REVIEW 2: “Autopsy” by Two Rivers Reading Series speaker Donte Collins


Donte Collins reads their poetry on stage. Image supplied by Collins.

Rachel Hanson, Contributing writer

This week The Campus Eye is featuring student reviews of poet Donte Collins’ “Autopsy.” Collins will be speaking on the Coon Rapids campus April 3 with the Two River Readings Series. Collins will talk at 12-12:50 p.m. and 2-2:50 p.m. in the Legacy Room. 

Donte Collins’ book “Autopsy,” a collection of poetry, is a journey into grief and loss of love. Collins shows that in death, there is also rumination of life and all that makes it so confounding, always echoing the question ‘why?’ Collins shares their experiences as a black queer person and confronts the controversial aspects of our history and the sentiments of our society through their own real and strikingly raw lens.

As a young emerging poet, Collins brings in refreshing contemporary language and slang to the literature scene. They include the social media that has become so prevalent, such as in “Grief: The Inconvenient Translator” where they write, “my deepest condolences : if you died i would make a Facebook status.” Their style allows society to face its true and ugly habits and doesn’t soften the blow with flowery language of imaginary environments, and readers can appreciate the way Collins avoids skirting around the issue. While their style differs, readers who like Tish Jones may also like Collins’ perspective in “Autopsy.”

The way Collins tries to express their grief ranges from the conventional to bizarre fragments and thoughts. Either way, Collins skillfully shows readers the nostalgia, life and pain, that is integral to mourning.

One example of Collins’ skillful expression is in the way that most of their poems are lacking capital letters at the beginnings of every sentence, expressing some form of uncertainty or hushed voices/topics. Some poems, additionally, do not include periods in their ending punctuation. This choice expresses an aversion to the final end. They show the readers that death is not the end for us and our loved ones, as, for as long as we keep their memories, they will never truly leave us. Certainly, the scars and marks they left on us will always remain.

Love is not the only thing that leaves traces on us.  Collins also wrote that life and its every pain is carried with us. In “The Orphan Dines with Ghosts,” they use this idea to create the visceral experience of an unsettled stomach when they wrote. “You’ll say / something about this meal is off / & i’ll think / white guilt must make / everything taste like / a grave.” Whites and blacks have divided opinions because of their cultural history.

Moreover, the form of lacking both certain beginnings and clear ends, reiterates one of the poetry’s main motifs of soil and earth, for lines without a beginning or end, there is only the circle– the circle of life– death and rebirth. Although Collins often refers to earth as the ground of their mother’s grave or as the subject of their own resentment and retribution, they also celebrates it as something sacred. Throughout the book, Collins portrays this common theme, that whether it’s the beginning or the end, whether it’s love or loss, they are all apart of life.

“Autopsy” leaves one awed and uplifted, as amidst the raw reality and pain, there is overcoming and new life, and there is discovery and humanity in all its ugly splendor.