Martha Collins’ Blue Front


BlueFront1One of the very best things about working for a literary journal is the review copies of new books and the trade copies of magazines that come into the office. Since summer officially started at Purdue, I’ve been going into the office less, and every time I check the mailbox there are at least three or four Spring/Summer issues or May-released poetry collections waiting distract me from answering the mail. One of the most exciting arrivals in the past week was Martha Collins’ Blue Front, a book-length poem that collages historical documents, lyric fragments in different points of view, and narrative sections as it explores a lynching that Collins’ father witnessed in Cairo, Illinois in 1909.

The first section, which I heard Martha Collins read several years ago before the book was finished:

He was five. He sold
fruit on the street in front

He sold fruit. People came
He made change

came to see him
make change…

Blue Front is both a departure and a return for Collins, whose previous books, as well as a recent chapbook, Gone So Far, are mostly short, quirky lyric poems, language-driven and full of a quick-witted intelligence. This book is harder, sadder, denser, and equally beautiful.

Blue Front
Martha Collins
Graywolf, 2006
ISBN 155597449X
88 pages, softcover, $14.00