Gathering Leaves for War

$14, Paper

Purchase Online: Finishing Line Press

“It is a violence from within that protects us from a violence without,” Wallace Stevens declared. “It is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality.” Chris Collins’ poetry presses back against the horrific realities of war with an unflinching gaze and a poetic language hammered out of experience. These lyrically taut, imagistic poems yoke together the gruesome and the mundane, tenderness and brutality, the solace of domesticity and the anxieties of the battlefield. Gathering Leaves for War is an essential addition to our 21st century poetry of witness.”

—Brian Barker, author of The Black Ocean

“These poems are the distilled dispatches of an American soldier who has survived multiple deployments in the Middle East.  As such they would be an important document even if they lacked “literary” value.  The fact that Chris Collins is a real poet—that he has the gift to accurately sing of war, in memorable language—is for the reader both pleasure and discomfiting challenge. The terms are stark, the poems neither console nor rally: Collins’ language has the precision and functionality of an M-4 carbine.  We see through the restless soldier’s eye, we feel with him the ever-imminent threat of annihilation.  And yet we are reminded, again and again, that soldiers are not machines, and the many moments of tenderness—both in battle and back at home, where the poet’s young son and wife also struggle with war’s legacy—are perhaps more startling than the images of violence.  When we are told the color of a young Arab girl’s burqah (blue), and that, walking in the street, her foot “grazed the curb,” an instant before she exploded into confetti colored mist, we are at the heart of man-made horror.  This book uses words to remind us that war is not made of words; Chris Collins writes the fallen, the mourners, the survivors, and the “innocent bystanders” with indelible ink.”

—Jeffrey Skinner, author of Living Water