lately, when asked how are you, i
respond with a name no longer living
Rekia, Jamar, Sandra
i am alive by luck at this point. i wonder
often: if the gun that will unmake me
is yet made, what white birth
will bury me, how many bullets, like a
flock of blue jays,
Donte Collins was born on May 4, 1996, in Chicago Heights, Illinois. A student at Augsburg College and author of Autopsy (Button Poetry, 2017), Collins is the winner of the 2016 Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award for their poem “what the dead know by heart.” About the poem, judge Toi Derricotte says:
I am amazed and thrilled by the formal sophistication and the emotional maturity of this young poet. While it is brave, and necessary, to name the names and the count the wounds of the boys who have been murdered, Donte Collins goes much deeper. They capture the trembling heart of the living boy as they walk through the world in their targeted body. “what the dead know by heart” takes us beneath the armament to the fraught existence of one who wonders “if the gun that will unmake me / is yet made;” one whose survival is conditional on another’s death, “today I did / not die . . . the bullet missed my head / and landed in another.” This is a voice to be encouraged. I look forward to reading Donte Collins in the future.
Collins sits on the youth advisory board of TruArtSpeaks, a nonprofit encouraging literacy, leadership, and social justice through the study and application of spoken word and hip-hop culture and is an editor at Button Poetry, the largest distributor of spoken word poetry in the world. Collins performs across the country and has had his work featured on AfroPunk, Elephant Journal, Feminist Culture, and more. They live in Saint Paul, Minnesota.