Library of Small Catastrophes

Alison C. Rollins

With a nod to Borges’s fascination with libraries, this ambitious first collection by Alison C. Rollins—a librarian herself—archives the grist and grind of life with marvelous linguistic agility and philosophical sapience. “Memory is about the future, not the past,” she reminds, and offers poems as maps: counting teeth and time, marking punctuation and punishment, and remembering disappeared histories. Inside her indexed precision, Rollins leaves plenty of room for wilderness—the leaking body, the music of tragedy, the personal lament—cataloguing love and loss on an existential scale.

ISBN: 9781556595394

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Alison C. Rollins, born and raised in St. Louis, currently works as a reference and instruction librarian for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Howard University and a Master of Library and Information Science form the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Rollins has worked for various public libraries including the DC Public Library and St. Louis Public Library. She is the second prizewinner of the 2016 James H. Nash Poetry contest and …

Read more


“A collection of poetry which is magnificently crafted, readable, and crucially important.” —New York Journal of Books

“In poem after poem, Rollins demonstrates that she is finding her own way, shining a light, making darkness apparent.” —Publishers Weekly

“In a stunning debut collection of poems, Alison C. Rollins makes use of imagery relating to archives, texts, figures from history, card catalogs, classifications—libraries as evocative troves of imagery, blurring eras, familiar phrases and identities.” —Naomi Shihab Nye, New York Times Magazine 

“Sparkles with compassionate intelligence…” —Adroit Journal

“Rollins explores the ways in which we store our personal and cultural histories and how they act upon us, in language so immediate and evocative it’s sure to bring about some tears while reading.” —Buzzfeed

“In Library of Small Catastrophes, Alison C. Rollins cements her place as a critical voice in contemporary poetry.” —Muzzle Magazine

“Like Whitman in Song of Myself, Rollins is striving in Library of Small Catastrophes to encompass a broad swath of what it is to be here and human… Rollins’s poems are weighty, strange, full to bursting, inspired, musical, and various. They, dare I say it, ‘contain multitudes.'”—The Bind

“To say that Rollins’s writing is anything other than magic would be foolish—every line, even the tragic, violent, and painful, is bent towards the work of creating a better world for us all. Her collection is a call to living with complexity, turmoil, and change as closely knit in our hearts as tranquility; there’s no other way to remake the world we live in, the foundations of our society.” —Colorado Review


Finalist, Balcones Poetry Prize 2019

Nominee, Hurston/Wright Legacy Award 2020