Ars Poetica: Access – Cortney Collins

Photo: Alice Donavan Rouse

An award-winning photojournalist once told me

anyone can learn to take a good photo.

It’s not technique.

It’s access.


to a riot breaking out on an angry street.

to a woman who has just lost her finger
climbing over a chain-link fence
crossing the border into Texas.

to the dusty rubble,
and everything beneath,
moments after a bomb
has incinerated a home.

to a sun-washed bedroom
where a seven year old child
has just died of cancer
in his mother & father’s arms.

Poetry is not just metaphor and meter,
allegory and alliteration.

Poetry is access:

to the secret hobbies of protozoans.

to the color of chlorophyll.

to the lover you secretly yearn for
but know will destroy you.

to enough magic to bring
your cat back from a velvet
bag of ashes embroidered
with his name.

A poem can only be

what it can access.

Cortney Collins is a poet living in Longmont, CO. A four-time winner of Fort Collins’ First Friday Poetry Slam at The Bean Cycle, her work has been published by South Broadway Ghost Society, Amethyst Review, Devil’s Party Press, Back Patio Press, 24hr Neon Mag, The Naropa Vagina Monologues Zine, and is forthcoming in Tiny Spoon Lit Mag. During these strange and surreal times, she hosts a weekly poetry virtual open mic, Zoem. She shares a home with her beloved cat, Pablo, and tries to eat just the right amount of kale.


This poem is from our first print collection
of poetry,  “Thought For Food”, an anthology
benefiting Denver Food Rescue. To support
our fundraiser, please visit this link.

Thought For Food Promotional 1

glossolalia – cortney collins


This refuses to be written. It’s the pistachio
stuck in the shell
that won’t crack open.
I spread out my collages on the living room floor—
the ones made in secret, midnights, gluesticks and jazz—
chose the holiest one, with seahorses and clocks
and pieces of words from a language I didn’t realize
I was fluent in until you understood;
put it in your hands for you to take home
and prop up on your kitchen counter.
I annotate this poem with my incoherence,
and erase the footnotes.
I stole my collage back
while you were passed out on the couch
and locked it up with everything else,
the life-force bleached out. It was
a casket of bones lowered into the ground,
never looked at again.
A famous folks singer said in an interview that musicians
these days, they don’t know where the music
is coming from. I don’t know
where anything I speak these days is coming from.
Consonants spliced together form
burial mounds. Vowels, a train moving artifacts
along a distant track.
The impact of stone
on a taut surface of water shattered
the stone, not the water.
I am inchoate fissures now,
uttering fragments of
our native tongue.


Cortney Collins is a poet living on the Eastern Plains of Colorado, in Eaton. She is equal parts metropolitan bustle and unincorporated railroad town, prairie and ocean, kale and Cheetos. She co-facilitates a weekly creative writing workshop for persons on probation in conjunction with SpeakOut!. This is her first published poem.

Photo: Patrick Tomasso