Martha Collins (poet)

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Martha Collins (born 1940) is a poet, translator, and editor. She has published ten books of poetry, including Night Unto Night (Milkweed, 2018),Admit One: An American Scrapbook (Pitt Poetry Series, 2016), Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014), White Papers (Pitt Poetry Series, 2012), and Blue Front (Graywolf, 2006), as well as two chapbooks and four books of co-translations from the Vietnamese. She has also co-edited, with Kevin Prufer and Martin Rock, a volume of poems by Catherine Breese Davis, accompanied by essays and an interview about the poet’s life and work.[1]


Martha Collins was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.A., and the University of Iowa with an M.A. and a Ph.D. She taught at University of Massachusetts Boston, where she founded the Creative Writing Program in 1979; beginning in 1997, she was the Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing at Oberlin College for ten years. In spring 2010, she served as Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell University, and in spring 2013 was Visiting Fannie Hurst Professor of Creative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis.[2] She is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press,[3] as well as a contributing editor to Consequence Magazine and Copper Nickel.

In 1993 Collins began teaching in the summer workshop of the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences where she met several writers from Vietnam, including poet Nguyen Quang Thieu. The next year she studied Vietnamese, and in 1998 published her co-translations of Nguyen Quang Thieu’s poems.[4] Since then she has published three more co-translated volumes of Vietnamese poetry.

She is a featured faculty member at the 2018 Poetry Seminar at The Frost Place in Franconia, NH.


Known in her first few books for somewhat formal lyrical poems that occasionally referenced larger issues such as homelessness and war, Collins learned from an exhibit of lynching postcards in 2000 that the hanging her father said he had witnessed as a child was actually a lynching of an African American man, attended by 10,000 people in Cairo, Illinois. In 2005 Collins published Blue Front, a book-length poem that involved research and focused on the event, and in 2012 she explored issues of race from both personal and historical perspectives in White Papers.[5] Her latest book, Admit One: An American Scrapbook, addresses racism, eugenics, immigration and other issues, focusing on the early twentieth-century eugenics movement.[6]

Cynthia Hogue has described Collins as “a dazzling poet whose poetry is poised at the juncture between the lyric and ethics [and who] has addressed some of the most traumatic social issues of the twentieth century . . . in supple and complex poems. Those who have followed Collins’ books have long since realized that no subject is off limits for her piercing intellect."[7]




  • Because What Else Could I Do (Pitt Poetry, 2019)
  • Night Unto Night (Milkweed, 2018)
  • Admit One: An American Scrapbook (Pitt Poetry, 2016)
  • Day Unto Day (Milkweed, 2014)
  • White Papers (Pitt Poetry, 2012)
  • Sheer (Barnwood, 2008) chapbook
  • Blue Front. Graywolf Press. 2006. ISBN 978-1-55597-449-7.
  • "Their Work," "Time Was," "Through," from Martha Collins, Gone So Far (2005)
  • Some Things Words Can Do. Sheep Meadow Press. 1998. ISBN 978-1-878818-74-4.
  • History of a Small Life on a Windy Planet (University of Georgia Press,1993)
  • The Arrangement of Space (Gibbs Smith, 1991)
  • The Catastrophe of Rainbows (Cleveland State University, 1985)


  • Into English: Poems, Translations, Commentaries, with Kevin Prufer (Graywolf, 2017)
  • Catherine Breese Davis: On the Life and Work of an American Master (Pleiades Press, 2015), with Kevin Prufer and Martin Rock
  • Critical Essays on Louise Bogan (G.K. Hall, 1984)




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