Literature 2-13-2007

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Terri Ford

"What Light" presents a new poem by a Minnesota poet every week. The work is chosen by a jury of writers, publishers, and editors, and sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers. Look for the anthology of What Light poems: publication date is March 1.

Terri Ford

What I Learned at the Stenotype Institute

In the night school, I had a wall-eyed teacher, younger
than me, owner of a hamster named Ophelia, who,
in some sort of rodent violence,
lost an eye. Our teacher, blonde and fearful
of the personal ads which she ceaselessly scoped, recounted to
the class how she carried Ophelia to the vet (in itself, like repairing
a disposable lighter), how the vet warned her
Ophelia could die of fright on the table, the hamster
constitution being delicate, gossamer, requiring all veterinary
personnel to whisper in surgery. Imagine the vet surveying
his vat of eyes, humming quietly: horse eye, Sammy Davis
Jr. eye, cat eye, doll eye, ah! the tiny
hamster eye is selected and popped into the cavity. Ophelia

was saved. That is what I remember
from night school, along
with some assorted steno abbreviations,
like “f-u-k,” signifying “if
you can.”


Miss Ford is lucky. She is made entirely of mangoes with a melting popsicle center. Her public regularly asks her the following questions: How do you spell that? What are you, 12? You wore that to work? What is your real hair color? Little-known facts: She once applied for a job at Slender World. She once made a friend laugh so hard that her tampon fell out. A former Poet Laureate once wrote a sentence in Miss Ford’s evaluation that began, “Now that Ford is no longer promiscuously exclamatory. . .” I’m reading Alex Lemon’s Mosquito and Amy Sedaris’s I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.


Miss Terri Ford attended the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson
College, lo, back in the ‘50s. Since then she’s received numerous grants and
awards, including a Kentucky Arts Council fellowship and an Ohio Arts
Council fellowship. She was the Ohio Arts Council writer in residence at
the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts during the summer
of 2000. Her first book of poems, Why the Ships Are She, was published by
Four Way Books in 2001 and she was a fellow at Bread Loaf that same year.
Miss Ford‚s second book, Hams beneath the Firmament, is forthcoming in
2007 with the re-issue of her first book; she is exceedingly pleased to be
appearing as a boxed set. Her poems always appear in Forklift, Ohio because
Matt Hart filches them first. Her work has also appeared in Ploughshares,
Agni, Conduit
and numerous other publications, including the anthologies
Poetry Daily: The Best from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website
(Sourcebooks, 2003), Four Way Reader #2 (Four Way, 2002) and The Beach Book
(Sarabande Books, 1999). She was profiled in June of 2004 in the
Minneapolis newspaper City Pages as one of five Minnesota poets who might be
the state Poet Laureate if Minnesota had one
( She currently
lives in triumph in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she hopes to change at
least the lipstick on the face of Minnesota poetry.