Sonnet 31

Katie Ford

Do you think I don’t know that when I say LordI might be singing into the silo where nothing is stored,where it is written low lights were confusedby skyward light and flew its bodiesas birds against walls?Well, everyone thrashesagainst a wallin this life.I don’t know what I mean,but I mean it. I don’t know what to want,but I want it. And when I say Godit’s because no one can know it—not ever,not at all—. It’s a wall.And it drops to the floor as I fall.

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Helge Brekke

Katie Ford is the author of If You Have to Go and three previous poetry collections: Blood Lyrics, named a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Colosseum, recognized as a “Best Book of the Year” by Publishers Weekly and the Virginia Quarterly Review; and Deposition. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Larry Levis Reading Prize, she teaches at the University of California, Riverside.

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Minneapolis, Minnesota

The poems in Katie Ford’s fourth collection implore their audience—the divine and the human—for attention, for revelation, and, perhaps above all, for companionship. The extraordinary sequence at the heart of this book taps into the radical power of the sonnet form, bending it into a kind of metaphysical and psychological outcry. Beginning in the cramped space of selfhood—in the bedroom, cluttered with doubts, and in the throes of marital loss—these poems edge toward the clarity of “what I can know and admit to knowing.” In song and in silence, Ford inhabits the rooms of anguish and redemption with scouring exactness. This is poetry that “can break open, // it can break your life, it will break you // until you remain.” If You Have to Go is Ford’s most luminous and moving collection.
“Faith and doubt — in love, in God — course through Ford’s powerful fourth book, anchored by a long sonnet sequence about the end of a marriage. ‘It comes, then it goes, then it never was.’”
The New York Times Book Review
“To convey her overwhelming sense of loss about the dissolution of her marriage, Katie Ford presents a strange, almost fairy tale realm. . . . As the narrative unfolds, in 39 sonnets, readers are led through a kingdom that includes a cold, distant lord, beasts of burden and multiple rooms for those who are stuck there. This landscape allows the speaker to slowly work through her feelings — from despondency . . . to equanimity. The journey also serves as a quest of sorts, as her shattered sense of self slowly begins to mend.”
The Washington Post
“Throughout four books, Ford has crafted lyrics that dwell on pain and beauty in equal measure.”
The San Francisco Chronicle

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