Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

If You Have to Go

Katie Ford
I am content because before me looms the hope of love.
I do not have it; I do not yet have it.
It is a bird strong enough to lead me by the rope it bites;
unless I pull, it is strong enough for me.
I do worry the end of my days might come
and I will not yet have it. But even then I will be brave
upon my deathbed, and why shouldn’t I be?
I held things here, and I felt them.
—From “Psalm 40”
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.

Share Title

Publication Date
Trim Size
5.75 x 9
The transformative new book from “one of the most important American poets at work today” (Dunya Mikhail)

About the Author

Katie  Ford
Credit: 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.
More by author

Upcoming Events

Katie Ford reading at Skylight Books

Skylight Books in Los Angeles, CAview map
Reading with David St. John.

Katie Ford and Mary Szybist reading at Powell's Books on Hawthorne

Powell's Books - Hawthorne in Portland, ORview map

Katie Ford reading at Prairie Lights

Prairie Lights in Iowa City, IAview map

Katie Ford reading at The Booksmith

Booksmith in San Francisco, CAview map
Reading and in conversation with Katie Peterson.

Katie Ford and Susan Stewart reading at Politics & Prose

Politics & Prose in Washington, DCview map
Reading and in conversation with Susan Stewart.

Katie Ford and Paul Lisicky reading at Philadelphia Free Library as part of the Monday Poetry Series

Free Library of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PAview map

Katie Ford reading at Book Culture

Book Culture in New York, NYview map
Reading and in conversation with Shane McCrae.

Katie Ford reading at Hugo House

Hugo House in Seattle, WAview map
Reading and in conversation with Rae Armantrout.


  • “[If You Have to Go] is nothing less than a full dramatic monologue with innuendo, philosophy, interior soliloquy. The spectrum of emotions ranges from dispassion, to passion, to acceptance, to inquiry, and disbelief, and more. A lesser poet would have descended into pity but Ford will have none of that when, instead, she can build a home from a kingdom of words to live in and rule magnificently.”Washington Independent Review of Books
  • “[Ford’s] poems capture this stark truth: even as one’s sorrow all encompasses, the rest of the world either changes or doesn’t but it remains unmarked by that suffering.”Arkansas International
  • “Ford (Blood Lyrics) explores and performs the work of mourning in [If You Have to Go], which traces the dissolution of a relationship and a home. . . . The emotional resonance remains constant with grief lightened by such auspicious moments as when the speaker declares, ‘I am content because before me looms the hope of love.’ Ford makes sense of sorrow by way of poetry.”Publishers Weekly
  • “[A] distinct and powerful voice in American poetry. . . . This is a complex, riveting, and heartbreaking book.”—Jane Mead
Back to Table of Contents