It Is Daylight


Arda Collins is the 2008 winner of the annual Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Mesmerizing and electric, her poems seem to be articulated in the privacy of an enclosed space. The poems are concrete and yet metaphysically challenging, both witty and despairing. Collins’ emotional complexity and uncommon range make this debut both thrillingly imaginative and ethical in its uncompromising attention to detail. In her Foreword, contest judge Louise Glück observes, “I know no poet ...

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Arda Collins is the 2008 winner of the annual Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. Mesmerizing and electric, her poems seem to be articulated in the privacy of an enclosed space. The poems are concrete and yet metaphysically challenging, both witty and despairing. Collins’ emotional complexity and uncommon range make this debut both thrillingly imaginative and ethical in its uncompromising attention to detail. In her Foreword, contest judge Louise Glück observes, “I know no poet whose sense of fraud, the inflated emptiness that substitutes for feeling, is more acute.” Glück calls Collins’ volume “savage, desolate, brutally ironic . . . a book of astonishing originality and intensity, unprecedented, unrepeatable.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Louise Glück's sixth pick as judge of the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is a debut both whimsical and dark. In limpid free verse lines that slink down the page, Collins introduces a speaker with little confidence in the self or the world at large, prone to questions like, "Can I guess what I am thinking?" Collins's poems seek an almost religious sense of meaning in a world too cynical for faith: "God? you say, but not aloud. Since/ there is no god, you have to be/ both you and god. Yes, god says." When the poems rely on overly flat or jokey surrealism-"He slaughtered a bear/ for a meat roast party"-it's hard not to wonder why the poems won't admit to how seriously they take themselves and their subjects. Yet, at their best, these poems-set in places as understated as "a zoo/ full of animals" or a "Heaven" that "is a white Formica table"-are driven by a real, if vague, fear that will likely be a familiar poetic pose to readers who came of age in the last two decades, and which is really the old existential terror that the self can't really be known and that the terms of life are always shifting. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Louise Glück

“Arda Collins' savage, desolate, brutally ironic first book has the electric excitement of a master performance conducted in a deliberately isolated space, as though isolation were a form of control that promoted fluency... At the heart of the poems' struggle is shame, which results not from something the speaker has done, from action, but rather from being, from what she is or what she lacks. The private closed spaces that protect this speaker from being seen (while paradoxically freeing her to speak) function in other ways, both contextualizing and mirroring a metaphysical claustrophobia: the bleak fate of being always one person. This is a book of dazzling modernity. . . . Caustic, pithy, ruthlessly sharp witted and keen eyed. . . . Devoid of that taste for rhetorical splendor that turns so easily stodgy. . . . Within its devised constrictions, this voice has the freedom to say anything. The result is a book of astonishing originality and intensity, unprecedented, unrepeatable.”—Louise Glück

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300148886
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Series: Yale Series of Younger Poets
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 830,661
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Arda Collins lives in Denver, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in poetry. Her poems have been published in journals and magazines including The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, A Public Space, and others. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop where she was a Glenn Schaeffer Fellow.

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Read an Excerpt

It Is Daylight

By Arda Collins


Copyright © 2009 Arda Collins
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-14888-6

Chapter One

The News

At last, terror has arrived. Next door, the house has gone up in flames. A woman runs from the burning wreck, her face smeared with blood and ashes. She screams that her children are kidnapped. It's truly exciting, and what more would anyone ask? For a rare and beautiful egg to present itself in the grass? For sex with the liquor store owner to progress into something meaningful? You don't know what I've done in front of the mirror. I've pulled my shorts up high like a thong. I've walked back and forth doing little kicks and making faces. I've stopped, I've stared. I try to get my mind around the sight of myself. I make a face. Of great seriousness. I imagine that I've just received a large and upsetting piece of news. Then I look into my eyes. Can I guess what I am thinking? Can I tell you what it is?


I was making a roast. The smell wafted from the kitchen into the living room, through the yellow curtains and into the sunlight. Bread warmed in the oven, and in my oven mitt, I managed to forget that I'd ever punched someone in the face. It seemed so long ago, I might not even have done it. I went out into the yard before dark and saw last year's rakeon the lawn. It was a cheap metal one that tore up the old grass. I did that for a while. When I went back in the house, the roast was burned black and the bread was hard. I sat on the couch and watched it get dark. I was getting hungry, but I felt afraid of seeing the refrigerator light go on. Then I would have to turn on other lights, and then what would I do? I heard a car pass once in a while. I thought about a time on vacation when I bought a newspaper and tomatoes from a supermarket I'd never heard of. I remembered an old bathing suit I had, but I couldn't think of what happened to it. I could move away. I could get in the car right now and drive all night, as soon as I had a sandwich. Turkey, tomato, mayo, Swiss, lettuce. It was exciting. I still had my shoes on. I drove to a truck stop. It was bright inside and I loved the world. I bought a sandwich and ate it from my lap while I drove. When I pulled up to my house it was quiet.

Pool #3

When I hear the ice cream man coming Turkey in the Straw playing coming around the corner, I duck under the window curtains. I peek at a bit of grass and the street under the small apples on the hems. I don't come out until he's gone; I'm amazed at how still I always am, but all the time I'm thinking about the dollar bills in my wallet; picturing myself out there next to his white truck; buying a King Cone; looking at the pictures of the ice creams on a deep blue background; reading the names and descriptions of all of them, each one shown with a bite out of it so you can see what the inside looks like. I would like to do this with people so that I can see all the swimming pools inside them. I'm hiding because I don't want the ice cream man to see my swimming pools.

With A Voice In Front Of You

As you're standing with the heel of your shoe on top of some neatly sliced red onion you might think to yourself, "I'm at onion," or, "I'm in onion today." Coming home in the evening you might see a letter waiting there, tucked just underneath the sliced onion. You would stand with the heel of your shoe just beside the slices while opening it. The letter might be from a friend, filled with some news, and asking how are you? at your new place. A fly might come in the window and land nearby as you read. That evening, beside the onion, you write in your journal, "Cloudy again. A fly came to onion earlier; no other visitors. Received letter from R. Stood for several hours. Heard something fall over and scatter outside at lunch time. Plan to stay at onion until the end of the month." You sleep on the floor and wake disoriented and frightened, uncertain if the heaviness surrounding your sleep is onion that still permeates your fingers. Day comes to your estranged bed, the mood of the bathtub inexplicably altered; the smell of the darkened kitchen, the morning hallway, the evening chairs. Alone on the couch in the daytime you say something aloud, and it's not your own voice that carries through the living room, but a voice that comes from in front of you and everything moves towards it.

The Sound Of Peeling A Potato

Polished shoes, and the world shines in them like a heaven. Green grass on a sunny November afternoon and the Leaning Tower of Pisa just in sight. A low thump close to the ground just before dark over some hills, talking to someone in your head who bears witness to your thoughts. Lovers at a wintry lake covered at night with snow. The car pulled up so close to the edge. Cold in black relief. Small cabins in a circle. What will happen? They'll wait five hundred years while they sit and listen to a potato being peeled. Not for all the blue sky will they know, not for all the summer grasses, not for the creamiest cheek that turns its lips the same forever for a lover on train over a hillside.


It's not happiness, but something else; waiting for the light to change; a bakery.

It's a lake. It emerges from darkness into the next day surrounded by pines. There's a couple.

It's a living room. The upholstery is yellow and the furniture is walnut. They used to lie down on the carpet

between the sofa and the coffee table, after the guests had left.

The cups and saucers were still.

Their memories of everything that occurred took place with the other's face as a backdrop and sometimes

the air was grainy like a movie about evening, and sometimes there was an ending in the air that looked like a scene from a different beginning,

in which they are walking.

It took place alongside a scene in which one of them looks up at a brown rooftop early in March. The ground hadn't softened.

One walked in front of the other breathing. The other saw a small house as they passed and breathed. The reflections in the windows

made them hear the sounds on the hill: a crow, a dog, and branches-and they bent into the hour that started just then, like bending to walk under branches.

Department Store

You're a realist. It's a department store. God is never there,

even when everyone goes home at night.

A saleswoman left her dark gray wool skirt laid out on a chair when she went to bed.

The room was quiet while the woman slept. The skirt didn't pray.

The skirt was lined with shadows from the blinds. The lines moved around the room through the night. The saleswoman breathed into the shadows. Her breath, the heat, the faint smell of supper she had made earlier passed through the skirt.

It was a long time since any speaking but it was as though there had been speaking.

Night was long and day began forever. The skirt was different than the night before.

A History Of Something

For the pilgrims, turkey was what was in style. They dressed up like guns.

Tonight, it's macaroni with oregano, tomato, and ham, and the kitchen light comes from the butter and cheese. You're sitting where you always sit. Every night at dinner you're sitting with the phrase "down the hall," because you look down at the dark hall from your chair at the kitchen table and wonder if it's snowing.

Your toes turn a certain way and you say, "ears." You sit on the floor and try to play cards, but before you know it, you're smushing the Jack of Diamonds and the Queen of Hearts together and making them have sex and also making the Queen of Clubs watch, thinking, Jack's got that

weird little beard I always knew he was up to no good- the Jack of Hearts would never do it with the Queen of Spades she's in a totally different plotline wait till the king finds out.

You go to your piano lesson. You stink. You try to play, "Surrey With The Fringe On Top," for the entire no one that will ever listen. Walking home at twilight, the city buses you have no reason to ride, you feel immoral, just from walking in the cold, smelling something like smoke, and maybe if you had a bus routine, where you waited, and used quarters to buy just rice to eat for dinner, you'd be closer to god?

Letter Poem #5

Dear Turning Black,

I went to see the hypnotist the other night and all the next day into the night that followed. I've just come from there, I think. The sun is coming up. I'm watching a movie about winter. Two people are walking across a snowy field at twilight. In my room, too, it's winter, can see my breath in bed, cold on the windows. In the night I saw myself in the mirror as though I had Down's syndrome, or a stroke, wondered how I could still think, where myself had gone to to leave behind this slack-faced person, incogent with a heavy lip, thinking with a limp. I must be inhabiting you someplace close to here- out in the part of this cold morning that's visible and the rest of this cold morning that isn't, for miles; how am I supposed to see for miles? from in here? how am I supposed to see with you in the middle of me?


A little, wood statue of Buddha, that you can't help but see as a drunk, old grandpa, with corn in his teeth. So you go to the hospital, just to visit his son. But then you have to go every day for weeks, and things keep changing. Christmas comes before you know it, and it's backyard footprints in the snow from the window, and grandpa's yelling at you, as though he's channeling some asshole from another century, who still wants to get his licks in somehow. The icy harbor, plaid. And then it's not Christmas anymore but it still gets dark early, headlights on at four; they come toward you going "Hurry home!" You just want to kill yourself, but no, you don't want to kill yourself? You pass a nursery on your way home from the hospital. You've never been to that one. "I thought I had been to all of them with my mother," you think, but this was the one where everyone else went. Your sister makes up a song in the car about her new couch. You take turns singing the made-up verses. You drive past the water. Do you go ahead and laugh at the water?

Letter Poem #6

Dear February,

I know we'll be together again; they can't stop us, they don't even want to: why would they even care? There are too many buses, no one can keep track of them all, in winter, when they come up Main Street every fourth person. Your purples- how do I say it? They are not even purple; it's as though you make all the houses ugly again, every day- god how I love that- what you do with aluminum siding, it's practically music- it's like listening to a bus pull away- If only you knew how it is not to understand why seeing people's breath in the street is not the same as snowing- it's like chewing gum, smoking a cigarette, getting cramps, throwing up, making out in the dunes on the hillside above a chimney town.


Finally you arrive at a small bungalow with a thatched roof and bamboo frame. Inside, is every face you've ever made. You leave in a hurry, just go right back outside and stand a few feet away with your back to the door. Nearby, a gathering of wives are seated at a bamboo table. They wear suits and dainty shoes and little anguish veils across their faces. They have expensive, sharp silverware. You wonder what will they eat? As a special, expensive touch, they have handmade White House and Pentagon salt-and-pepper shakers. Why do you feel sorry for them? A waiter in a white jacket passes swiftly carrying a silver-domed tray. You make a face but you have no idea what it is, and then you picture what face you would make if you were someone else. It's the "disgusted-and-relieved- neighbor-over-the-garden-fence-I'm-glad-that's-not- my-problem" face. You figure both faces are going in the hut. You wonder where in the hut will they go? There was a group of faces that looked like sorrow, and like envy, and indigestion, but all at once, and they were marked with peacock feathers; maybe these faces went there. Or with the group that was labeled, "Revulsion Exultation." Those faces had crescent-moon eyes and lips stretched to cry out without a sound, a face that really starts from the throat. Or maybe it was a more contained sort of face, like the ones called, "Mustache Skepticism"; it's like a string is pulling one corner of the mouth, one nostril, and the corner of one eye and eyebrow. In those, you become a skeptical man with a dark mustache, even if, in real life, you're a glamorous marketing agent with the latest pants and everything you do makes little, delicate, sexual sounds, like the sound of your wallet closing, or your little high-heeled boots coming down the hall. The wives make little sounds like that, and other ones. They're scraping their cutlery on their plates and every so often you have the feeling that one of them hit the tines of her fork against her front teeth by accident, because she couldn't really see through the veil. You feel sorry for them. You can't stand them. You wish you were a marketing agent. The waiter's name is Mr. B. You go into the women's room hut and in the stall you make faces that make you feel like Mr. B until you can weep like him and as you weep you peek through the stall at the mirror at bald eyes pleading something mottled to themselves very close.

Not For Chopin

Don't put off your shower any more listening to Chopin. Take the Preludes personally; he's telling you that he can describe a progression that you yourself have been unable to see, shapely, broad light at one-thirty, evening traveling up a road, an overcast day as gentle bones. Don't remember the music; remember it as something obvious that you are compelled, doomed, to obscure and complicate. You erase it twice. The first time as you listened, unable to have it, the second time as you were unable to remember it. Angry with Chopin, what does he know? The components of your dinner are waiting for you downstairs. The golden evening takes flat, slow turns outside. Become gray. Listen to him describe what you would be like if you were blind, sitting in a chair, at a wake, the days short, that there might be nothing else, night, content, unable, unwishing, to recall desire, or sight.


Excerpted from It Is Daylight by Arda Collins Copyright © 2009 by Arda Collins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by LOUISE GLÜCK....................vii
The News....................1
Pool #3....................4
With A Voice In Front Of You....................5
The Sound Of Peeling A Potato....................7
Department Store....................9
A History Of Something....................10
Letter Poem #5....................12
Letter Poem #6....................16
Not For Chopin....................20
From Speaking In The Fall....................22
Because It Has To Be This Way....................24
Pool #13....................27
Pool #10....................28
It Is Daylight....................29
Garden Apartments....................32
Pool #8....................36
Over No Hills....................40
Poem #9....................42
Central Park South....................48
Bed Poem....................54
Arctic Poem....................59
Parts Of An Argument....................80
The Sky As With Bells As With Nothing In It....................89
Snow On The Apples....................90
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