The Emotional Endurance of a Storm: Katie Ford's New Work
Reviewed by Bianca Chapman


Ezra Pound uttered a philosophical mandate while addressing the content of a poem when he proclaimed, “Only emotion endures.” In modern poetics, there is a strive towards variation, authenticity and originality, but few come close to the emotional immortality Pound wished for future poets to capture, claim, and extend as legacy. Katie Ford, however, reveals the propensity and strength towards exciting a new generation of believers towards the audacity of emotion. In her chapbook entitled “Storm” she blends textures of life with poignant and vivid language, breathtaking imagery, philosophical depth, and lyrical precision all while remaining true to the essence of raw emotion. She writes from a depth of intimacy and reveals the character of a nation overwhelmed with new tragedy.

Her pieces provide a lived history of the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans while carefully handling the substance of information with the gentle nature similar to polishing glass menagerie. The intensity of human voice and memory is heralded in the piece entitled “he said.” She uses the organic potency of colloquial language and repetition to paint a picture of loss while centering in on the variant nature of gossip and the re-telling of any story.

what killings I said of citizens I said

don’t worry he said not innocent ones

you should have heard my buddy he said

The repetition of the phrase “I said” resounds into the psyche as much as the images of loss. In this case, the language is used to grant the emotional rendition and physical composition of integrated speech and memory. The thought and perspective maintain respectfully an inherent symmetry throughout the piece with the composition of couplets. The symmetry, however, reiterates the continuous nature of the event as well as the ambiguity of the speaker. These characteristics heighten the social statement as well as the permeation of the event into the reader’s mind.

In her piece entitled, “ark,” Ford uses the power of the collective to demonstrate the unapologetic nature of the complacent and biased observer. The piece offers technical precision, powerful line breaks, “the saved are/ always us, meaning:/,” as well as a fully developed rhetorical argument, embraced by the usage of the personal perspective.

We love the stories of flood and the few

told to prepare in advance by their god.

In that story, the saved are

always us, meaning:

whoever holds the book.

Here she comments on the hierarchal nature of history, society, and religious contexts. She also addresses the specific information involving the hurricane rescue efforts. There is an emotional frustration rendered in the piece by its use of the first-person perspective, as well as a reflective stance taken on behalf of the writer. By criticizing herself and the collective ‘we,’ she involves the reader in a self-examination. She also criticizes the very nature of writing and documenting history due to the tainted effect of allocated power, and a society that focuses on survivors while excluding victims.

Ford’s magnificent hold on the power of image, voice, and detail shines in the heartbreaking piece, “tell us.” She ignites the intensity of dramatic movement as she illustrates the scene, giving each intimate detail and thought its own area on the page. The momentum builds as the list continues while the ‘radio’ is rendered as an omnipresent being, relinquishing the questions and indications of the pressing hour directly before the hurricane.

the radio is coming in

all over us a caller asks what will

be done for the animals

of the zoo the oil rigs

at sea the stranded

of the dome

The heightened emotion of the piece is rendered through the specificity of image as well as the precision of form. Each line break builds the tension and recreates the sense of worry and anticipation. The use of numerical digits also heightens the dramatic setting of the piece. The final three stanzas of the piece introduce the 2nd person address to further include the reader into the environment. The conclusion duplicates the strength of the storm, the calmness felt in the eye of the storm, and the universal helplessness of human beings against nature.

your absolute nakedness

the barest accident of you

will stand before its organized eye4

The poem ends with a powerful reflection on the inevitability of fate and the uselessness of emotional desperation.

therefore ready yourself

but do not panic

you cannot be ready

Perhaps readiness will never be available to the mortal beings, transitioning from one moment to another in anticipation for the inevitable. There is always the possibility of tragedy, of the undeserving events to take away the edifications of ability. In this sense, the world will always need poets of Ford’s caliber. Literature relies on the craftsmanship of the prolific, the ability and audacity to capture the human spirit in detailed accounts of emotion that will frequent the memories of its readers and the readers to come. Ford upholds the quality of value of the innate human experience as it confronts and tries to swallow tragedy, injustice, and loss. She demonstrates her ability through the efficiency of emotion. Pound would be proud.