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Six sequences, each written during a single month, focusing on time, mortality, love, war, and other news of the world.
For several years, Martha Collins has been writing a short poem each day for one month each year. "Day Unto Day" brings together the first six of these poetic sequences. With perfectly distilled lines, she captures the aching, liminal beauty of one day becoming another—the slow burn of time passing, the ambiguity of an "old / new leaf" turning over on the air, even as she collages a wide range of material that includes often disturbing news of the world.
Reading Day Unto Day is like listening in on the meditations of a nimble, restless mind hurtling through time. These poetic sequences cannot help but engage with the idea of time, with the immediacy of the past in our lives—but they are also much more than this. Here, 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.
Love, parents' dyings and deaths, a beloved's illness, our seasons, and our wars are woven here in fragments of narrative that often break into lyric notes. Notes perhaps of the subconscious, sometimes suggestive, sometimes unsolvable. Maybe not meant to be solved. Notes like little lights which sometimes sound like prayer.
There is a difference between poems and poetry and Martha Collins knows it. Day Unto Day is a diary, a calendar, an artistic intervention taking the ordinary into the extraordinary for great generous intent—a quotidian preparation for human Being. Its pleasure is that of 'attention' and its attentions are intellectual, sonic, architectural and deeply spiritual.
The author of six poetry collections and three books of cotranslations from the Vietnamese and long a distinguished teacher of creative writing, Collins has earned the right to be meditative about the passage of time. This book collects work done during one month each year, for six years, when Collins wrote a short poem each day.
The Poetry Foundation
Emily Mohn-Slate, in Coal Hill Review