I was asked to read this collection of poetry in college as part of a reflection and connection project in a creative writing class. I fell in love with the way she described the pain behind the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and I recently felt the urge to revisit it.
Colosseum by Katie Ford was an outstanding work of collective poetry. It was easy to decipher just what she was talking about when she depicted the many different sights of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. Ford was present in New Orleans during the vicious storm. Each poem was heavy with symbolism and emotion and the poem that hit me hardest was only four lines long and titled Earth. It says:
If you respect the dead
and recall where they died
by this time tomorrow
there will be nowhere to walk.
It was easy to know that she was referring to the fact that New Orleans is located below sea level. Most of the bodies are, therefore, buried above the ground and when the hurricane hit they rose from their graves and were scattered everywhere. Most of the bodies had to be reburied in mass or unmarked graves along with those who died during Katrina.
Her poetry is easy to read and understand and she gives you the sense that you were there suffering alongside the locals.
She includes touching phrases from other poets, one of these being in the very beginning of her book and it says: “there, as here, ruin opens the tomb, the temple; enter” H.D. I love that she included this at the beginning of her book because it lets the reader know that they are about to enter a sacred environment located in the poet’s mind. This collection is full of sorrow as well as images that shock the audience.
Katie Ford begins her collection with Beirut. It is a poem about life for which she begins by saying, “Ruin is a promise we make to each other;” It is a beautiful foreshadowing into the picture Ford will paints. To me, these lines mean so many different things. On the one hand, it could mean that ruin, fate, or even deaths are inevitable. She may even refer to love being mortal.
Ford uses a lack of punctuation and capitalization, I believe, to emphasize on the ever-flowing thought process one experiences in a time of crisis. It’s beautiful and forces the reader to carefully consider what she’s saying.
Because this collection is about Hurricane Katrina the first section is titled storm. One of the first poems is Tell Us in which she describes the panic that set into the people of New Orleans when word of the storm reached them. She asks what will become of the animals in the zoo as well as the oil rigs at sea bringing to light all the different thing and creatures that suffer from a natural tragedy like this. There are so many things affected by a natural disaster such as this one that you just wouldn’t think of. A powerful statement closes this poem: “therefore ready yourself but do not panic you cannot be ready”
I may be one of the few who found hope and love in this situation. Because of Hurricane Katrina a female Catahoula Leopard Dog, which happens to be the state dog of Louisiana, was airlifted from a roof and rescued from the storm. In transit to her new home, which ended up being Chicago, Illinois, she gave birth to a litter of nine puppies of all different colors. I was lucky enough to end up with one of these puppies who is now my registered ESA. I can’t imagine life without him. His name is Dingo and his picture is featured at the bottom of this review.
One cannot be ready for tragedy, death, or the future. This is what Katie Ford wants us to know. Her book captures the loss of life as well as the fragility of the human spirit. I enjoyed this collection because I was so young when Hurricane Katrina hit that I was shielded from the horror and aftermath of the deadly storm. These poems allowed me a look into the eye of the storm through the eye of the beholder and realize the love, loss, and rebirth of a great habitation.
You can find more of Katie Ford’s Poetry on Poets.org
Page 12 – Rarely
I threw tarps over a life
and never could they reach –
Still hastily I gathered
tarps more rare by the hour
take your rarities.
Take your household gods.
If you have no gods:
Page 14 – Ark
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.
Page 31 – Flag
Some come to this ruin and raise a flag.
Some take a prophet too soon by the hand.
The dead are still lost and the lost nearly dead:
here a woman spills onto her porch to show
she has opened her wrists. What did she use?
She used the wind.