Read White Papers by Martha Collins Online


White Papers is a series of untitled poems that deal with issues of race from a number of personal, historical, and cultural perspectives. Expanding the territory of her 2006 book Blue Front, which focused on a lynching her father witnessed as a child, this book turns, among other things, to Martha Collins' childhood. Throughout, it explores questions about what it means tWhite Papers is a series of untitled poems that deal with issues of race from a number of personal, historical, and cultural perspectives. Expanding the territory of her 2006 book Blue Front, which focused on a lynching her father witnessed as a child, this book turns, among other things, to Martha Collins' childhood. Throughout, it explores questions about what it means to be white, not only in the poet’s life, but also in our culture and history, even our pre-history. The styles and forms are varied, as are the approaches; some of the poems address race only implicitly, and the book, like Blue Front, includes some documentary and “found” material. But the focus is always on getting at what it has meant and what it means to be white—to have a race and racial history, much of which one would prefer to forget, if one is white, but all of which is essential to remember and to acknowledge in a multi-racial society that continues to live under the influence of its deeply racist past....

Title : White Papers
Author :
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ISBN : 9780822961840
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 80 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

White Papers Reviews

  • Kat
    2018-11-17 20:30

    I commend Collins' intention to engage with the difficult history of racial oppression in this country and how it intersects with her own life and family history. Some of the poems are very effective, but others felt too cool and removed. My favorite poems were the ones that incorporated specific historical facts that either I didn't know before or that she showed in new and meaningful contexts. My least favorite poems were ones that employed broken syntax and techniques of language poetry seemingly in place of more direct outrage, sorrow, or indeed any emotion.

  • Lynne
    2018-11-11 23:15

    A crucial book to read in these so-called "post-racial" times.

  • Izzy Montoya
    2018-11-14 22:17

    I began the process of reading White Papers by researching the author, Martha Collins. The book itself says about as much concerning Collins as any other resource I could find. She is an American Poet, born in Nebraska (1940). She has degrees from Stanford and the University of Iowa. The photo on the back of the cover reveals a woman who is unlikely to be racialized as anything other than white in America. As little as this says about who Collins is, I think its more than a reader needs when turning the pages of White Papers. Important contextualization boils down to: white woman writing about whiteness. The book explores whiteness (that’s lowercase whiteness) through Collins’s memory and research. Readers are prepared for the content by the book’s haunting cover image: a shadowy silhouette standing behind the backwards printed words “WHITE ONLY.” The effect, of course, puts the beholder in the place of a white guest not kept out of whatever public space is guarded by the glass door and those two capital words. The blended focal points of the image—the anonymous human form, the infamous command—leaves no question as to the gaze of Collins’s book. White Papers is not Collins’s first examination of whiteness, either. Blue Front, a book length poem printed by Graywolf Press in 2006 is a mediation on a lynching her father had witnessed as a young boy. Other than this, few specifics about Collins’s life seemed to illuminate her work beyond hinting at their sources (as I often feel is the case). More informative than Collins’s history was an interview with Michael Simms printed in the Coal Hill Review. Here Collins discusses her book specifically and the relationship between her rhetorical techniques and form. She notes that disruption (heavily used in White Papers) started as natural roadblocks in her writing process. “The more I wrote, though, the more those breakings off reflected emotional uncertainties and difficulties.” Such emotional difficulties are evident in the books first poem. The first stanza begins as an answer to an unknown question, and ends on an incomplete sentence. The ellipsis—as opposed no punctuation, or even a dash—makes certain that there was more to her mother’s words when she said: “I know my daughter/ would never want to marry…” The next stanza attempts at a second answer to presumably the same question, but again the thought gives way to ellipsis. Collins’s choice to repeat this tactic creates the sense of false starts, the way we often speak about the emotionally difficult. [1] also does a great job of setting up the remaining forty-four poems to follow. The refrain (heavily modulated) “Yes/ but not in our lifetimes” disrupts and redirects the consciousness of poems throughout White Papers. The use of ellipsis not only continue the theme of disruption, but also exchange words for empty (white) space. From the fist to the second stanza, the speaker begins with the unrepeatable words of her parents and moves to her own unspeakable thoughts, culminating in the final guilty admission: “yes but not yet.” Before moving on I’d like to talk about the acoustics in this refrain “yes but not yet.” What strikes me most about it is its near perfect symmetry, so box-like. At the opposing sides of the sentence occur “y” sounds, and near the center two “t” sounds preceded by similar vowel sounds. The refrain’s role as a disruptor is enforced by the final hard “t” sound, which clearly annunciates the finality of the sentence and its claim. Looking closely at this sentence also reminds me of Rigoberto Gonzáles’s infatuation with a teacher’s language lesson in which he wrote: PAT PET PIT POT PUT—a similar exploration of sound can be seen in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Thinking about symmetry and playing the same game with the consonants in Collins’s sentence we can see that she nearly wrote: yes but not yes. To me, the proximity of these two sentences seems to be no mistake. The voices in White Papers suspend racial progress to a latter date time and time again. In all honesty, I found many of the poems in White Papers to be quite challenging. I only had to turn the page once [2] to feel way out of my depth. the skin under all skin is all white seen skin is skin deep noneI’m still wondering how to read this. My first inclination is to read each line as a complete thought stripped down to its bare-bones. This requires more than the usual amount of work on the reader’s behalf, but doing so I deciphered the poem this way: Line 1. Something more salient or intimate than skin color. Line 2. Skin is equal to itself, despite variation in color. Line 3. Skin color is seen; it is perceived. Line 4. Is anything as shallow as skin?This method was difficult to keep up, especially when more obvious complete thoughts moved across line and stanza breaks. is white pink is blood showing through almost transparent thin skin blood as in on our hands protected by gloves laws guns whileI think multiple readings of this nature were part of Collins’s intent. The breaking up of sounds, as with thin > in creates a more singular feeling to the poem, while her rhythm, rhyme, and quick acoustics (ough, oo, ow) push the poem to move quickly. As I read on, I felt increasingly confused, betrayed. Each poem seemed to have its own set of rules more esoteric than the last. The poems ascended in numerical value, but each one gave me the sense of starting from zero. By [5] I began to question the need for such a frustrating reading experience. Two thoughts entered my mind: a professor telling me all poetry is experience, and an essay by Peggy McIntosh (whom Collins lists as a source) describing the allusiveness of racial understanding. It seems to me that by constantly changing the rules of language from poem to poem, Collins has recreated the experience of learning racial norms based off of asymmetrical expectations. One might consider the way Muslim has recently become a racial categorization in American to see how Collins’s work mirrors changing rhetorical rules about race.Collins’s experimental and tricky style risks alienating her readers from the emotional center of her poems, which I often felt. I had expected to complete my first reading of White Papers in a single sitting (as I usually do with books of poetry). I quickly realized that would not be possible. Every poem demanded a second reading before I could move on. The “what” of the poem was so difficult to decipher I often felt cheated out of the emotional or philosophical resonance. But as I said, even that experience had a poetic meaning to it. One of my favorite moments of the collection was [44]. Admittedly this is a less challenging poem, but its accessibility allowed me to move beyond the “what.” Collins’s ability to manipulate words and explore their many contexts is really brought to light here. In this poem she takes things slower, allowing the reader to stay with her every step of the way as she transforms the word capitalize. Personally, I prefer the balance of this poem. Instead of taking the forefront, syntax moves the poem towards its philosophical question: what do to about “you” and “the others.” Unlike many of the other poems in this collection, [44] makes no attempt to explain or allude to a definitive answer to its central question.White Papers is a complicated and confronting piece of literature for all readers. Seek no comfort in the content or form, ye who enter here. Collin’s work is a dense as the theory she has listed at the end of her book. I suspect White Papers will be challenging my poetic notions for sometime to come.

  • Literary Review The
    2018-10-25 18:22

    White PapersMartha Collins(Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012) Poet, teacher, and editor Martha Collins has followed her excellent Blue Front—the marvelous, horrific book about the 1909 lynching of two men, one black, one white, which her father witnessed as a young child in Cairo, Illinois—with a new volume in which her lens zooms in more tightly and she reports far more intimately. In White Papers Collins examines her positioning on the racial palettes of the places she has lived. The book is deeply personal and rich with discovery and inquiry and has a feeling of collage—the poems are untitled, greatly varied in shapes and sonics, and run from embodied interiorities to modes of reportage both big and small. The segments contain, like sealed vessels, her encounters, astonishments, and complicities. The first poem of the volume, whole on page one, opens, “Because my father said Yes / but not in our lifetimes . . . .” and ends “Because a few years after Brown / v. Board of Education I wrote a paper / that took the position Yes but not yet.” True or not—though it certainly feels true—the entire book, then, is read through that lens of shared responsibility. “[T]hey lived,” she says five pages later: in the colored sectionof town though we lived in a city not a town it hada downtown where we saw them sometimes in stores on streets at the movies we didn’t think much about it did we lived in Iowa where we saw them mostly sawourselves what did we didn’t know where we were livingShe describes, further on in the book, a schoolyard tree, cut down after a trio of nooses were hung from it and beatings given and taken beneath it, because it was The White Tree and a Black student had sat in its shade: a white-trunked white- limbed white-leafed treewhite petals sepals white stamens pistils bees inside a white woman purewhite body skin hair white eyes white lips nipples blood white grass for the whitestones of this white dream The narrative and the lyric segments of the piece are separated by a full page of white space divided between two pages. Apt and incredibly powerful. I want to call White Papers a brave book and Collins a risk-taking poet, but those terms have been so over- and wrongly used for poets and poems for so long that they and their synonyms no longer have any validity—they’ve become small and tinny, thin and cheap, meaningless amidst the tides of confession and culpability that fill so many small press pages. White Papers, unlike those others, is a testament towards wholeness. Collins says,. . . [A]nd although I’ve gone backand filled in some of the blanksI’m still learning this un-TLR ashley 221learning untyingthe know of Yes but rewriting this Yes Yes.White Papers is a remarkable book, a wholly unified work—a book rather than a collection—whose object lesson is one of undividing.--Renee AshleyWhite Papers was reviewed in The Literary ReviewSpring 2012 "Encyclopedia Britannica"

  • Nw23
    2018-11-01 18:22

    Martha Collins is the master of craft in poetry. Poems in White Papers speak in a language away from prose, which most of the contemporary (American?) poets rely on. She experiments with fragments and the form of a poem to the extreme that every piece feels organic. Too many readers tend to discuss this book in terms of subject matter but neglects how the pivotal language contributes the overall aesthetics. Yes, this book deals with race and I agree with other reviewers here who have pointed out that there's no persona/character in this book (unlike A Van Jordon's Macnolia and Kevin Young's recent book Ardency). But Collins speaks of collective experience here and it doesn't matter to me whether the book depends on the real-life experience of a particular person to put across the message. In fact, I think the benefits of not centering the book on a persona allows room for the poetry to weave between various perspectives and possibilities.Apart from section 14, which has previously appeared on Verse Daily (, my favorites include: #2, #11 and #29, among others. #2the skin underall skin is allwhite seen skinis skin deep noneis white pinkis blood showingthrough almosttransparent thinskin blood as inon our handsprotected by gloveslaw guns whilebrown tan to almostblack protects fromsun that burnsus read-handed usThe poem successfully obstructs our usual way of reading the English language, which is predominantly done with a subject to begin with, followed by a verb and predicate. #2 just simply repeats certain nouns of focus ("skin", "blood") and play them around with different color imagery. I truly enjoy the treatment of language in this book.

  • Hank Kalet
    2018-11-01 17:15

    White Papers is an amalgam of styles, both a large singular poem and a series of shorter, untitled piece that explore the question of race from the perspective of whiteness. What does it mean to be white? What are the associations? How have we -- and why have we -- created this artificial construct and how has it evolved and contributed to American and world history. It is a strong collection, but not as focused or unified as her previous book, Blue Front, which is a masterpiece. Still, White Papers is worth reading and pondering.

  • Liam
    2018-11-09 18:45

    I read this from cover to cover today. Before buying it, I didn't realize the theme would be race. The collection is excellent an in light of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Samford, Florida still resonate today. I wish we wouldn't see color, but see people instead. A few weeks ago some black men assaulted and brutally beat a white man because they assumed he was gay. This happened in the neighborhood next to where I live in Washington, DC.

  • Shawn
    2018-10-22 17:17

    Really interesting poems about race from a perspective we don't usually get: that of a white person. Some of the poems don't work as well on the page as they do when read aloud (I got to hear the author read from this book), and the style may not be for everyone, but definitely would still highly recommend.

  • Doralee Brooks
    2018-10-21 15:44

    Beautiful, honest, and intriguing exploration of a theme;at all times lyrical and compelling! So glad I found this one.

  • Greg
    2018-11-01 15:25

    I'm hesitant to read this one.

  • Maughn Gregory
    2018-10-31 17:43

    In these troubling poems Martha Collins maps the complex and varied territory white guilt that corresponds to the complexity of multi-generational racism.

  • Cheryl
    2018-11-14 21:32

    Such an important book - acknowledging and exposing racist thoughts from a white perspective.