Every work of art is an invitation to make an investment. The question is: will that investment pay dividends over a long period of time. So it is with the poetry of Gina Franco. Here are poems that offer the immediate payout of sensual beauty and incantatory rhythm, but they refuse to yield themselves up fully without effort—without the willingness to stick with the investment over time. Franco’s poems yoke deep philosophical and theological concerns with the most concrete imagery—an artistry that is both bracing and incarnational. You will meet Heidegger and Descartes in these poems, but you will also feel the grit of the fossil-rich limestone deposits of the desert Southwest and the flutter of the wren’s wings. You will find the iridescent red flashing from dragonflies likened to the tongues of flame over the heads of the apostles at Pentecost. You will feel what it is like to grow up Latina in border country and what it is like to be human. Those wanting a flash in the pan, some quick and easy moment of uplift, need to look elsewhere. Gina Franco is playing the long game—the investment that pays a steady return. Save up your time and attention and put your money down.
You can read a poem of Gina’s in Issue 77.
Gina Franco was born and raised in Clifton-Morenci, Arizona. She earned degrees from Smith College and from Cornell University. She is the author of a collection of poems, The Keepsake Storm.
Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, America, Black Warrior Review, BorderSenses, Copper Nickel, Crazyhorse, Diagram, Drunken Boat, Image, Fence, The Georgia Review, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Seneca Review, Tuesday; an Art Project, West Branch Wired, Zocalo, and Zone 3, and her writing is anthologized in A Best of Fence: the First Nine Years, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing, and The Other Latin@: Writing Against a Singular Identity.
She teaches poetry writing, 18th & 19th century British literature, Gothic animal literature, poetry translation, Latinx writing, religion and literature, and literary theory at Knox College, where she was awarded the Philip Green Wright-Lombard Prize for distinguished teaching.
Franco is an oblate with the Catholic monastic order of the Community of St John in Princeville, Illinois. She keeps an online journal of photographs. She is married to Christopher Poore, who is also a writer.
This summer I completed a book manuscript entitled The Accidental. Now I am doing the practical work of seeking a publisher. The poems are full of border landscapes and ordinary holy places and love letters and familial homes. The book as a whole is thinking about accidents of experience and the way in which accident becomes annunciatory, demanding that we discern towards stories of substance in our lives. History, identity: our human stories are wrapped up with a faith in meaning that is so often retrospective—or with a hope for future meaning that points beyond itself towards our very existence. Beyond time and existence, everything is intangible. But it is also essential.
I am also teaching, and therefore reading towards teaching. In the spring I’ll lead a course on poetry and Simone Weil. I want to hold up what Weil calls a “poem of force” against the work of so many poets—T.S. Eliot, Anne Carson, Jorie Graham, George Oppen, Mary Szybist, Fanny Howe, others—who are interested in Weil’s life and thought.
On my bedside table, Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg’s books, H. A. Ironside’s The Great Parenthesis, two copies of National Geographic, some thick books on midrash. Though I haven’t yet done more than look at the pictures. Today I am thinking of taking photographs of some of the trees in Galesburg. They still have leaves, and suddenly they are full of crows.
I am writing a long poem. I like to think it will be a book-length sequence when it is done. A little over a year ago I was awarded a week-long “PINTURA:PALABRA” residency in Washington D.C. through Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies. The residency came with an ekphrastic assignment. I was asked to spend my time visiting art museums and writing about a particular work of art or art exhibit. I chose James Hampton’s Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.