Up Close: Katie Ford

Katie Ford, assistant professor of English at Franklin ?& Marshall, received a Lannan Literary Fellowship ?in 2008. Ford is the author of two collections of poetry, Deposition (Graywolf, 2002) and Colosseum (Graywolf, 2008), which was selected as one of the Best Books ?of 2008 by Publishers Weekly. Her poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Paris Review and Ploughshares, among other journals.

Katie FordAt Franklin & Marshall, Ford teaches classes in creative writing and poetry. She has graduate degrees in theology from Harvard University and in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is married to the novelist ?Josh Emmons.

The Lannan Fellowship comes with a $100,000 award. ?How do you spend $100,000?

The foundation doesn’t stipulate how a writer spends the funding. Writers tend to use such awards to buy themselves time to write or space in which to write. I haven’t made ?a move toward either of these things, or anything, really. Perhaps someday I will.

Do you have a writing routine?

Full-time teaching makes a writing routine rather difficult. ?If I had no job, however, I don’t know that a particular routine would be very crucial to my work. Sometimes a rigorous routine brings about rather forced or contrived poetry. ?But, writers do have to “show up” for their art to happen. ?If I have any routine whatsoever, it’s that I read before I write. ?I read myself into writing.

What writing advice do you give to your students?

I hear myself saying “be specific” a lot. I ask them to put more detail into their language, to have a rich and textured vocabulary, to remember that a reader experiences the world of their writing through sensory experience, so they must ?fill their work with imagery. Those are basics. With advanced students, they each come with a different dilemma, so we meet one-on-one to discuss what is happening and not happening in their work. They should be reading more than they are writing. So I read poems with them and recommend writers they should read as guides. I hope my students know when I’m happy with their work, as well as when they are leaving their reader unsatisfied.

Tell me about Colosseum and its inspiration.

Colosseum is a book about ruins, I think—ancient, modern, architectural, bodily. I don’t think things (bodies and minds, mostly) have been built very well. When New Orleans flooded, and I was living there, the storm became part ?of the story I was already telling in my book. The book ?is not fully about New Orleans, but it is, I think, about destruction, human violence and divine silence.

What are you working on now?

Poems. I just work poem by poem. I don’t have another ?book in mind yet. Right now on my desk I have a draft ?called “Little Goat” and another called “Explanations” ?and another called “The Year of Little Heartbreak.” ?They’re just scraps of images and ideas right now, ?but hopefully I’ll get to them soon.

Do you have a favorite poem that you’ve written?

Right now I like a recent poem I wrote called “Pistol.” ?Poets usually like their most recent poem best.

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