Night Unto Night
How can one reconcile the irreconcilable? In this masterful companion to Day Unto Day, Martha Collins finds common ground between contradictions—beauty and horror, joy and mortality, the personal and the political.
Like its predecessor, Night Unto Night begins with time. Its six sequences, each written in one month a year, over the course of six years, bring together the natural and the all-too-human. Red-winged blackbirds and the death of a friend. The green leaves of a maple tree and drones overseas. A February spent in Italy and the persistence of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Dissonance is a permanent state, Collins suggests, something to be occupied rather than solved. And so this collection approaches its transcendence in the space between these seeming contrasts—and in the space between stanzas, sequences, days, and months.
These poems are powerfully alive, speaking to and revising each other, borrowing a word or a line before turning it on end. We are doomed to repeat mistakes, seasons, wars, words. Yet redemption beckons, too, in the persistence of empathy and love.
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Praise and Prizes
“In this luminous companion to Day Unto Day, Collins renders the most humbling, gorgeous, and inscrutable features of human existence as if they might be made legible. Collins draws on sacred texts, figures, and rituals to arrive at a very earthly knowledge of finitude—of one’s own mind and body, as well as of beloved others.”
“A richly textured poetics . . . Collins charts a world—all its emergent complexity, minutiae, and motion—through acts of attention, translation, and devotion. So much hangs together—hangs in the balance—in the syntactic fissures of Collins’s discursive play.”
“The poems feel as though they are in an elegant vise. . . . Night Unto Night completes the twelve-poem sequence began in her previous book with an ethereal clarity that invites readers in and keeps them close.”
“Collins merges her strong socio-political and ethical conscience with love of the lyric, exhibiting an inherently Keatsian vision throughout, one reflective of the transient beauty of the natural world.”
“A longtime poet of sociopolitical engagement, Martha Collins has been writing at the intersection of public and private subject matters for years; equally, she has been mining the complexities of language and syntax for wordplay, precision, and multiplicity like no other contemporary American poet I can think of. Night Unto Night continues to explore these interests and approaches, while mortality comes quickly into focus as the book’s overarching subject. Collins thinks considerably in this collection about what—in the face of death and loss—sustains our daily lives. She answers forcefully and movingly: love, friendship, morality and action toward the good, a consideration of the complexities of what god might be, and—most broadly—language. In these wrought, pared-down poems we’re given close access to a brilliant and complex mind reaching out and circling back, asserting and complicating, thinking with precision in language about what the ground-level vantage of an individual’s experience can tell us about our larger selves. This work is broad and approachable, even as it arrives through Collins’s idiosyncratic, utterly original approach to the lyric.”