Admit One: An American Scrapbook

“A strikingly original collection that combines brilliant storytelling and compelling commentary on ethics and race. The interwoven poems begin with the speaker’s grandparents entering the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, where technological advances and artistic marvels were proudly displayed, as were examples of ‘inferior’ human beings, such as Ota Benga, a Congolese Pygmy who was later housed in the primate exhibit of the new Bronx Zoo. The poems follow his short, sad life and the rise of Madison Grant, a hunter friend of Theodore Roosevelt who created the zoo. Grant later became a key proponent of the eugenics movement. Collins, who has published seven previous books of poetry, doesn’t sensationalize the material. Exquisitely spare, these works recount some of the sinister moments of American history, quietly pushing readers to learn from those episodes and consider our collective responsibility for them. As she writes in Admit One: “hate to have to concede/ as evidence into the record/ we have to guilt mistake own/ as a right openly into.”

—Washington Post