by Katie Ford
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.
From Colosseum (Graywolf), copyright 2008 Katie Ford
Sonya Posmentier writes:
I’ve chosen this poem from Katie Ford’s Colosseum in honor of hurricane season. Ford’s book is one of a few recent poetry collections responding to Hurricane Katrina—see also, Ray McDaniel’s Saltwater Empire and Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler. In different ways, these books all engage the question of whose experience is this, or whose story is this to tell. Ford’s beautifully compressed poem seems to ask not only about who gets to tell the story, but who gets to read it. The poem binds the speaker-poet and the reader into an empowered “We.”
What does the conclusion of the poem suggest about the power of holding “the book”? It’s hard not to picture Prospero, here. Is this about literacy–either in a literal sense or in some broader cultural sense?
What do you think about Ford’s turn to the universal, on the one hand (“stories of flood”) and, on the other, to the particular biblical story implied by the title? What does it mean to contextualize Katrina in this way?