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The Traveling Queen

Michael Collins
Sheep Meadow Press
87 pages
Reviewed by Leslie Haídez De Jesús

TAGS: Michael Collins, Sheep Meadow Press, slavery, Queen Elizabeth

Around the world via stanzas! Author Michael Collins takes history and creative writing and creates a variety of poetic elixirs that would sooth any history buff’s soul in his latest collection of poetry, The Traveling Queen. Mr. Collins holds a PhD from Columbia University and teaches English at Texas A&M. He is also the author of Understanding Etheridge Knight, his graduate dissertation, and Six Sketches: When A Soul Breaks. Mr. Collins has also contributed literary criticism, creative nonfiction, journalism and fiction in various publications such as PML, Callaloo, and Singapore's The Straits Times.

The Traveling Queen is not what this reviewer originally anticipated, meaning it wasn’t the general norms of poetry (love, life, despair, etc). The play on historic events, such as the tribute to a African American freedom pioneer Harriet Tubman, was an appreciative respite from what may be a perceived dullness of the poetry genre in general. The snobby depiction of Queen Victoria is amusing as well, and adds a pleasant flavor to the tone of the poems.

Collins’s poetry allows for an "anything goes" mantra, but the play of stanzas based on history is interesting and encourages one to think, or even research what's been said. However, his piece "The Bargain", while short in length, paints a wonderfully vivid picture of an expectant slave mother who has fallen ill to smallpox. She goes into labor and as her son takes his first breath of life, she firmly said, "He'll be worth a thousand!" as she dies. This was an emotive touch that moves the soul; it is easy to visualize the woman delivering her son, and dying as he's being sold like cattle.  The end result is heartbreaking, yet resonant.

Poetry lovers looking for a deep-rooted twist should try The Traveling Queen. It's a poetic journey through various parts of world history and definitely will provide a different, deeper perspective on the past and its relevance to the present. Collins has written a quirky read that will engage the interests of different readers, even those for whom poetry is not a preferred genre.


Leslie Haídez De Jesus is from the Bronx. Her poetic style stems from her personal experiences. She doesn't like to refer to herself as an artist because her writing style works more like a random moment. "I can only write, when I feel it," she says. Look for her first poetry book, PhatGyrlzRule-Image iz Everything, which should be due this year. For more information, contactinfo@phatgyrl.com.

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