the victim hanged, though not on a tree, this
was not the country, they used a steel arch
with electric lights, and later a lamppost, this
was a modern event, the trees were not involved.
–from Blue Front
On Nov. 11, 1909, two men—one white, one black—were accused of rape and murder and lynched by a mob outside the Blue Front Restaurant in Cairo, Ill.
In Blue Front (2006), her acclaimed book-length poem, Martha Collins draws on news accounts, census data, legal history, postcards, photographs and other historical documents to depict the brutal episode and its aftermath. Her own father, then a five-year-old boy, was in the crowd, hoisted on a relative’s shoulder.
This month, Collins will serve as a Visiting Hurst Professor of Creative Writing in Arts & Sciences. On Thursday, Jan. 24, she will present a free public lecture on the craft of poetry.
The talk—presented as part of The Writing Program’s spring Reading Series—will begin at 8 p.m. in Hurst Lounge, Room 201, Duncker Hall. A reception and book signing will immediately follow.
For more information, call (314) 935-7428.
The New York Times, writing of Blue Front, observed that Collins’ “discursive, breathless, self-contradicting, breaking-off-and-circling-back techniques make the book feel like the testimony of a traumatized witness. Which, of course, it is.”
In all, Collins is the author of six collections, most recently White Papers (2012), a series of untitled poems exploring issues of race from personal, historical and cultural perspectives. Other books include Sheer (2008), Gone So Far (2005) and Some Things Words Can Do (1998).
Collins’ numerous honors include an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Blue Front, as well as three Pushcart Prizes, a Lannan residency grant and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the Witter Bynner Foundation.
She is currently editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press.
Forthcoming books include Black Stars: Poems by Ngo Tu Lap (co-translated with the author) and Day Unto Day.