alibi online
Weekly Alibi PodcastFree Will AstrologyAlibi's Personals
 V.17 No.37 | September 11 - 17, 2008 

Poetry Review

One City is Enough

Colosseum by Katie Ford


Katie Ford

Many of our greatest poets came to us in ruins. The gouging lyrics of the Greek poet Sappho, for instance, were rescued from strips of papyri. Heraclitus was famous in his time, but all we have left of his great works are fragments that echo powerfully, spookily across the millennia.

What happens, though, when a poet sets out to construct ruins 2,000 years in advance? The result is a book like Philadelphia-based poet Katie Ford's new volume, Colosseuma collection full of self-conscious occlusions, far-reaching links and some oracular, beautiful lines.

Before Ford moved to the tri-state area, she lived in New Orleans, and this book is haunted by the storms that transformed the city forever. The poems about Katrina, and its aftermath, are the strongest work in the book. Ford worries less about what the event means and more about how to bring it to life in a poem.

And she can do that heartbreakingly well. Ford's sludgy lines eddy and snag on unexpected lyricisms: “Blue tarps drape the oysters/harvested from contaminated beds,” she writes in “Fish Market,” "silverlings caught from trestles of the resealed lake."

"Snakes" is another marvelous, deeply upsetting piece of work:

In New Orleans, snakes followed the flood

into the houses

They moved like completely sane machines, able to execute

their bodies perfectly. Little storms all over,

coil after coil of mimicry

Colosseum, if it's not clear already, is pitched as a work of testimony. The weight of that role presses down hard on some of these poems, though. "I wanted so much to be and swallow and/carry and bear and have a mind to mind," Ford writes in "Vessel."

Unfortunately, this desire to make the flood mean something—an understandable human wish after so much destruction—strangles some of Ford's poems, turning them into a state of breathless lament: "Something please tell me I'm wrong/about impermanence," she writes in "The Shape of Us."

Searching for a narrative, a context, a line out of now into the past, Ford detours through the savaging of other cities—Beirut, Damascus, Nagasaki—but none of these poems have the power of those about New Orleans. The world is vast and full of suffering, indeed; sadly, Katrina was hardly the beginning. If only, though, this poet had recognized that the destruction of one city is enough to move us.


Today's Events

Thunder Boy Jr. at Bookworks

Sherman Alexie
Lee Towndrow

Author Sherman Alexie talks about his new children's picture book, a story about a boy who must find his own identity despite being named after his father. Book signing follows the talk.

The Drunken City at Cell Theatre

DoƱana, Four Seasons at National Hispanic Cultural Center

More Recommended Events ››
Join our mailing list for exclusive info, the week's events and free stuff!

  • Select sidebar boxes to add below. You can also click and drag to rearrange the boxes; close using the little X icons on each box. To re-add a box you closed, return to this menu.
  • Because you are not logged in, any changes you make to these boxes will vanish as soon as you click to another page. If you log in, the boxes will stick.
  • Latest Posts
  • Web Exclusives
  • Recent Rocksquawk Discussions
  • Recent Classifieds
  • Latest User Posts
  • Most Active Users
  • Most Active Stories
  • Calendar Comments
  • Upcoming Alibi Picks
  • Albuquerque
  • Duke City Fix
  • Albuquerque Beer Scene
  • What's Wrong With This Picture?
  • Reddit Albuquerque
  • ABQ Journal Metro
  • ABQrising
  • ABQ Journal Latest News
  • Albuquerque
  • NM and the West
  • New Mexico FBIHOP
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • Only in New Mexico
  • Mario Burgos
  • Democracy for New Mexico
  • High Country News
  • El Grito
  • NM Politics with Joe Monahan
  • Stephen W. Terrell's Web Log
  • The Net Is Vast and Infinite
  • Slashdot
  • Freedom to Tinker
  • Is there a feed that should be on this list? Tell us about it.
    TroyBoi Live
    TroyBoi Live6.11.2016