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.
“Autopsy” is a raw and emotional stream of consciousness cobbled together through various struggles: mourning, racial inequality, and learning to understand the human body and sexuality. Collins’ craftsmanship hones their experiences into powerful poems so concise and true to human nature that readers cannot help but devour.
“Autopsy” is opened with what may come as a surprise to readers. Collins in “Death Ain’t Nothin’ But a Song” reflects upon their late mother’s memory with jovial imagery of her spirit dancing, nature at her mercy. This contrasts with many of the more sorrow-filled pieces to come later, but shows a complacency and understanding of the situation that may in part serve to soothe the reader and endow them with a happier message to hold true to themselves as they delve deeper into Collins’ story.
Collins showcases surviving loss in many different ways. “Don’t Tell Your Uber Driver You’re Going to an Orgy” begins to bridge into the nuances of how Collins went about coping with their loss:“…& what / is an orgy, if not the opposite / of a funeral…” “The Orphan Performs an Autopsy on the Garden” is written with hindsight skewed by regret. The diction indicates a haunting sense of foreboding straightaway. “your mother will be dead / 13 years – 2 months – 11 days – 7 hours from now.” It describes the painful way of thinking upon how we might have thought or acted in the past with the deceased. It’s the first poem in the collection where Collins refers to themselves as “the orphan,” a recurring phrase.
“Sonnet on Sweet” is a riveting and short piece detailing a homosexual relationship in the context of a time in which slavery still exists. Collins writes, “lynch say beat the slave out of the sin / so massa take pride in my lover’s help / can’t produce slaves if men lay with men,” fascinatingly turning the idea of homosexuality being produced by colonialism on its head, refuting the belief that same-sex love is “anti-African.” Collins uses beautiful imagery throughout their poem that will stick with anyone. “each tthh-wack opens a small sky in my skin,” and “…left me till my back swelled bright as stars.”
“Thirteen Ways of Looking at Thirteen” discusses believing that one needs to lie or please others in order to fit in. “the same / summer Sherman tells you to take off your purple scarf / & you do & you laugh less because Uncle Paul say: / a smiling boy is a sweet boy.”
“Autopsy” is a beautifully concocted journey that even readers who have not dabbled in the realm of poetry should try their hand at understanding.