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Book Title

Blue Front

Author 1
Martha Collins
Martha Collins's father, as a five-year-old boy, sold fruit in front of his uncle's Blue Front Restaurant in Cairo, Illinois, in November 1909. What he witnessed there and then, along with the reported 10,000 participants, is shocking.

In Blue Front, her fifth book of poetry, Collins patches together an arresting and sometimes conflicting array of evidence—newspaper articles, census data, legal history, postcards, photographs, her father's own eyewitness account—to describe the brutal, frenzied lynching of two men: one of them black, one of them white, and both of them left to the merciless violence of the spectators. The resulting work, fragmented and hallucinatory, is a bold and honest investigation into hate, mob mentality, culpability, and what it means to be white in a country still haunted by its violently racist history. Blue Front, part lyric and part essay, is an extraordinary book and presents Collins working in important and original new ways.

"Martha Collins is a poet whose command of craft rises beautifully to meet the needs of her vision."—Denise Levertov

"I admire the fierce purity of Martha Collins's language and, more, the sardonic imagination with which she explores and elaborates alternative—and sometimes sinister—fictions about the world."—Sandra Gilbert

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The stunning account of racism, mob violence, and cultural blame as rendered by poet Martha Collins

About the Author

Martha  Collins
Credit: Doug Macomber

Martha Collins is the author of eight books of poetry, including Admit One: An American Scrapbook, Day Unto Day, White Papers, and Blue Front. She has also published four collections of co-translated Vietnamese poems, most recently Black Stars: Poems by Ngo Tu Lap, as well as translations from Spanish, German, Italian, and French. She is most recently editor of Into English, with Kevin Prufer.

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  • Blue Front achieves a convincing—and chilling—cumulative effect.”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
  • “Collins’s poetic imagination is obviously engaged not just by the horrifying facts but by her connection to them.”—The Santa Fe New Mexican
  • “This book-length poem is a dramatic interpretation of the social hysteria and individual roboticism that drive our racist history, and the continuous though often  almost silent pulse beneath, of reason, of outrage. It is a large and musical composition made up of voices—that intone and detail, that iterate and reiterate, that name, that shrink from naming, and that wrap and unwrap words in astonishing arias of tight, incessant and brilliant connection.”—Pleiades
  • “Once picked up, Blue Front cannot be put down.”—The Midwest Book Review
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