Roslindale, MA

Saturday, November 4, 3 pm
Vietnam vet Marc Levy
Book reading/Short film
VFW Hall
95 Derby Street
Salem, MA

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Boston Area Poetry Readings for October and November 2017

Poetry and all that jazz

All readings are in Massachusetts unless otherwise noted. Thanks as always to Daniel Bouchard for compiling these listings, and to the fine  organizations that make possible many readings to be found in and around Boston. If you have an event not listed here, please leave details in the comments.

Thursday, October 12, 5:30 pm
Gregory Pardlo
McCormack Family Theater
70 Brown St.
Providence, RI

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The Art of the Chapbook: Paper

Every artist knows the agonizing gap between an idea and a work of art. In my experience, visual art is particularly frustrating this way – perhaps because whatever skills I developed have long since left me, but also because writing comes so much more naturally to me. But even writing brings with it that frisson between the thing you want to say and the thing you actually end up saying. The Internet-famous video blogger Ze Frank calls that gaps “brain-crack.”[i] The longer an idea sits around in your head without being executed, the more you get addicted to the fantasy of the final product. But artists can’t get addicted to brain crack, or they’ll never make any art.

A chapbook has been my brain crack since about 2009. While I’ve been writing steadily since the age of nine, a variety of obstacles kept me from pursuing my literary ambitions as fully as I would have liked. Some of them I overcame, and some of them I learned to live with and work around. And during that time, I learned to take small steps to incorporate poetry (the art form that comes most naturally to me) back into my life in a non-brain-crack kind of way. The small steps paid off, and eventually I was able to compile a chapbook manuscript. But what to do with it? Send it to contests? The fees added up quickly. Submit to a small press? I found some whose books I enjoyed – both in content and in form. But book quality varied greatly. And I began to question the business side of things. Why give up creative control to a publisher who may or may not market your book, which you may or may not be able to afford once it’s been printed? I’d always been interested in publishing as a medium – in fact, my romance with web design began in 1999 when I realized I could self-publish online. And by 2009, it was easier than ever to make small runs of print books.

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Boston Area Poetry Readings for September and October 2017

Poetry readings lie thick as apples on the ground. Thanks to poet Daniel Bouchard for gathering them into one basket for the rest of us.

Friday, September 8, 7 pm
Zvi A. Sesling, Gloria Mindock, and Len Krisak
Brookline Booksmith
Harvard Street
Coolidge Corner, Brookline, MA

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