Charles Henri Ford: Between Modernism and Postmodernism 9781474278577, 9781474278607, 9781474278591

The first American surrealist poet, a prolific literary editor and a seminal influence on the New York School of poetry,

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Charles Henri Ford: Between Modernism and Postmodernism
 9781474278577, 9781474278607, 9781474278591

Table of contents :
Title Page
Copyright Page
Introduction: Water From a Bucket, or, the Hidden Modernist History of Charles Henri Ford
Chapter 1 Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism
Chapter 2 Community, Circularity, Sociability, Postcards
Chapter 3 Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism
Chapter 4 Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place
Chapter 5 Multitudes, Mirrors, Crystals, Haiku, Home
Conclusion: I Will Be What I Am, or, the Camp Modernist Legacy of Charles Henri Ford

Citation preview

Charles Henri Ford

Historicizing Modernism Series Editors Matthew Feldman, Professor of Contemporary History, Teesside University, UK Erik Tonning, Professor of British Literature and Culture, University of Bergen, Norway Assistant Editor: David Tucker, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Chester, UK Editorial Board Professor Chris Ackerley, Department of English, University of Otago, New Zealand; Professor Ron Bush, St. John’s College, University of Oxford, UK; Dr Finn Fordham, Department of English, Royal Holloway, UK; Professor Steven Matthews, Department of English, University of Reading, UK; Dr Mark Nixon, Department of English, University of Reading, UK; Professor Shane Weller, Reader in Comparative Literature, University of Kent, UK; and Professor Janet Wilson, University of Northampton, UK. Historicizing Modernism challenges traditional literary interpretations by taking an empirical approach to modernist writing: a direct response to new documentary sources made available over the last decade. Informed by archival research, and working beyond the usual European/American avantgarde 1900-45 parameters, this series reassesses established readings of modernist writers by developing fresh views of intellectual contexts and working methods. Series Titles Arun Kolatkar and Literary Modernism in India, Laetitia Zecchini British Literature and Classical Music, David Deutsch Broadcasting in the Modernist Era, Matthew Feldman, Henry Mead and Erik Tonning Ezra Pound’s Adams Cantos, David Ten Eyck Ezra Pound’s Eriugena, Mark Byron Great War Modernisms and The New Age Magazine, Paul Jackson James Joyce and Catholicism, Chrissie Van Mierlo John Kasper and Ezra Pound, Alec Marsh Katherine Mansfield and Literary Modernism, edited by Janet Wilson, Gerri Kimber and Susan Reid Late Modernism and The English Intelligencer, Alex Latter The Life and Work of Thomas MacGreevy, Susan Schreibman Literary Impressionism, Rebecca Bowler Modern Manuscripts, Dirk Van Hulle Modernism at the Microphone, Melissa Dinsman Reading Mina Loy’s Autobiographies, Sandeep Parmar Reframing Yeats, Charles Ivan Armstrong Samuel Beckett and Arnold Geulincx, David Tucker Samuel Beckett and Cinema, Anthony Paraskeva Samuel Beckett and The Bible, Iain Bailey Samuel Beckett’s ‘More Pricks Than Kicks’, John Pilling Samuel Beckett’s German Diaries 1936-1937, Mark Nixon T. E. Hulme and the Ideological Politics of Early Modernism, Henry Mead Virginia Woolf ’s Late Cultural Criticism, Alice Wood

Charles Henri Ford Between Modernism and Postmodernism Alexander Howard

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc


Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2017 © Alexander Howard, 2017 Alexander Howard has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Author of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: HB: 978-1-4742-7857-7 ePDF: 978-1-4742-7859-1 ePub: 978-1-4742-7858-4 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Howard, Alexander, 1983- author. Title: Charles Henri Ford: between modernism and postmodernism/Alexander Howard. Description: London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. | Series: Historicizing modernism; 4 | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016046734| ISBN 9781474278577 (hardback) | ISBN 9781474278584 (epub) Subjects: LCSH: Ford, Charles Henri–Criticism and interpretation. | Modernism (Literature)–United States. | BISAC: LITERARY CRITICISM/ American/General. | LITERARY CRITICISM/Poetry. | LITERARY CRITICISM/ Gay & Lesbian. Classification: LCC PS3511.O392 Z66 2017 | DDC 811/.52–dc23 LC record available at Series: Historicizing Modernism Typeset by Deanta Global Publishing Services, Chennai, India

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Contents Preface Acknowledgements Introduction: Water From a Bucket, or, the Hidden Modernist History of Charles Henri Ford 1 2 3 4 5

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism Community, Circularity, Sociability, Postcards Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place Multitudes, Mirrors, Crystals, Haiku, Home

Conclusion: I Will Be What I Am, or, the Camp Modernist Legacy of Charles Henri Ford Bibliography Index

viii ix

1 15 65 101 145 189

221 227 243

Preface This book series is devoted to the analysis of late-nineteenth to twentieth-­ century literary modernism within its historical context. Historicizing Modernism thus stresses empirical accuracy and the value of primary sources (such as letters, diaries, notes, drafts, marginalia or other archival deposits) in developing monographs, scholarly editions, and edited collections on modernist authors and their texts. This may take a number of forms, such as manuscript study and annotated volumes; archival editions and genetic criticism; as well as mappings of interrelated historical milieus or ideas. To date, no book series has laid claim to this interdisciplinary, source-based territory for modern literature. Correspondingly, one burgeoning sub-discipline of modernism, Beckett Studies, features heavily here as a metonymy for the opportunities presented by manuscript research more widely. While an additional range of ‘canonical’ authors will be covered here, this series also highlights the centrality of supposedly ‘minor’ or occluded figures, not least in helping to establish broader intellectual genealogies of modernist writing. Furthermore, while the series will be weighted towards the English-speaking world, studies of non-Anglophone modernists whose writings are ripe for archivally based exploration shall also be included here. A key aim of such historicizing is to reach beyond the familiar rhetoric of intellectual and artistic ‘autonomy’ employed by many modernists and their critical commentators. Such rhetorical moves can and should themselves be historically situated and reintegrated into the complex continuum of individual literary practices. This emphasis upon the contested self-definitions of modernist writers, thinkers, and critics may, in turn, prompt various reconsiderations of the boundaries delimiting the concept ‘modernism’ itself. Similarly, the very notion of ‘historicizing’ modernism remains debatable, and this series by no means discourages more theoretically informed approaches. On the contrary, the editors believe that the historical specificity encouraged by Historicizing Modernism may inspire a range of fundamental critiques along the way. Matthew Feldman Erik Tonning

Acknowledgements To list all of my debts would take too long a time. But one needs to start somewhere. Since completing my doctoral research, which benefited from a generous Arts and Humanities Research Council grant, I have been the appreciative recipient of an Andrew W. Mellon Research Fellowship in the Humanities. This fellowship facilitated the research trip I undertook in the summer of 2014 to the matchless Harry Ransom Centre in the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin. This book draws on a wide range of archival materials contained at the HRC. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the HRC’s extraordinary staff, whose depth of expertise and warmth of spirit made my time in Texas so rich and enjoyable. On a related archival note, the present book also makes critical use of a number of materials held at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale Library. I wish also to extend my thanks to the staff at this vital research institution. Thanks need also go to the staff at the New York Public Library’s Archives and Manuscripts division. I have been fortunate to work with a number of exceptional scholars and outstanding human beings at a variety of universities over the years. While any mistakes or errors contained within the present book belong to me alone, all of the following people have played important parts in the shaping of the work now in front of you. I would like first to thank the faculty and staff of the incomparable Centre for Modernism Studies in Australia and the School of Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales. I would like above all to thank Helen Groth, George Kouvaros, Julian Murphet, Sean Pryor, and Mark Steven. These fine people have offered invaluable advice, encouragement, and support over the past few years. Exceptionally warm thanks need also go to the faculty and staff of the School of Literature, Art, and Media at the University of Sydney – especially Mark Byron and Sarah Gleeson-White. The vibrant and lively research culture at Sydney has ensured that the time I have spent as a visiting research fellow in School of Literature, Art, and Media has been both intellectually enlightening and invigorating. To this list, I want now to add the



names of Peter Boxall, Marsha Bryant, Gregory Dobbins, Ben Etherington, Matthew Feldman, Fiona Green, James Harding, Doug Haynes, Daniel Kane, Angelos Koutsourakis, Douglas Mao, Peter Nicholls, Joanna Pawlik, Allan Pero, Erik Tonning, and Eric White. In addition, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the editors of Modernism/modernity, Journal of Modern Periodical Studies, and The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines for affording me the opportunity to publish early versions of some portions of the chapters that appear in the present book. I would also like to thank Michael Andre, Gerard Malanga, and Lynne Tillman for kindly sharing their recollections of Charles Henri Ford with me, and to Indra B. Tamang for his incredible hospitality and for granting me permission to quote from Ford’s published work. Finally, I would like to thank my family. None of this would have been possible without them. Claire Howard’s support has, in particular, been crucial. This book is dedicated to Audrey and Brian Howard and is for Meredith Okell, if she wants it.

Introduction: Water From a Bucket, or, the Hidden Modernist History of Charles Henri Ford 1 Modernism, as is well known, is a notoriously difficult term to define. Sean Latham and Gayle Rogers acknowledge this in their recent contribution to the scholarly field. This particular issue, in their shared estimation, ‘has now beset, driven, and often befuddled generations of students and scholars alike’.1 And why might this be so? The answer they provide has to do with the rather paradoxical fact that ‘there is no such thing as modernism – no singular definition capable of bringing order to the diverse multitude of creators, manifestos, practices, and politics that have been variously constellated around this enigmatic term’.2 The concept as traditionally understood is also strangely detached, as Latham and Rogers point out, ‘from political history (unlike the crisply defined Victorian era) and even from the Western calendar itself, leaving it unmoored from something as vague as twentieth-century studies’.3 Given over as some culturally prominent early twentieth-century figures were to making portentous and unsubstantiated claims about the changeable nature of human character, the writers, theorists, and artists we tend to think of as modernists have hardly helped in this regard – that is, when they aren’t flat out denying having anything to do with this and other such related matters in the first place.4 Truth be told, the few writers on the ground who did deign to broach the topic of what modernism might in fact, for want of a better word, look like weren’t all necessarily that much help either.5 And yet we continue, in spite of everything, to try and get a critical handle on this most nebulous of notions, even as it continues to recede from our view. If we were to adapt the delightfully pithy axiom of an older and wiser writer, perhaps we might pen


Charles Henri Ford

words to the effect that the pure and simple truth of modernism is rarely pure and never simple. It is at precisely this point that we need to bring our attention to bear on the so-called area of New Modernist Studies. This branch of critical inquiry seeks, among other things, to productively complicate the ‘hegemonic’ version of heteronormative male Anglophone modernism identified by critics such as Peter Nicholls.6 ‘Were one seeking a single word to sum up transformations in modernist literary scholarship over the past decade or two,’ write Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, ‘one could do worse than light on expansion.’7 Of course, in this sense, as Mao and Walkowitz note, ‘the field is hardly unique: all period-centred areas of literary scholarship have broadened in scope, and this is in what we might think of as temporal, spatial, and vertical directions.’8 As if almost to pre-empt Latham and Gayle’s subsequent remarks about the weirdly ahistorical way in which many have tried to define modernism, Mao and Walkowitz remind us that once ‘scholars demonstrate the fertility of questioning rigid temporal delimitations, periods seem inevitably to get bigger (one might think of the “long eighteenth century” or “the age of empire”)’.9 Equally, ‘interrogations of the politics, historical validity, and aesthetic value of exclusive focus on the literatures of Europe and North America have spurred the study (in the North American academy) of texts produced in other quarters of the world or by hitherto little-recognized enclaves in the privileged areas.’10 Finally, there has been a vertical expansion, in which, as Mao and Walkowitz assert, ‘quite sharp boundaries between high art and popular forms of culture have been reconsidered; in which canons have been critiqued and reconfigured; in which works by members of marginalized social groups have been encountered with fresh eyes and ears; and in which scholarly inquiry has increasingly extended to matters of production, dissemination, and reception’.11 Bearing all this in mind, given that the present author came of scholarly age in the first decade of the twenty-first century, it is perhaps to be expected that the current book speaks, in certain respects, to each of the three expansions discussed by Mao and Walkowitz. To begin with, this study seeks to add a productive layer of historical and theoretical complexity to existing critical inquiry surrounding the historical trajectories and cultural logics of modernism and postmodernism. Further, as will become apparent over the course of subsequent chapters, this monograph takes as its critical focus a



marginalized cultural producer whose work emerges from and engages with the concerns of hitherto little-recognized, non-normative social and creative enclaves situated in specific parts of the privileged Anglophone world. Finally, in terms of the sort of vertical expansion outlined above, this book scrutinizes various literary and artistic modes and forms, routes of dissemination, and notions of audience reception, while striving simultaneously to bring fresh  critical pressure to bear on our understandings of avant-garde and popular forms of cultural praxis.

2 Yet the question lingers: What exactly does one mean when one speaks of modernism? It will surely come as absolutely no sort of shock to find that the answer has everything to do with that incomplete historical project – and narrative category – otherwise known as modernity. Fredric Jameson’s account of the contemporary connotations that accrued by this particular term is worth mentioning here. ‘What purpose can the revival of the slogan “modernity” still serve’, Jameson ponders, after the thoroughgoing removal of the modern from all the shelves and shop windows, its retirement from the media, and the obedient demodernification of all but a few cantankerous and self-avowedly saurian intellectuals? It must somehow be a postmodern thing, one begins to suspect, the recrudescence of the language of an older modernity: for it is certainly not the result of any honest philological and historiographic interest in our recent past. What we have here is rather the reminting of the modern, its repackaging, its production in great quantities for renewed sales in the intellectual marketplace, from the biggest names in sociology to garden-variety discussions in the all the social sciences (and some in the arts as well).12

As Jameson tells it, ‘this means that there can be a modernity for everybody which is different from the standard or hegemonic Anglo-Saxon model. Whatever you dislike about the latter, including the subaltern position it leaves you in, can be effaced by the reassuring and “cultural” notion that there can be a Latin-American kind, or an Indian kind or an African kind,


Charles Henri Ford

and so forth.’13 But this would be to miss the economic forest for the cultural trees. It would be, in Jameson’s reckoning, ‘to overlook the other fundamental meaning of modernity which is that of a worldwide capitalism itself. The standardization projected by capitalist globalization in this third or late stage of the system casts considerable doubt on all these pious hopes for cultural variety in a future world colonized by a universal market order.’14 Irrespective of whether one agrees with everything Jameson has to say about the state of cultural exceptionalism in the early twenty-first century, this account of what he describes as the other primary meaning of modernity furnishes us with a solid conceptual base from which to bear down on the interrelated notion of modernism. ‘Why not simply posit modernity as the new historical situation’, Jameson asks, ‘modernization as the process whereby we get there, and modernism as a reaction to that situation and the process alike, a reaction that can be aesthetic and philosophico-ideological, just as it can be negative as well as positive?’15 Jameson thinks this a fairly sensible proposal, as do I. In equal measure, however, I also think it possible to be even more specific than this. Like Jameson, Perry Anderson suggests that artistic modernism is best understood as the logical outgrowth of capitalist modernity, ‘of a field of force triangulated by three coordinates: an economy and society still only semiindustrial, in which the ruling order remained to a significant extent agrarian or aristocratic; a technology of dramatic inventions, whose impact was still fresh or incipient; and an open political horizon, in which revolutionary upheavals of one kind or another against the prevailing order were widely expected or feared’.16 Against this historically tumultuous backdrop, according to Anderson, ‘a wide variety of artistic innovations could explode – symbolism, imagism, expressionism, cubism, futurism: some quarrying classical memory or patrician styles, others drawn to a poetics of the new machinery, yet others fired by visions of social upheaval; but none at peace with the market as the organizing principle of a modern culture – in that sense, virtually without exception anti-bourgeois’.17 As we can see, all of the modern artistic movements that Anderson mentions here emerged either in the latter part of the nineteenth century or in the first two decades of the twentieth. We will, to be sure, touch on some of the lasting creative advances won in this broad historical epoch during our subsequent discussions of literary and aesthetic modernism. Having said



that, I am much more interested in the sort of modern art that was been produced in the Anglophone world in the historical period immediately subsequent to the one evoked so vividly by Anderson. That is to say, I am especially curious about the kinds of art that critics commonly describe in terms of ‘second-generation’ or ‘late’ modernism. Tyrus Miller is one such critic. ‘Late modernist writing was not particularly successful in either critical or commercial terms,’ Miller asserts, ‘and each work tended toward formal singularity, as if the author had hit a dead end and had to begin again. In content, too, these works reflected a closure of the horizon of the future: they are permeated with a foreboding of decline and fall, of radical contingency and absurd death.’18 Miller has in mind here the interwar novels of late modernist writers such as Djuna Barnes, Mina Loy, and Samuel Beckett. He posits that the work these writers were producing in the latter half of the 1920s emerged alongside ‘a still developing corpus of high modernism. James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Virginia Woolf ’s The Waves and Between the Acts, Ezra Pound’s Cantos, Aldous Huxley’s Eyeless in Gaza, and other monuments of high modernism share the field with a new generation of late modernist works’.19 Yet it is important to remember that while high and late modernism existed concurrently, they are emphatically not one and the same. Timing is everything in this respect. Miller notes that examples of late modernist fiction began to emerge around 1926. How best to account for this? It depends entirely on whom you choose to ask. If you were to put the question to David Trotter, for instance, his initially surprising answer would have much to do with that most modest of household objects: the telephone. ‘By the mid1920s, advances in shortwave radio had established wireless telegraphy and telephony as the most momentous of all new media’, Trotter reasons, ‘in economic, political, and military terms.’20 The ostensibly humble telephone, ‘the international standard-bearer for the principle of real-time interactive telecommunication’, Trotter continues, ‘had begun to alter fundamentally the exercise both of state power and of public memory, and the construction of the citizen’.21 This fact wasn’t lost on the writers we associate with modernism. They came soon to realize, in Trotter’s formulation, ‘that the technological mediation of experience had become both widespread and irreversible’.22 Human behaviour can thus in fact be said to have changed forever sometime in the mid-1920s. This change impacted on modernism in a variety of ways.


Charles Henri Ford

For one thing, high modernism, as will come to the fore in the next chapter, was now regarded in certain artistic and critical circles as something of a spent cultural force. The late or second-generation modernists were acutely conscious of this fact. ‘In the empty spaces left by high modernism’s decline,’ Miller argues, ‘late modernists reassembled fragments into disfigured likenesses of modernist masterpieces: the unlovely allegories of a world’s end.’23 By the same token, however, ‘the works of late modernist literature should not be viewed simply as cultural curiosities salvaged from time, aesthetic souvenirs that exert their unsettling fascination by reviving an already moribund modernism’.24 Miller tells us that in the fictional and poetic works of late modernism ‘the vectors of despair and utopia, the compulsion to decline and the impulse to renewal, are not just related; they are practically indistinguishable’.25 In this sense, then, late modernism certainly did keep one eye fixed firmly on the recent past. But it also looked to the future. The works of the late moderns, in Miller’s reading, ‘mark the line of flight artists took where an obstacle, the oft-mentioned “impasse” of modernism, interrupted progress on established paths’.26 Such late modernist work, in this fashion, ‘also strongly anticipates future developments, so without forcing, it might easily fit into a narrative of emergent postmodernism’.27 Late modernism thus comes to signify more, for Miller, ‘than just patchwork in the otherwise unbroken façade of literary history. Untimely phenomena like late modernist fiction represent breaking points of nonsynchronism, in the broad narrative of twentieth-century cultural history.’28 If we were to put this another way, we might say that when writing of experimentally inclined work produced in the interwar years, we are also and always writing about a liminal sort of historical and cultural space in which the high modern, the late modern, and the proto-postmodern mingle conterminously. Mingle conterminously, that is, until 1945, when, in the words of the aforementioned Perry Anderson, ‘the élan of modernism gave out. It had lived from the non-synchronous – what was past or future in the present – and died with the arrival of the purely contemporaneous: the monotone steadystate of the post-war Atlantic order. Henceforward, art that still would be radical was routinely destined for commercial integration or institutional cooption’.29 As it just so happens, we will have cause in subsequent chapters to discuss some of the historical, societal, and cultural changes that Anderson



mentions here – specifically those pertaining to what is commonly regarded as the ‘post-war Atlantic order’ and the attendant ‘commercial integration’ of aesthetics that took shape in what we have come to think of as the historical postmodern moment. And yet, returning to Fredric Jameson once more, despite some sort of historical and aesthetic limit having been breached in the 1950s and 1960s, we would do well to remember that the types of art that were being produced during this period – the types of art that we commonly describe as postmodern – in some regards remain dependent on ‘essentially modernist categories of the new, which cannot be fully eradicated from the “new” dispensation whatever its rhetoric’.30

3 This leads me to one of the central questions I want to pose in this study: How best to understand the life and work of a hitherto forgotten avant-garde figure whose career not only began during late modern period, but who also  – in a perhaps untimely manner – strove continually to ‘make it new’ long after the historical and cultural star of postmodernism had risen? The man I have in mind here is the Mississippi-born modernist writer, artist, and editor: Charles Henri Ford (1908–2002). Ford is one of the most interesting second-generation modernist writers that the majority of people probably haven’t read. Born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, on 10 February 1908 to a family of Southern hoteliers, Ford, who worked tirelessly from a very young age to establish himself within the international community of literary and aesthetic modernism, should be thought of as a torsional figure who has much to tell us about the historical transition from impersonal and predominantly heteronormative modernist models of cultural production to more sociable and queer modes of postmodern avant-garde representation in the United States. Leaving regional Mississippi behind him at the tender age of twenty, the openly queer Ford tasted the best that life had to offer in Greenwich Village; corresponded with ‘manly’ modernists such as Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky (all of whom were greatly impressed with what they read); had his early work published in many of the defining avant-garde periodicals of the day; befriended and worked alongside Gertrude Stein in


Charles Henri Ford

1930s Paris (where he also had a torrid affair with the famous journalist and modernist novelist Djuna Barnes); established himself as America’s very first fully fledged Surrealist poet and introduced Surrealism into the bloodstream of American popular culture; traversed Europe in the late 1940s and 1950s with the seminal, if now sorely overlooked, Russian Neo-Romanticist painter Pavel Tchelitchew; influenced a host of the major figures associated with the post-war New York School of Poetry; and played a small, yet significant role in Andy Warhol’s development as a fabulously ‘swish’ experimental filmmaker in New York City in the early 1960s. Despite Ford’s evidently rich and exceptionally productive life, scant critical attention has been directed his way. More often than not, the non-specialist writers who have chosen to write about Ford tend to focus exclusively on particular aspects of the poet’s personal life: with whom he was in touch, or more salaciously whom he was touching, for example. In a sense, then, the sheer richness of Ford’s fascinating personal life has tended to count against him, at least when it comes to the issue of critical inquiry. This is something that came clearly to the fore after Ford passed away in New York City on 27 September 2002. Consider the following account of the posthumous showing of Ford’s work that was held at the New York-based Mitchell Algus Gallery in early 2003: Ford was a dilettante, a character, peripatetic. The fashion for him now seems partly tied to his longevity – Ford as a relic of New York gay life in the 1930s – and to admiration for his being publicly out of the closet when few other men dared to be. Also to his multimedia, venturesome sensibility. His life was more interesting than his work, though. The art is ephemeral. Creatively installed, the show does the best it can to evoke Ford’s lively spirit. But absent the man himself, it may leave you wondering what the fuss is about.31

Michael Kimmelman is utterly damning in his faint praise: the current interest in Ford’s work should – in his eyes – be chalked up to a case of sheer longevity on the part of the poet. The choice of language that Kimmelman uses in his New York Times review is also curious. After all, ‘fashion’ is a decidedly strange term to use when talking about the work of a perennially marginalized, largely forgotten artist. In part, I would argue that it is Ford’s ‘venturesome sensibility’ that provokes such a strong reaction in Kimmelman. Stretched as it is across



numerous decades and many different disciplines, Ford’s multiform aesthetic approach makes life extremely difficult for those critics who want to get to grips with – or might simply want to pigeonhole – his work. While I take issue with the offhand manner in which Kimmelman dismisses the subject of his review as a mere dilettante, there is certainly something to be said here about the importance of character, of personality, of spirit. I am thinking specifically of Kimmelman’s suggestion that without the presence of Ford’s ‘lively spirit’ to offer us a helping and guiding hand, we run the risk of being left ‘wondering what the fuss is about’. Based as it is upon extensive archival research undertaken in the United States, this study seeks figuratively to bring the man back to life.32 I want in particular to argue that when he was on top of his creative game, Ford was capable of producing work that not only stands the test of time and critical judgement, but forces us to reconsider some of our assumptions concerning the nature of modernist artistic praxis. I also want to suggest that Ford need at all times be thought of as a living and breathing iteration of the ‘mystical writing mad’ theorized so famously by Freud,33 as a distinctive and ever-ready cultural receiver uniquely capable of absorbing with impeccable attention and detail all that was going on around him. To put it simply: this study seeks both to situate Ford in relation to his modern and postmodern peers and to present the reader with a holistic – and historicized – portrait of an important writer that on occasion bears a passing resemblance to the one that was once proffered by Edward B. Germain. ‘When he began publishing in 1929,’ Germain writes, Ford was unique: America’s surrealist poet. In retrospect, he is seminal. What he accomplished in 1930, most American poets hadn’t even imagined. In the pages of his magazines, Blues and View, he introduced and encouraged surrealism while it passed into the spirit of hundreds of American writers. In his own work he creates the wonder, the wit, and the erotic beauty that have made surrealism the most significant of all modern influences upon poetry.34

There is, as will become clear over the course of this study, a great deal of truth contained in Germain’s account of this critically neglected, yet seemingly ‘seminal’ figure. Ford did indeed play a crucial part in bringing Surrealism to the attention of the American literary and artistic public. At the same time, however, there is slightly more to the matter than Germain allows for in his


Charles Henri Ford

generous account of Ford. This brings us back to the issue of modernism. As the title of the present book suggests, Charles Henri Ford stands somehow astride the historical realms of the modern and the postmodern. Given that, it should come as no surprise to find that Ford was once invited to read at an academic conference devoted exclusively to the topic of late modernist and postmodernist American poetry. The organizers of this National Poetry Foundation-sponsored conference – ‘The First Post Modernists: American Poets of the 30s Generation’ – put out a call in early 1993 for scholarly work focused on poets or groups of poets of the 1930s generations, or on broad cultural and social movements which affected the work of these poets. Since a major theme of the conference will be what happens to the Modernist heritage during the 1930s, papers are especially encouraged on the ‘second generation Modernists’ who sought to carry forward the formal experimentations of Pound, Williams, etc.; on those poets of the period who attempted to combine Modernist aesthetic loyalties with assertive political stances; and on poets who, after an engagement with Modernism, finally rejected it.35

Ford was one of the late modernist – or, if you prefer, first postmodernist – poets listed as a possible topic of discussion at this conference, which was to be held at the University of Maine between 17 and 20 June 1993. Now this might have come as something as a shock to Ford. Think about the exchange between an elderly Ford and the equally aged postmodern architect Philip Johnson that the documentarians James Dowell and John Kolomvakis capture on camera in Sleep in a Nest of Flames (2000): CHF: What does the word ‘postmodern’ mean? PJ: Well, in architecture, it’s a very straightforward meaning. It means when architecture went from doing Mies van der Rohe and Corbusier, to doing historical reference. CHF: How can you be ‘post’ when you’re living it?36

These pithy remarks regarding the issue of conceptual definition provide us with an initial means through which to understand the life and work of this marginalized poet. The point Ford is making in this conversation regards the inherently problematic nature of categorization, questioning how one might



be labelled – let alone described as ‘post’ – while one continues to work and move through the world. Suffice it to say, this is the sort of thing that needs to be borne in mind when reading the present book.

4 Divided into five chapters, this study traces Ford’s various literary endeavours from the 1920s into the 2000s. Chapter 1 focuses on the pre-history and on the history of Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms, the Mississippi-based modernist little magazine that Ford edited between 1929 and 1930. Chapter 2 focuses on the various ways in which Ford sought to harness the energies of modernism after his magazine ceased publication in late 1931. This chapter describes how Ford’s interest in modernism continued apace throughout the 1930s, and how it culminated in the formulation of a uniquely sociable form of aesthetic practice in the 1970s. Our narrative then moves forward into the middle decades of the twentieth century. Chapter 3 focuses on the 1940s and 1950s, suggesting that Ford’s conspicuous absence in the mainstream annals of modernism is attributable to his poetic and aesthetic unorthodoxy, which precluded easy incorporation into generally accepted critical narratives of surrounding avantgardism. As such, Ford’s marginalization has meant that his various artistic achievements have until now, gone unnoticed. In addition, I suggest that the custodians of literary culture have consistently overlooked Ford’s significant interventions in the field of avant-gardism. As I make clear in Chapter 4, this is a rather curious state of affairs – not least because Ford’s influence was openly acknowledged at the time: especially by the artists and poets associated with Pop art. Attention is paid here to the occasionally startling links that can be established between Ford’s modernist output and the ostensibly postmodern praxis of Andy Warhol. Having considered the productive crossovers between Ford and seminal artists such as Warhol, Chapter 5 turns to Ford’s poetic and editorial ventures in the late 1970s and 1980s. Tellingly, this period saw Ford return to Blues after a gap of exactly sixty years. This chapter repositions his late work in relation to a flexible, egalitarian, and inherently sociable version of modernism, which simultaneously gestures towards – and moves away – from the imprimatur-driven high modernist precepts of the man who helped launch

Charles Henri Ford


his career: Ezra Pound. The study then closes with a coda that briefly gestures to some of the potential ways in which future researchers might seek to engage with the life, work, and legacy of Charles Henri Ford.

Notes 1 Sean Latham and Gayle Rogers, Modernism: Evolution of an Idea (Bloomsbury Academic: London, 2015), 1. 2 Latham and Rogers, Modernism, 1. 3 Ibid., 1. 4 Consider T. S. Eliot’s 1928 account of the so-called ‘free verse’ movement: ‘The term vers-libres, never a happy one, is happily dying out. We can now see that there was no movement, no revolution, and there is no formula.’ Notice how Eliot dismisses the notion of a modern ‘movement’ ever existing: ‘The only revolution was that Ezra Pound was born with a fine ear for verse. He has enabled a few other persons, including myself, to improve their verse sense; so that he has improved poetry through other men as well as by himself. I cannot think of any one writing verse, of our generation and the next, whose verse (if any good) has not been improved by the study of Pound’s. His poetry is an inexhaustible reference book of verse form. There is, in fact, no one else to study.’ T. S. Eliot, ‘Isolated Superiority’, The Dial, 84, no. 1 (January 1928): 5. 5 I have in mind here William Carlos Williams’s impressionistic 1925 account of his American compatriot and fellow modern traveller, Marianne Moore: ‘The best work is always neglected and there is no critic among the older men who has cared to champion the newer names from outside the battle. The established critic will not read. So it is that the present writers must turn interpreters of their own work. Even those who enjoy modern work are not always intelligent but often seem at a loss to know the white marks from the black. But modernism is distressing to many who would at least tolerate if it they knew how.’ William Carlos Williams, ‘Marianne Moore’, The Contact Collection of Modern Writers (Paris: Contact Editions, 1925), 326. 6 Peter Nicholls, Modernisms: A Literary Guide (Berkeley and Los Angeles: California University Press, 1995), 167. 7 Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, ‘The New Modernist Studies’, Modern Language Association of America 123, no. 3 (2008): 737. 8 Mao and Walkowitz, ‘The New Modernist Studies’, 737.



 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 Ibid., 738. 12 Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present (London: Verso Books, 2002), 6–7. 13 Jameson, A Singular Modernity, 12. 14 Ibid., 12–13. 15 Ibid., 99. 16 Perry Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity (London: Verso Books, 1998), 81. 17 Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, 81. 18 Tyrus Miller, Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts Between the World Wars (Berkeley: California University Press, 1999), 13. 19 Miller, Late Modernism, 10. 20 David Trotter, Literature in the First Media Age: Britain Between the Wars (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013), 14. 21 Trotter, Literature in the First Media Age, 14. 22 Ibid., 37. 23 Miller, Late Modernism, 14. 24 Ibid., 12–13. 25 Ibid., 14. 26 Ibid., 13. 27 Ibid., 7. 28 Ibid., 12. 29 Anderson, The Origins of Postmodernity, 82. 30 Jameson, A Singular Modernity, 5. 31 Michael Kimmelman, ‘Art in Review; Charles Henri Ford’, New York Times, 24 January 2003. Online Edition: (accessed 10 May 2016). 32 It does not, however, purport to be exhaustive or definitive. To be absolutely clear: I take as my primary critical focus Ford’s printed output. In my concluding remarks, I consider some of the possible directions that future inquiry into Ford’s vibrant and varied creative output might pursue. 33 Freud postulates that the mystic writing-pad – or Wunderblock – is an apparatus that combines an ‘ever-ready receptive surface’ which bears a permanent record of the ‘traces’ that have previously been inscribed upon it. Sigmund Freud, ‘A note upon the “mystic writing-pad”’ ([1924] 1925), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works: Volume XIX, James Strachey (ed.) (London: Vintage Books, [1961] 2001), 228.


Charles Henri Ford

34 Edward B. Germain, ‘Introduction’, in Flag of Ecstasy: Selected Poems, ed. Charles Henri Ford (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1972), 9. 35 A copy of this undated advertisement can be found in the New York Public Library’s holding of papers pertaining to Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler. See series 1, box 4, folder 13, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. 36 Quoted in James Dowell and John Kolomvakis (dirs.), Sleep in a Nest of Flames (USA, Symbiosis Films, 2000).


Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism 1 There was not all that much for an artistically inclined teenager to do growing up in the Deep South. This is the overall impression produced by reading Charles Henri Ford’s extensive diaries of the 1920s. Comprising the first section of a large unpublished document entitled ‘I Will Be What I Am: A Documentary Portrait’, Ford’s journals span the period between 1922 and 1928. As such, they provide a richly detailed account of Ford’s youth and his development as an artist. Some of the entries, especially those concerning the scholastic trials and emotional tribulations of American preparatory schooling,1 are of little or no concern to the literary critic. By far the most interesting entries are those that deal directly with Ford’s burgeoning interest in the worlds of art and literature.2 The fiction of Charles Dickens makes an early appearance in Ford’s extracurricular reading list, as does the verse of Victor Hugo.3 By 7 May 1925, Ford had sourced and was making his way through Pope’s translation of the Iliad. Soon after this, specifically modernist literature began to register on Ford’s adolescent cultural radar. On 27 November 1925, Ford wrote that he had just ‘started a biography of Keats by Sidney Colvin. Also got from the library Ibsen’s “The Doll House” and “Ghosts”’.4 Ford seemed particularly taken with Ibsen’s plays;5 they certainly seemed to spark something in him. ‘God, what do I want out of this world,’ Ford asked himself on 26 March 1926: ‘What do I want of life? Do I want to be what, in the eyes of people, is a success and in so doing have my soul and inner-self trampled and smothered out?’6 A mere six days later, on 1 April 1926, Ford seemed one step closer to answering his own question: ‘What minds authors must have. Could I but write.’7 This reads


Charles Henri Ford

as a statement of intent. Judging by journal entries made during this period, writers such as Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, as well as the preferred Ibsen, were now to be found at the forefront of Ford’s mind.8 It was also around this time that Ford, inspired as he was by the writings of the precocious Marie Bashkirtseff, decided on a decisive course of action: As for me, gradually I am coming to see that I will be, something, yea famous, in this stupid world. The niche I will carve is becoming more distinct in outline tho the actual carving has not been commenced. I have something I know to tell people or something beautiful to give them that will live. I believe I am a genius, and from now on … 9

This rather grandiose and overwrought journal entry is admittedly a little short on detail. Before long, things became that bit clearer. In an entry dated 13 June 1926, Ford ponders whether he ‘ever could develop into a real artist. I know this much – I love art. I’ve been told I have talent in drawing. Well, – “quien sabes?” Paris, some day, maybe. Am I mad to think so.’10 Ford’s initial interest in a possible career in draughtsmanship proved short-lived. This becomes apparent when we turn our attention to the short entry of 23 July 1926, in which Ford states simply: ‘I long to write.’11 From here, the pace picks up. Ford receives his first rejection slip – from the magazine ‘College Humor’ – on 20 August 1926; by 19 December he has resolved to learn French.12 On 5 March 1927, he notes that he has started to read ‘the exotic Baudelaire’.13 On 31 May of the same year, Ford’s frustration boils over. ‘The Carnegie Library is so inadequate,’ he writes. ‘They do not have James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” Dostoevski’s “The Idiot” or “Women in Love” by D. H. Lawrence, three books which I was especially eager to obtain.’14 While I’ve yet to ascertain how long it took Ford to track down copies of these proto- and canonical modernist texts, it seems clear that by this point his interests were orientated firmly towards the experimental, avant-garde, and sexually charged end of the cultural spectrum.15 It is in precisely this context that Ford’s burgeoning interest in the variety of modernism promoted by Ezra Pound should be understood. Pound makes his first appearance in Ford’s journal on 2 July 1927: ‘Yesterday an autographed postal card came from Ezra Pound (with a picture of the Palazzo Ducale on the back – at Venezia, of course). Pound. So very business-like, telling me. “As per yours 30th May 1 copy Exile 1st issue received to your order.” After my affusion. Ah, well. Even to see his signature is something.’16

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


So began Ford’s correspondence with perhaps the single most important modernist idol of his youth. To say the arrival of Pound’s postcard made an impression on Ford would be a serious understatement. Ford wasted little time in composing a speedy reply, which he reprints in his journal: Dear Mr Pound:Your card reached me a few days ago and in accordance with same am enclosing a bill for No. 1 of the ‘Exile’ … ‘Pound!’ I said. ‘Could I ever dream of receiving a lettre [sic] from the most brilliant poet of the century?’… Possibly you will be bored on seeing that I enclose these poems. … That they will be ignored I know only too well.17

Sadly, there is no record of Pound’s reply. In all likelihood, it probably failed to even register. Indeed, this sort of exchange would have been all too familiar for such an experienced modernist like Pound. But the point I want to make here is that it did matter – very much so – to Ford. From this point on references to and extracts from Pound’s poetry begin to appear at regular intervals in Ford’s journal. On 17 July 1927, two days before he was to receive a $12 cheque – his first – from The New Yorker magazine for the publication of his early poem ‘Interlude’,18 we find Ford inserting a couple of lines from Pound’s translation of ‘A Ballad of The Mulberry Road’ into his journal. Soon after, on 13 August 1927, he singles out ‘Don Ezra’s’ writing style in Canto XX for especial praise.19 Judging by subsequent entries in Ford’s journal, this early encounter with Pound seems to have proved decisive in certain respects and lasting in others. Poetry now came to exert a powerful pull on Ford’s imagination. We get a clear sense of this in Ford’s journal entry of 28 January 1928. ‘I hate contemporary novels and yet I persist in reading them,’ Ford declares in this particular entry. ‘They are all so shallow. With the exception of Hemingway, Gide and one or two others nothing worthwhile is being written in the way of novels. How far ahead is the poetry of today! And plays, too, for that matter.’20 Ever the hopeless romantic, Ford sought now to commit himself fully, and sometimes hilariously, to the craft and vocation of poetry. Consider the journal entry of 16 April 1928: ‘Almost every afternoon I stay in my room and read, sometimes write verse which does not satisfy me any too frequently. I am probably smoking too many cigarettes. My chest hurts in the center, has been thus for some days. I shall probably contract tuberculosis.’21


Charles Henri Ford

Ford seems here to have mistaken himself momentarily for John Keats. Suffice to say: he did not contract tuberculosis. He did, however, need to find a way to escape from what he perceived as the crushing boredom of his existence in the South.22 The prevailing sense one gets when reading many of the diary entries in ‘I Will Be What I Am’ is that of isolation. Ford’s isolation was twofold. For one thing, he felt personally isolated and creatively frustrated in what he described as the conservative environment of the American South. Railing against the cultural conservatism of ‘provincial, bourgeois’ cities and towns, Ford demands ‘new sensations, new friends, [and a] new environment’.23 Acknowledging that he needed to expand his personal and cultural horizons, Ford continually emphasizes the fact in his diary that ‘I  must not live my life at home – sheltered and without pain. There isn’t the slightest doubt but that I would become a hopeless neurotic. For that reason I must go to New York.’24 It is easy to see why New York might appeal. As well as providing him with an escape route from the apparently stifling confines of the ‘sheltered’ South, Ford recognized that his chances of forging stimulating personal and productive creative associations with like-minded individuals interested in art and literature would be increased dramatically in the culturally vibrant hub of New York. In 1928, however, Ford lacked the necessary financial and familial freedom to relocate permanently.25 He was, for the time being at least, stuck in the South. The second factor that we need to consider when discussing Ford’s sense of isolation has to do with sexuality. Ford was, lest we forget, a young gay man growing up in the often-hostile environment of the American South.26 The issue of Ford’s sexuality also needs to be borne in mind while reading through his journals. By 1928, Ford was living in San Antonio, Texas.27 While Ford is vague in his diary when it comes to specific details, it appears that he had discovered the existence of something approximating the form of an alternative, seemingly queer underground scene while living in what is now the Lone Star State’s seventh largest city. Entries concerning ‘femaleimpersonators’, ‘perverts’, and ‘bohemians’ begin to creep into Ford’s journal in the spring of 1928, as do references to time spent in illegal drinking-dens and at illicit rooftop parties with eligible young bachelors.28 Yet it seems that Ford soon tired of the scene he had only recently discovered.29 We get a clear indication of Ford’s state of mind in his journal entry of 13 June 1928: ‘I haven’t

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


felt like this since those days and tear-stained nights I spent at Webb School [Bell Buckle, Tennessee] in the spring of 1923. There is nothing for me but N.Y.C. in the fall. And then. Oh, God, am I to be unhappy always?’30 Ford’s sense of personal dissatisfaction comes evermore to the fore in the latter stages of his diary. This is certainly evident in the final entry, which he penned on 25  August 1928. In this concluding entry, Ford notes obliquely that he was ‘glad I went to the roof for I had a terrible time and that will make it easier for me to leave’.31

2 It was around this time that a deeply unhappy Ford made plans to relocate from San Antonio to Columbus, Mississippi.32 New York must have seemed a mere pipe dream.33 Poetry was, now more than ever, at the forefront of his mind. Ford emphasizes as much in his journal entry of 30 July 1928: What writers have influenced me most? Wilde, perhaps; and Shaw, Mencken and other iconoclasts in my ways of thinking. Perhaps I would have been happier had I never seen a book … never known the intensity of poetry … the thirst to create … the hunger for fame and life … hence the realization of the futility of it all … hunger again … fire and ice, fire and ice.34

Note the manner in which this literary nobody has already begun to compare himself to some serious literary heavyweights. Then acknowledge that this entry, which was made in San Antonio, is important as it represents something of a turning point in Ford’s life and literary career. Of particular importance in this regard is a brief comment contained in the same entry. ‘The Dial is wonderful,’ Ford writes, ‘a refreshing escape from the stupidity met with at every turn.’35 Ford is referring here, of course, to the long-running and remarkably influential American, first-generation, modernist little magazine edited by Scofield Thayer and Sibley Watson. Published between 1920 and 1929, The Dial, Christina Britzolakis notes, ‘aimed to provide a critical environment which would foster not only the production but also the circulation and reception of modernist literary texts’.36 To put this slightly differently, we might say that the editorial team behind The Dial hoped to foster a constructive dialogue about modernism and modernist cultural production in their little


Charles Henri Ford

magazine. Britzolakis also suggests that, in the pages of The Dial, ‘modernism was presented as a quintessentially cosmopolitan enterprise, providing an arena of cultural self-fashioning independent of nation or locality. The magazine’s contents were chosen to represent a cross-fertilization between US and European cultures, between literary and other artistic media, and between creative and critical activity.’37 Why mention this? I choose to cite extensively from Britzolakis because, as we shall see in both this chapter and the next, conversation and cosmopolitanism are two of the things that Ford came to privilege in his capacity as a second-generation modernist little magazine editor and poet. In this sense, then, it does indeed seem significant that Ford singles out The Dial for praise in his diary. I propose that it was at precisely this point in his life that Ford realized that modernist print culture might just provide him with the requisite set of practical and conceptual tools with which to combat the encroaching sense of isolation that had recently begun to gnaw away at the very marrow of his adolescent being. Before we go any further, we need to wind the clocks back a bit. We do so in order to more clearly see the beginnings of Ford’s literary career proper. On 22 February 1928, Ford received an unexpected letter from a total stranger named Kathleen Tankersley Young. Ford reprints Young’s unsolicited missive in his journal: One of the scrapbooks from the First National Poetry Exhibition that is being held in New York is in my hands. Mr [Lew] Ney mentions your name as one who would be interested in seeing it. … I think that it will be at the Carnegie Library for a while. … I hope that you are an informal person. For it is an informal exhibit and I am the least formal of persons. I do not have any friends. I am interested in art, my poetry, people who write, think or can thrill equally over a bag of popcorn or a sunset.38

Young is referring to the Carnegie Library of San Antonio, Texas. A poet associated retrospectively with the Harlem Renaissance, Young brought with her an appreciation of modernist aesthetics and sense of cosmopolitan glamour to Ford’s existence in San Antonio.39 Disdainful of what they both perceived as petty bourgeois provincialism, the two quickly formed a close bond: ‘Saw K. again this afternoon at library and we talked for two hours or more … her nervous hands beating a tattoo on the table that tore my heart to shatters … . How I sympathize with her, living here with no people with her

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


tastes, no nothing.’40 It was presumably during one such emotionally fraught afternoon spent in the library that the pair first discussed the possibility of publishing a magazine together. Ford, who had previously written in passing of his desire to publish a magazine, makes mention of such a conversation in his journal entry of 28 March 1928. Young had also, Ford writes, ‘thought of starting a poetry magazine but don’t guess we will’.41 It was at this moment that the impetus for what would eventually become Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms began to take definite shape. Ford often had cause to reflect on this critical juncture in his career later in life. This is how he described events to the contemporary Mississippi-born photographer, Allen Frame: ‘I was in San Antonio, and somehow I got hold of Stanley Braithwaite’s anthology of magazine verse. I started writing some of my own. So, I thought, all these little magazines – If somebody else can do it, I can do it, too. I borrowed $100, never paid it back, got out Blues.’42 While Ford’s retelling is broadly correct, I think there’s a little more to the matter than he lets on here. To begin with, Blues tells us a lot about Ford. Eager to announce his arrival on an already overcrowded avant-garde literary scene at an early age, the adolescent Ford realized that founding a little magazine might enable him to accrue some valuable cultural capital.43 At the same time, he intuitively grasped the fact that, in the words of Susanne W. Churchill, ‘Little magazines are intimate and social: they bring together an ensemble of writers into a small space, staging a performance for a familiar audience of like-minded people, who read each issue during the same limited time period.’44 Finally, establishing a little magazine appealed to the precocious and ambitious Ford as it provided a means with which to combat the problems posed by his perceived geographical isolation. Transnational modernist little magazine culture thus furnished Ford with a viable alternative with which to forge meaningful literary and artistic connections that spanned significant geographical distances. On a more immediate, pragmatic level it also provided him with a convenient outlet for his own work. Ford had, up until this point, struggled to get his work into print. He had by now come to accept that ‘launching a poetry magazine would help immensely. … I am sure I have not been timid about sending my poems to editors. And I don’t intend to be although hundreds have come back I am sometimes glad it’s not so easy.’45 Harriet Monroe was one of the editors Ford had in mind when he wrote this. Ford’s initial dealings with Monroe were far


Charles Henri Ford

from successful. Ford approached the first-generation modernist magazine editor in early 1927. He records this moment in a journal entry dated 14 February 1927: ‘Yesterday I sent three poems to “Poetry” – a magazine of verse. My hopes are small.’46 Monroe’s reply arrived at the beginning of April 1927. In an entry dated 10 April 1927, Ford notes, ‘Last Monday I received a lovely note from Harriet Monroe the editor of Poetry. Though she encouraged me she did not accept my poems!’47 Buoyed by Monroe’s initial words of encouragement, Ford continued to send his poetry to Chicago. However, it soon became clear that Monroe had no intention of publishing these early poetic endeavours. On 10 May 1927, we find Ford lamenting the fact that he had ‘received [his] poems (as usual) back from Poetry with a stabbing phrase from Harriet Monroe. She said (twist!) that my poems did not seem to her poetry – the worst criticism anyone could make of them.’48 There is a degree of implicit intergenerational conflict and tension contained in this sort of exchange.49 Building on this, I  suggest that Ford and Monroe’s exchange should be read as symptomatic of a more general shift in the developmental trajectory of experimental literature and aesthetics in the twentieth century. Recall Monroe’s specific criticism of Ford’s early writing, that she didn’t think it possible to describe his verse as poetry. Why might Monroe say such a thing? Was she simply incapable of understanding Ford’s writing? This, to my mind, seems highly doubtful. After all Monroe was, among other things, an experienced reader and publisher of experimental poetry. An example sheds further light on this particular matter. Troubadour: A Magazine of Verse first appeared in June 1928 and ceased publication in June 1932. Founded by Whitely Gray in San Diego, California, Troubadour was a periodical beset by paradox from the outset.50 To take an example, while the writers featured in the magazine often espoused the merits of the so-called ‘free verse’ moment, the majority of the poems actually included in the magazine cleaved to what we might describe as a more formally conventional – or traditionalist – stance when it came to creative expression. This is one of the reasons why Troubadour strikes the twentyfirst century reader as hopelessly confused. The contemporary reader is also left confused when reading the contribution of Grace Arlington Owen. In this untitled editorial piece published in February 1930, Owen laments the demise of modernist little magazines such as The Dial. ‘Gone too’, she adds,

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


‘is “The Little Review,” that child of Margaret Anderson and Jane [Heap]. Miss Anderson, who once printed what James Joyce wrote and gave the unusual a hearing, flings out her ultimatum, that she will not publish what she cannot understand. With this commentary on present day tendencies she makes a good exit.’51 Owen thus seeks to align herself with Anderson, supporting the latter’s refusal to publish what she had come to regard as sheer unintelligibility. But this, surely, is a wilfully perverse reading, and one that necessarily has to ignore the fact that The Little Review had a long and venerated tradition of publishing experimental literature. Literature that, we would do well to remember, struck many upon first publication as odd, and some as simply incomprehensible. Owen’s reference to unintelligibility is important, as is her comment concerning Anderson’s refusal to publish that which she could no longer appreciate, let alone understand. Equally important is the specific example Owen uses to ‘justify’ her Anderson-inspired position:52 Gather up the eyelashes that have fallen into a square of cloth or with the wind’s pollen: thus gauge the somber sun of your disquiet.53

These lines – taken from a poem entitled ‘Commission’ – belong to none other than Charles Henri Ford. Why does Owen choose to quote Ford? To be sure, her decision to cite Ford’s early poem is a little puzzling. Excepting for a little sprinkling of juxtaposition and the smallest dash of incongruous imagery, there is little in these lines suggestive of problematic formal innovation or anything remotely approaching outright nonsensicality. How then to account for Owen’s ire? The explanation, I think, has less to do with the poem than it has to do with Ford. Or, precisely, it has more to do with what Ford represented – or signified – for Owen. This brings me back to my earlier point about intergenerational tension. In the eyes of established little magazine editors such as Anderson and Monroe, as in the written estimation of more conservatively inclined writers like Owen, emergent poets of Ford’s age and calibre were simply not to be trusted. In fact, they were a cause for profound anxiety. This is because younger writers such as Ford carried with them the seeds – or, depending on who you asked at the time, the implicit threat – of change, of disruption, of upset. Fearful of such change, established


Charles Henri Ford

figures such as Monroe thus chose instead to adopt a dismissive approach to the wave of younger experimental writers they rightly or wrongly perceived as encroaching on their poetic turf. Such an act was tantamount to simply burying one’s head in the sand; like it or not, a change was coming. I am of course referring to the historical shift from first- to second-generation modes of modernism. Recall Hugh Kenner’s belief that the (American) writers working in the wake of the high modernist period inherited a homemade, fully formed tradition. According to Kenner, these younger modernists were, paradoxically, ‘born mature, not to say middle-aged’.54 Taking Objectivism as his primary example, Kenner argues that the output of a typical secondgeneration – or late – modern is that of a belated (male, heterosexual) artist who ‘inherited a formed tradition: the tradition over the cradle of which, less than twenty years previously, Ezra Pound had hoped to have Henry James, O.M., speak a few sponsoring words’.55 But are matters as simple as Kenner might have us believe? Charles Bernstein suggests not. Bernstein argues that in order for a writer or artist to claim status as a second-generation modernist they needed to have been born between 1889 and 1909. Further to this, Bernstein posits that those whom we have now come to recognize as secondgeneration modernists ‘cover the first wave of response to many of the radical and disruptive innovations of the modernist poets and artists of the previous generation’.56 Moreover, in Bernstein’s estimation, second-generation – or second-wave – modernism ‘may be the most profound critique of modernist art – not in theory, but in practice’.57 It thereby comes as no surprise to find established figures like Monroe, Anderson, and Owen casting anxious glances over their shoulders, living as they did in perpetual fear of what they would have in all likelihood perceived as the unwashed, ungrateful, and uncouth mob of youths amassed outside the establishment gate. It should also be obvious by now how this all pertains to Ford. Born as he was in 1908, Ford was a member of the generation that those such as Anderson and Monroe had come to view with no small degree of trepidation. In a sense such anxiety was in fact warranted, at least when it came to Ford. As will become apparent, Ford had little interest in simply toeing the faded line chalked on the ground by his literary forebears. Instead, the fresh-faced Ford sought actively as an editor and poet to call into question certain established modes and norms associated with first-generation literary modernism; this becomes clear when we turn

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


our attention to the venture with which he hoped to launch his literary career, Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms.

3 Kathleen Tankersley Young sat down on 23 November 1928 and wrote to Charles Henri Ford. Judging by the contents of her letter, Ford’s dream of launching a modernist little magazine was by now at least one step closer to being realized: You have no idea how happy I was to find from your letter that there is to be another poetry magazine launched on this world of know-nothings. and that I am to be connected with it. now for facts. I think the name is pretty bad and so does everyone I’ve told about it. it leads one to think of a special Negro Rhythm. Why not call it BLUE. or something like MODERNS. or think of something. (these are only suggestions, you don’t have to take them).58

It seems that Ford had already settled on a name for his little magazine. Why he chose to call it Blues, I am not entirely sure. Decades after the fact, in May 1954, Ford claimed that he ‘loved the Blues before I loved the Poem. Somehow the two loves were from the same source. So it was natural that I called my poetry review Blues.’59 There is no obvious reason to dispute this statement. Ford’s early journals are full of loving references to blues records and musicians. Still, Ford’s choice of the magazine title is undoubtedly problematic.60 We would do well to remember that we are dealing here with the work of a relatively well-to-do white American male hailing from the Deep South. That being so, might we say that he is guilty at this early stage in his career of appropriating specifically African-American cultural forms? A kind of modernist minstrelsy? Perhaps.61 To speak in relative terms, it seems that Ford was, despite Young’s explicit – and equally questionable – reference to a ‘special Negro rhythm’, at best simply unaware of the implications presupposed by such an act of cultural appropriation. In any case, the title stuck.62 Rather, Ford stuck fast to the original title, despite Young trying repeatedly to change his mind: Listen dear everyone I have told of the idea think it is a ripping [idea] but no one can figure out the BLUES. they all say that it is a specialized word,


Charles Henri Ford

new perhaps but with a limited meaning. why not call it THE MODERN REVIEW. or THE MODERNIST. or MODERNS. of course it is up to you. but BLUES gives a limited strange sense.63

Young’s letter is important for three reasons. First, it reveals that Young had managed to generate some interest in Ford’s as yet unpublished magazine. Secondly, it reminds us that the term ‘modernist’ came freighted with a recognizable categorical weight in late 1928, before Blues appeared. Finally, it implies that the two aspiring poets had recently been discussing possible ways of situating Blues in relation to the other magazines already available on the literary market. But which magazines did Young have in mind? She spells this out in another, undated letter. ‘What do you think about the DIAL going under?’ Young asks Ford. ‘I would like to hear what W[illiam] C[arlos] W[illiams] says. I thought that they were making money, at least their expenses. Anyway now BLUES can take the place of the DIAL.’64 Young’s hope that Blues might fill the space in the literary firmament that The Dial once occupied is certainly revealing. But we need to be careful here. Is Young proposing that Blues simply pick up where The Dial left off? Young’s letter of 29 March 1929 suggests otherwise: When people have learned to destroy everything then they can learn to build. I love to sling these things in the face of american editors. and would like to tell them my theories concerning them. It seems the Dial can’t use anything by anyone who doesn’t live in some other country. they are so highbrow and sterile. let BLUES be just the opposite. at least pregnant with lots of healthy bastard children who may be either godlike or deformed.65

Young could not have been clearer. Privileging healthy bastardization over ‘highbrow’ sterility, Young evidently hoped that Ford’s Blues would steer clear of the well-trodden road already taken by the editors of established modernist little magazines such as The Dial. Young’s forceful words, conveying as they do her mounting frustration with what we might describe oxymoronically as the American avantgarde establishment, would have resonated with Ford.66 In equal measure, however, such comments – had they ever reached the attention of the wider literary community – would have surely horrified some of the more vocal critics operating in the late 1920s. I am thinking specifically of literary

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


critics such Laura Riding and Robert Graves. Published in 1927, Riding and Graves’s co-authored A Survey of Modernist Poetry was one of the first critical documents to deploy the term ‘modernist’ in a explicitly descriptive, classificatory manner. Riding and Graves had profound reservations about the relative merits of avant-garde – that is, modernist – poetry. They were especially dismissive of those seemingly misguided contemporary writers who persisted in displaying a predilection for what they describe as outmoded, perhaps even defunct mode of creative expression. Although Blues did not appear until 1929 – two years after the Survey – it is not a stretch to imagine that Riding and Graves would have viewed Ford’s second-generation modernist little magazine in a highly unfavourable light.67 Desiring a return to a less self-conscious, less eccentric brand of literature, Riding and Graves would have been alarmed – in a manner not altogether dissimilar to the aforementioned Anderson and Monroe – to discover that Blues belatedly sought, as we will see, to amplify the sort of self-conscious and eccentric qualities that they wanted to downplay.68 Still, as someone once wrote, all generalizations are dangerous, even this one. It would certainly be wrong to suggest that each and every established literary figure working in the late 1920s felt the same way as those listed above. Consider Ezra Pound’s take on Ford’s magazine. On 22 January 1929, we find Pound mentioning Ford to his father, Homer. ‘C.H. Ford is starting a local show’, Pound wrote, ‘with [Herman] Spector, Bill W[illia]ms. and [Joseph] Vogel, and printing [Louis] Zuk[ofsky]. Let’s see what they can do.’ 69 Pound seemed particularly enthused about the prospect of Blues. His enthusiasm is evident in a letter sent to Joseph Vogel on 23 January 1929. There was, in Pound’s estimation, ‘a chance [in Blues] for the best thing since The Little Review and certainly the best thing done in America without European help’.70 Judging from remarks such as these, it seems fair to say that Ford had succeeded in attracting Pound’s attention.71 Pound offered plenty of editorial advice pertaining to the direction of Ford’s ‘local show’. On 1 February 1929 Pound told Ford: ‘Most “young” magazines play ostrich. They neither recognize the outer world nor do they keep an eye on contemporary affairs of strictly literary nature.’72 Ever the provocateur, Pound suggested that Ford ‘shd. look at all the other poetry reviews and attack idiocy when it appears in them. The simplest and briefest form of attack is a sottisier’73 To put it another


Charles Henri Ford

way, Pound proposed that Ford compile an aggressively worded list of written stupidities contained in the pages of other magazines. It was, Pound wrote, no longer my place to point out the idiocies that appear in “Poetry” for example. The older boy shd. not stick pins into the younger. It is courageous of the young to stick pins into the pompous. Make your sottisier from Poetry and the main literary reviews, sunday supplements etc. These sottisiers are often the first parts of a live mag that people read.74

Pound’s cutting remarks about Poetry would have surely been music to Ford’s ears. Notice, too, the generational element of Pound’s advice to Ford. Unlike, say, Monroe, Pound seems, on the face of it at least, far more relaxed about the emergence of young upstarts such as Ford. This comes to the fore in the following portion of Pound’s letter: Every generation or group must write its own literary program. The way to do this is by circular letter to your ten chief allies. Find out the two or three points you agree on (if any) and issue them as a program. If you merely want to endorse something in my original Imagist manifesto, or the accompanying ‘Don’t’s’ or in my ‘How to Read’ that has just appeared in the N.Y. Herald ‘Books’ simply say so. Or list the revered and unrevered authors you approve or disapprove of.75

Battle-hardened editorial veteran and benevolent patriarch by turns, Pound stresses here the importance of producing a coherent literary programme, one that could also serve as a rallying point of unification between individual writers. Specifically, Pound suggests that Ford’s most viable means of constructing a literary manifesto was to issue a ‘circular letter’ signed by a select number of close confidantes: As you don’t live in the same town with yr start contribs, you can not have fortnightly meeting and rag each other. Best substitute is to use circular letters. For example write something (or use this note of mine) add your comments; send it on to Vogel, have him show it to Spector; and then send it to Bill Wms. each adding his blasts and blesses or comment of whateverdamn natr. Etc. When it has gone the rounds, you can send it back here.76

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


We will have cause to revisit this passage at the outset of the next chapter. For the time being, however, I want to emphasize two main points. It is important to recognize, as Pound did, that Ford’s geographical isolation in Mississippi made the exchange of opinions and circular letters an absolute necessity. In addition, we need to appreciate that Pound’s suggestions are not necessarily as altruistic as they first appear. Reading between the lines, we can see that Pound was trying, in a rather ham-fisted manner, to wrest a modicum of editorial control from Ford. Pound gives the game away in the final line, by suggesting that Ford deliver any sort of completed Blues circular to Rapallo. Characteristically, Pound was trying to stamp his authority upon Ford’s magazine and, given his history of similar attempts, such an invention comes as no surprise.77 But Ford, who would surely have been able to read Pound’s less than wholly selfless intentions here, wasn’t having a bar of it. As far I as have been able to establish, no such circular was ever sent to Pound – nor, it should be added, did anything even remotely approximating a ‘sottisier’ ever appear in Blues. There is, however, evidence to suggest that Ford did in fact start work on producing a literary circular of sorts. We know, for instance, that Pound’s longsuffering friend and ally William Carlos Williams was involved in the drafting of a Blues circular in some capacity. Consider the following: 1. Agreed: That ‘Blues’ is a perfectly hopeless attempt to put what is alive in writing before an american audience; it is a negative virtue but the only one that can be respected. 2. Resolved: There is nothing to do but to continue to do as now being done by ‘Blues’: it is the best present day tradition. The only one that can be counted on to bear anything but dry nuts.78 These two bullet-points are to be found in an undated letter from Williams to Ford. While Williams’s remarks never saw the light of day, I cite this letter here in order to show that Ford did indeed listen to some of Pound’s very practical advice. Donald Davidson confirms as much in his scathing review of the first issue of Blues. Writing in The Tennessean on 23 March 1929, Davidson noted that a critically vague, but rhetorically bold ‘editorial proclamation sets forth the magazine as the organ of certain persons “disgusted with literature as it is at present perpetrated in the United States”’.79 Citing an anonymous, half-hidden statement printed on the inside cover of the first Blues, Davidson


Charles Henri Ford

witheringly describes how ‘the plan of the editors is to “revitalize and introduce new rhythms in creative writing”’. They announce themselves as opposed with equal determination to the ‘sentimental’ and the ‘forced, the far-fetched’.80 The complete text of the statement that so irked Davidson reads: Future issues of Blues will contain work by William Carlos Williams, Joseph Vogel, Jacques Le Clercq, Louis Zukofsky, Eli Seigel, Oliver Jenkins, Kathleen Tankersley Young, Charles Henri Ford, Herman Spector and others who are disgusted with literature as it is at present perpetuated in the United States. By subscribing to Blues you will show your interest and willingness to help in the plans of the editors to revitalize and introduce new rhythms in creative writing. There is only one class of literature more intellectually depressing than the sentimental, the trite, the expected. The reference is made to that most deadening of mental incubuses – the strained, the forced, the farfetched. Blues, by the exclusion of both classes from its pages will wage a bitter war against them, and will provide an organ of experimentation for the generation sans illusions.

As far as opening salvos purporting to attack ‘that most deadening of mental incubuses’ go, this is hardly the most memorable. There are a number of things that need be asked of it. Couched in the language of militaristic advance, the passage certainly wears its avant-garde credentials on its sleeve. But how does this tally with the notion of aesthetic revitalization evoked in the first half of the passage? Come to think of it, what does Ford have in mind when he writes here of revitalization? And exactly, does Ford propose to wage ‘bitter war’ against ‘forced’ and ‘strained’ forms of American literature. Finally, then, what does the phrase ‘the generation sans illusions’ mean? Suffice to say, this opening statement raises more questions than it provides answers. We are certainly still a long way from understanding what Ford hoped to achieve with Blues. Perhaps Pound was right. If nothing else, a well-directed literary ‘blast’ may have helped people to get a clearer fix on Ford’s magazine. Indeed, if Davidson’s aforementioned review of the magazine’s first number is anything to go by, at the very least, it couldn’t have hurt. Unable to interpret what he perceived as the ‘vaguely’ oppositional and confusing nature of the passage cited above, Davidson criticized Ford’s magazine for repeating ‘the vices and [having] none of the virtues of the forward and experimentalist cults that wax and sicken on the banks of the Seine and the Hudson’.81 All things c­ onsidered,

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


Davidson’s dismissal of the recently published Blues was closer to the mark than he perhaps realized. A curious hybrid mixture of local, cosmopolitan, and internationalist experimentalism did indeed begin to emerge in the subsequent editions of Ford’s little magazine. However, the simple fact is that Davidson lacked the adequate critical knowledge and vocabulary to appreciate the first issue of Blues – information that a coherent, detailed, and clearly presented editorial programme could have provided.82 Lacking recourse to such material, the first Blues struck Davidson instead as merely ‘mysterious and odd’.83 But hindsight is a wonderful thing. Knowing what we now know about Ford, it is possible to understand what he hoped to achieve with Blues, which comprised nine issues published between February 1929 and late 1930. This will be our objective for the rest of this chapter. Modernist little magazine theory is helpful in this regard. Adam McKible argues that modernist little magazines matter; that in order more accurately to study the past we need to emphasize ‘its difference from our present moment. Collections and anthologies cannot do this; they de-contextualize past writing and make it familiar in ways that little magazines resist’.84 Peter Marks similarly argues that little magazines ‘provide unrivalled contemporary documentation of such ongoing literary developments, of rivalries and collaborations, of short-lived enthusiasms and failed projects, and of rich and illuminating work of lasting value’.85 That being so, we might say that little magazines provided writers with literal and figural spaces – or communal textual forums – in which they could converse and potentially collaborate with other like-minded, similarly enthused individuals, while simultaneously developing their own literary identities. This is true of Blues. Sometimes described as ‘the big blue blasphemous baby of Charles Henri Ford’,86 and sometimes advertised as a ‘Bi-sexual Bi-Monthly’,87 Blues assumed the form of a metaphorical crucible in which a variety of decidedly diverse voices were able to interact, clash, ferment, and develop into discernible poetic identities and sensibilities, certain of which continued to flourish after the magazine ceased publication in 1930. To this, another significant factor that needs to be considered when it comes to little magazines is longevity. Ian Hamilton suggests that ten years is the ideal publication lifespan for a little magazine. ‘Within that span’, Hamilton argues, ‘one can discern a pattern. There are the opening years of jaunty, assertive indecision, then a middle period of genuine identity, and after


Charles Henri Ford

that a kind of level stage in which that identity becomes more and more wan and mechanical.’88 It seems possible to talk of Blues in relation to the tripartite schema proffered by Hamilton. Ford edited and published two volumes of Blues. The first volume consisted of six monthly issues (all of which Ford edited and printed in Columbus, Mississippi); the second was made up of three quarterly editions (the last two of which were published in New York). The first five issues of  Blues (February–June 1929), I suggest, can be read precisely in terms of Hamilton’s ‘jaunty, assertive indecision’.89 The sixth issue of Blues (July 1929) acts as a conceptual pivot of sorts. Specifically, it brings to a close the magazine’s first stage and simultaneously ushers in a ‘period of genuine identity’ – a phase which spans the three remaining issues of Ford’s periodical (Fall 1929–Fall 1930).90 As we will see at the close of this chapter, this final phase anticipates some of the ways in which Ford’s career would develop both in and beyond the 1930s.

4 Bearing all this in mind, let us turn our attention to the first volume of Blues. The first six issues of Blues laid foundations for the critique of first-generation modernism that Ford sought – as both poet and editor – to order and bring about in his second-generation modernist little magazine. Ford certainly led the way in this regard. Appearing in the second issue of Blues, the second section of his ‘To Be Pickled in Alcohol’ can be interpreted as an oblique poetic call to arms: i rumble on the narrow streets and find an expiation for this chaos he said it’s red like that all over looking and i choked a cigarette butt looking in my glass i am sure that i resemble a traffic squall or a sudden snow a promise has been too insistent and i mold stickily bread into a hanging if a watch ticks shatter your unrest against abnormality (Blues 1:2, 39)91

These lines are the antithesis of all that Riding and Graves sought to promote in their 1927 Survey. Instead of moderating, Ford amplifies the self-conscious and lyrical elements in his poem; it is tempting to read a line like ‘if a watch ticks shatter your unrest against abnormality’ as a tacit refutation of the views expounded by critics such as Riding and Graves. Indeed, something similar

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


might also be said of the overwrought and over-the-top couplet that brings the poem to a close, which could perhaps also be read in relation to Ford’s lifelong interest in and commitment to modernism: ‘i hold tightly to a wreath and a shudder/with torn nails i build grandly the last madhouse for a burned dream’ (Blues 1:2, 39). On a related note, we may well wonder what Riding and Graves would have made of the early contributions of poets such as Norman Macleod and Oliver Jenkins. With sentiments ranging from quiet curiosity to outright exuberance, poems such as Macleod’s ‘A Woman Swayed’ and Jenkins’s idiosyncratic ‘Portrait of a Crusader Giving a Heart-to-Heart Talk’ can be said to epitomize the self-conscious – and self-consciously experimental  – offerings of a number of the younger writers featured in the first volume of Blues. Macleod’s ever so slightly Wallace Stevenseque ‘A Woman Swayed’ captures this element of youthful curiosity: Juvescently curious, i postulated furiously the integrity of my position, but a woman swayed forth on the banister and i doubted conviction (Blues 1: 3, 72)

Opening with an allusion to T. S. Eliot’s ‘Gerontion’, Macleod’s poem depicts the hopelessly furious postulations of an unspecified adolescent. In direct contrast to the passionless, aged figure described in Eliot’s earlier poem, the painfully overzealous youth of Macleod’s poem is clearly in thrall to his emotions. Macleod’s humorous, if conceptually slight, take on adolescent pretensions spills over into outright exuberance in poems like Jenkins’s ‘Portrait’. The poet’s campy and exuberant contribution to Blues may have lacked aesthetic merit, but it made up for this with sheer syntactical vibrancy: beware bewhere my friends of the lure of sleek slimsleek thighs of harlots and boozebenders (myfriends) i am proud proud i say osoproud to lead you out of the valley little lilies of the valley and believe me i cum from the rolyholy

Charles Henri Ford


reeeaches of heaven local #7 to you i stand 4square with love love love i LOVE allofyou myfriends   peeuritee is a bellybusting banner flipping in the pure o zone  getitandholdittoyourhearts (Blues 1: 3, 69)

Jenkins’s strategy of syntactical appropriation serves a specific – if familiar  – purpose. In keeping with tried and tested modernist methods, Jenkins manipulates language here in an attempt to more accurately represent subjective experience. His penchant for compound words and composite phrases can be understood as a characteristically modern or even sub-Joycean attempt to describe a theatrically heightened emotional state through a conscious manipulation – and deliberate deformation – of language. The self-conscious syntactic amplification underpinning this overly dramatic ‘Heart-to-Heart’ is echoed in other contributions in the first volume of Blues. In many ways, Jenkins’s syntactically compacted ‘Portrait’ can be read as the inverse of Parker Tyler’s typographically fragmented and diffuse ‘Sonnet’. As will become clear soon enough, the New Orleans-born Tyler (1904–74) was to play an important role in Ford’s life and literary career. For the time being, however, I want to emphasize the fact that Tyler’s ‘Sonnet’ reveals that a shift away from some of the precepts associated with first-generation modernism did indeed begin to emerge in the first volume of Blues. Published in the second issue of Blues, Tyler’s poetic experiments also represent a direct challenge to pre-existing modernist ideals about coherence and controlled aesthetic patterning. Here are the opening lines: I smell an oriental luxury from him his suit is brown (Blues 1: 2, 50)

So far, so conventional. Yet the poem gradually becomes more difficult to parse as it progresses: I smell an orriental lux I love his nose ury from him (Blues 1: 2, 50)

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


Increasingly prone to typographical proliferation and syntactical disjunction, Tyler’s fractured and interruptive declaration of love ends ambiguously: I smell an oriental he’s in busi luxury from him ness I a Jew and O his sex ap smell an peal rien him from ury lux smell (Blues 1: 2, 50)

Tyler’s formally self-conscious ‘Sonnet’ recalls the typographically experimental work of earlier avant-garde writers such as Guillaume Apollinaire and – somewhat closer to home – E. E. Cummings. Like Ford, Tyler was an enthusiastic supporter of Cummings. This enthusiasm is evident in an unpublished and undated article written by Tyler. In his ‘Imaginary Conversation between Mr E. E. Cummings and the Editors of BLUES’, Tyler poses a number of questions. His first question to ‘Mr Cummings’ sets the tone. ‘Do you realize’, Tyler asks, ‘that much poetry is now being written which owes something to you in technique and in general esthetic, but that this poetry is showing a distinction of its own?’92 Clearly, Tyler’s poem owes something to Cummings ‘in technique and in general esthetic’. But the qualification Tyler attaches to his question is equally pertinent. Tyler is making a clear ‘distinction’ here between his work and that of older, more established modernists such as Cummings. This desire to differentiate is indicative of a particular mindset, of a desire to break away from extant patterns of aesthetic production. Suffice to say, while Tyler does draw upon Cummings’s earlier typographical experiments, the effect produced by the


Charles Henri Ford

younger writer’s poetry is markedly different from that of his significantly older modernist idol. Tyler’s fondness for and concurrent desire to move away from the work of writers such as Cummings also resonates when considered in relation to the criticism offered by the aforementioned Riding and Graves. In their Survey, Riding and Graves note that context is crucial when reading Cummings. They suggest that Cummings’s poems ‘seem to support any charge of irrational freakiness, but in their context are completely intelligible’.93 In other words, while such poetry might look chaotic on the page, it is actually relatively coherent. Now consider Tyler’s contribution to Blues. David Arnold argues that Tyler’s ‘Sonnet’ ‘parodies the conventional sonnet in its disarrangement; there is a discernible formal design but one that works at the expense of sense’.94 In Tyler’s hands, ‘compositional units clash like tectonic plates, resulting in not only the disruption of syntax but also the fragmentation of individual words.’95 In this fashion, Tyler’s treatment of poetic syntax goes much further than that of Cummings. This is especially true of the syntactically ambiguous, cascading finale of Tyler’s poem. The disjunction at the end of this particular ‘Sonnet’ challenges expectations about coherence. And that is precisely the point: the deliberate omission of what Lynn Keller once described as the ‘controlling patterns’ underwriting first-generation modernist poetic production distinguishes Tyler’s altogether more disruptive approach from those of his forebears.96 But why dwell on Tyler’s work at such great length in a volume devoted to the study of Charles Henri Ford? Tyler played a very important and even decisive role in Ford’s career. In a manner not dissimilar to Ford, Tyler had been born into a fairly peripatetic family in the American South. Arriving in New York at the age of twenty, Tyler quickly established himself in the historically queer enclave of Greenwich Village. Having struck up a correspondence with Ford (who was still in Mississippi), Tyler encouraged the younger poet to visit him in New York, which Ford did in January 1930. Sharing similar tastes in art, men, and books, the two soon became firm friends. Around this time, Tyler also assumed an associate position on the editorial board of Ford’s modernist little magazine. Tyler’s role in the development of the second volume of Blues denotes the beginning of what was to become an extremely fruitful period of collaborative exchange and dialogue with the like-minded Ford.

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


The other reason I discuss Tyler’s ‘Sonnet’ in significant detail here concerns the notion of editorial intent. Ford chose to position Tyler’s ‘Sonnet’ at the very end of the second issue of Blues. Alone, such a gesture seems at first glance fairly inconsequential. Having accepted the poem for publication Ford had to print it somewhere. Why not at the end of the issue? Surely it makes no difference in the grand scheme of things? Perhaps not. But having said that, maybe there is something to be made of how Ford chose to arrange the materials available to him at the time. Let us now compare the respective texts with which Ford chose to open and close the second issue of Blues. This is how the March 1929 edition of Ford’s magazine gets going: 1. Government for utility only. 2. Article 211 of the penal code to be amended by the 12 words; THIS STATUTE DOES NOT APPLY TO WORKS OF LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC MERIT. 3. Vestal’s bill or some other decent and civilized copyright act to be passed. Foot-note: Instead of EVERYBODY’S going to New York ten or a dozen bright young lads ought to look in on the national capital. We need several novels in the vein of Hemingway’s The Torrents of Spring dealing not with helpless rural morons but with ‘our rulers’ and the ‘representatives of the people’. (Blues 1: 2, 29)

It should come as no surprise to find that this piece, replete as it is with vaguely conspiratorial mutterings about penal codes and good governance, belongs to Ezra Pound. The question immediately arises: Why lead with this stereotypically didactic, worryingly magisculed piece? Ford’s decision to open with Pound’s ‘Program 1929’ certainly comes across as a little odd. Given what we have said already about Ford’s desire to differentiate himself from his literary elders, the decision to afford Pound’s programmatic, hectoring, and above all else rote article pride of place in the second Blues reads as more than a touch counter-intuitive. How then can we account for such a decision? There are two related factors in play here. The first is largely pragmatic. Ford was well aware of the fact that Pound’s name carried a significant amount of cultural weight. As such, it seems reasonable to assume that Ford’s decision to open with Pound’s piece was, in part at least, an attempt to shore up the modernist credentials of his recently established, relatively unknown little magazine – a


Charles Henri Ford

magazine which, it should be added, carried in its first volume a host of works by other, similarly prominent modernists. However, there is more to matters in this instance than mere editorial expediency. This brings me back to the notion of editorial intent. It is not coincidental that Ford chose to lead with the prose of a famous first-generation modernist figurehead. Nor is it an accident that he chose to close the same issue with the work of an aspiring secondgeneration modernist writer. On the contrary, it is possible to read such an act of editorial intent as a symbolic gesture of sorts, a passing of the modernist torch from one generation to the next. Out with the old and in with the new, if you will. Truth be told, Ford didn’t always get things entirely right when it came to matters such as this. The first volume of Blues is at times, to put it politely, a bit of a conceptual mess. This is especially true of the fourth and fifth issues. Ford’s magazine reaches a definite impasse as it moves into what we might term its middle period. Reading these two issues together, it becomes apparent that very few of the pieces in the fourth and fifth Blues provided much in the way of exciting, relevant, or fresh modernist rhythms.97 At this point, having watched his little magazine drift into conceptual and aesthetic slightness, an increasingly frustrated Ford was forced as editor to take stock. Ford’s decision to publish the infamous American expatriate Harry Crosby in the fifth issue of Blues is especially important. Positioned at the very end of the fifth Blues, Crosby’s ‘Trumpet of Departure,’ denotes a subtle change in Ford’s editorial decision-making process and heralds a shift in the overall direction of his little magazine. ‘Trumpet of Departure’ begins: Abominable dead harbor of the Past. You are the poison Satan urges me to drink. I smell the stench of your wharves even to this day. Your coils of ropes are serpents ready to strike. Your warehouses house enormous sacks of bric a brac (ha! the tyranny of things). Your tumbrel-wagons are piled high with the empty barrels of hypocrisy. (Blues 1: 5, 130)

Crosby’s opening remark resonates in the wider context of the first volume of Ford’s Blues, and Ford utilizes Crosby in order to confirm his little magazine’s symbolic departure from clichéd modes of modernist expression. Moreover, Ford’s positioning of the émigré Crosby at the close of the fifth issue anticipates the latter’s reappearance at the very close of the sixth Blues.

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


It is in the sixth issue of Blues from July 1929 that Ford’s critique of certain modernist modes begins to take off. In the second issue of Blues brief mention had been made of the fact that a special issue of Ford’s magazine was already in the works. Among other things, this announcement indicates that Ford had a clear idea from the outset regarding the direction in which he hoped to take his magazine. ‘An Expatriate Number of Blues is planned for the near future’, the uncredited statement reads, ‘containing poems and stories by those writers living abroad who, though writing in English, have decided that America and [the] American environment are not hospitable to creative work’ (Blues 1: 2, 52). Not all that long after, in the summer of 1929, another uncredited advertisement trumpeting the cause of Blues appeared in the famous and hugely influential ‘Revolution of the Word’ double-issue of Eugene Jolas’s transition. Structured around three central claims, this announcement – ‘Out of a Blue Sky’ – declares: BLUES is a magazine of a more complete revolt against the cliché and commonplace welcoming poetry and prose radical in form subject or treatment. BLUES is a haven for the unorthodox in america and for those writers living abroad who though writing in english have decided that america and american environment are not hospitable to creative work. BLUES is a cooperative experiment and cannot at present pay for contributions but the magazine will be given wide distribution among critics writers and those interested in modern literature in europe and the states.98

This announcement, which doubles as an unofficial literary manifesto of sorts, reminds us once again that Ford did indeed listen to Pound’s advice about the running of a little magazine (consider in particular the tripartite structure Ford uses here). In addition, this advertisement, as you will have already spotted, borrows from the statement printed in the second issue of Blues. There is, however, one key difference. Notice that Ford now seeks to describe his magazine as a ‘haven’ for ‘unorthodox’ writing. This point of distinction is one to which we will return in our discussion of the second volume of Blues. For the time being, this qualification is important as it gestures towards the role that Ford hoped Blues might eventually perform. Without wishing to jump too far ahead, I propose that Ford came to conceive of his magazine


Charles Henri Ford

an inclusive textual environment, as a social ‘cooperative’ forged by a host of ‘unorthodox’ writers; as a materialist ‘haven’ that might provide shelter and refuge for emerging literary talent, if you prefer.99 Before we get to that, a little more on the sixth issue of Blues. The origins of Ford’s ‘Expatriate Number’ can perhaps be traced back to an earlier comment made by William Carlos Williams in the second issue of Blues. In ‘For a New Magazine’, Williams posited that Ford’s Blues ‘might too open up a path for the appearance of Americans in Europe and elsewhere where their observations, their serious observations of other countries and peoples might be laid before us for decent study’ (Blues 1: 2, 30). The expatriate issue of Blues represented an editorial coup for the geographically isolated Ford, yet to meet any of his contributors in the flesh. Superficially, the expatriate Blues followed the pattern established in the previous issues. At first glance, it might be tempting to say that the work of prominent older modernists – such as Gertrude Stein and Hilda Doolittle – bolstered the profile of the expatriate issue of Blues significantly. However, while the July 1929 edition of Ford’s little magazine does feature a number of contributions from venerable American expatriate first-generation modernists, by no means does it rely on them. The sixth issue of Blues opens with Stein’s portrait of the French avantgardist Georges Hugnet and closes with Crosby’s rhetorically overblown, mystical ‘House of Ra’. Sandwiched between Stein and Crosby’s first- and second-generation modernist pieces were the contributions of younger expatriate writers like Walter Lowenfels, Eugene Jolas, Kay Boyle, Leigh Hoffman, Harold J. Samelson, George Linze (translated by Samelson), and Laurence Vail. We can appreciate the logic behind Ford’s decision to publish an expatriate issue of Blues. Ford evidently hoped to tap into a rich tradition of dynamic modernist expatriatism (embodied in periodical form by earlier modernist little magazines like Broom, Secession, and This Quarter). However, Ford’s gesture of expatriate solidarity ran the risk of appearing outmoded from the outset. Indeed, as Daniel Katz notes, ‘the association of modernism with expatriation and exile is venerable to the point of being a cliché’.100 Yet the arrangement of materials in the sixth Blues – especially at the end of the issue – is designed precisely to combat such a cliché. As will become clear, the sixth Blues signals instead a shift away from particular modes of modernist expatriate living that had become completely clichéd by 1929.

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


Admittedly, things do get off to a rather slow start. The expatriate Blues seems initially to celebrate the condition of voluntary exile. Consider ‘Antipodes’ by Walter Lowenfels: A taxi! A taxi! To Nineveh! – Rome! No two people walk alike. I shall Search the antipodes to find Spring where Helen lies Constantly out of season. (Blues 1: 6, 146)

Lowenfels’s evocation of wanderlust is wholly conventional and rife with middle-class cliché. Dissatisfied with his or her surroundings, the poem’s unidentified speaker is hailing a taxi that they hope will transport them to the famous historical and cultural sites of the Old World, places where everyone walks with an individualistic gait. However, Lowenfels’s poem is also something of an exception. Direct references to the condition of expatriatism are few and far between in the sixth Blues. Not that it really matters. After all, nowhere does it say that expatriate writers must address issues arising from their expatriate existence. What does matter is that we better understand the process of editorial patterning at work in the final issue of the first volume of Ford’s Blues. Broadly speaking, the first half of the issue is alternately serious (Leigh Hoffman’s ‘A Great Day for a Little Man’) and sincere (Kay Boyle’s ‘Confession to Eugene Jolas’). In contrast, the second half is generally more playful and parodic (Crosby’s contribution being a notable exception). As in preceding issues of Blues, the contributions that carry the most critical weight in the expatriate issue come at the close: Laurence Vail’s ‘Meek Madness in Capri or Suicide for Effect’ and Crosby’s ‘House of Ra’. Vail and Crosby’s contributions to the expatriate edition of Ford’s little magazine should be read together. In what follows, I posit that Vail’s sardonic ‘Suicide for Effect’ acts as a pre-emptive corrective to Crosby’s overblown ‘House of Ra’. Crosby’s idiosyncratic, yet evidently Lawrentian-inflected brand of sun worship epitomizes his contribution to the expatriate Blues. Here is a choice extract: ‘O Sun I in to you the arrow of my soul (under the sharp point that


Charles Henri Ford

pierces the flesh); let the sun shine (and the Sun shone) on the Pyramids and Palms, on the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, on the Unknown Pyramid of Beyond, on the Unknown Pyramid that stands between the body and the soul’ (Blues 1: 6, 160). What are we to make of such writing? Dougald McMillian notes that one of the infamous by-products of Crosby’s inscrutable second-generation blend of lyrical mysticism and modernist aestheticism was ‘a strangely positive personal cult of suicide’.101 This comment helps us better appreciate Vail’s ‘Suicide for Effect’. From top to bottom, title to typography, Vail’s poem is absolutely parodic and satirical. I want to argue that Ford positioned Vail’s poem where he did in order to prefigure Crosby’s appearance, while simultaneously lampooning his fellow expatriate’s sexual extravagances, as well as his well-documented poetic and mystical pretensions. Expatriate decadence and acts of violence go hand-in-hand throughout Vail’s contribution to the sixth Blues: I shall slide into the embassy like a knife or shall it be a brothel a chic church and rip the passports stopping the slits with birdies (Blues 1: 6, 155)

Vail’s evocation of clichéd expatriate living is as unappealing as it is unromantic. Much is made of ‘gums obscene’ and ‘grease spots of vice’ (Blues 1: 6, 155). Vail casts aspersions on the sexual proclivities that those ostensibly virile – and primarily heterosexual – modernists like Crosby deemed so important to their aesthetic: old right arm  cardboard drowsy and numb with thumbs drowsy and numb with thumbs my sex a drooping lily (Blues 1: 6, 155)

Vail’s seemingly impotent poetic subject is obsessed with sex and death in equal measure: I’ll peel me quick naked but unexciting  miseree tiptoe a something high

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


a roof   a lash   a head note and now to death  mayhap amusement leap I   leap I (Blues 1: 6, 157)

The depiction of death as mere ‘amusement’ is significant. Vail is suggesting that the poet-narrator of ‘Suicide for Effect’ is prone to pretentious, empty posturing ‘in mystic mines/purses and easy journeys/in swift plush chairs’ (Blues 1: 6, 154). Vail then appears to chide expatriate figures like Crosby as the poem gradually draws to a close: the end in the end is the end of ends thy young man was a mess a mess a mess a mess a mess a mess (Blues 1: 6, 158)

What are we to make of this strange poem? As I mentioned before, the answer has everything to do with editorial intent. Positioned as it is immediately before Crosby’s ‘House of Ra’, Vail’s ‘Suicide for Effect’ serves in a sense to undercut the former writer’s closing, remarkably po-faced contribution. It is also worth noting that Ford’s act of editorial ordering also lends the last stanza of Vail’s poem an air of uncanny prescience: I am most dead hence not without grandeur of sorts  it is not meet to scratch beyond extremis   dead? very. the final journey should have an air begad   my coffin is no taxi (Blues 1: 6, 158)

As we know, Harry Crosby committed suicide some five months after ‘House of Ra’ appeared in the expatriate number of Blues. Tyrus Miller situates Crosby’s death in relation to the wider developmental trajectory of Anglo-American


Charles Henri Ford

modernism. Here is what Miller has to say on the matter. He argues that by the end of the 1920s, The prophetic role of the modernist artist had been severely challenged by the convergence of several major currents. Modernism itself had aged, and its claims to represent the future had often proved hollow. Its imperative to innovate threatened modernism’s adherents with personal and artistic exhaustion, exemplified most poignantly, perhaps, by the suicides of Harry Crosby and Hart Crane.102

Developing this point, Miller argues that the sort of writing that flourished in and beyond the 1930s ‘appears a self-conscious manifestation of the ageing and decline of modernism, in both its institutional and ideological dimensions’.103 Further to this, in Miller’s estimation, ‘it is as if the phosphorescence of decay had illuminated the passageway to a re-emergence of innovative writing after modernism.’104 There is a sense, in Miller’s writing, that some sort of modernist threshold has been crossed: ‘Sinking themselves faithlessly into a present devoid of future, into a movement grinding to a halt and an aesthetic on the threshold of dissolution, the writers of late modernism prepared themselves, without hope, to pass over to the far side of the end.’105 This is a rather bleak assessment. Bearing Miller’s assertion in mind, I suggest that the sixth issue of Ford’s little magazine presented a similar symbolic passage to viable modes of innovative writing that began to emerge in the subsequent issue of Blues. However, it is important to recognize that the writing that began to emerge in the second volume of Ford’s little magazine was not, as Miller might have it, completely devoid of hope. Indeed, as we will now see, one of the merits of the boisterous and assertive second volume of Blues is that it productively complicates Miller’s theorization of a general move into a period of late modern despondency.

5 William Carlos Williams’s ‘Introduction to a Collection of Modern Writing’ captures something of the character of the second volume of Ford’s Blues: We now boldly assert that saving the retreat there is no other way for writing in the present state of the world than that which BLUES has fostered. ‘You MUST come over.’ (Blues 2, 7: 3)

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


Printed at the start of the seventh issue of Blues, Williams’s opening introduction provides us with a useful means to approach the second volume of Ford’s little magazine. The only first-generation modernist to be featured in what was the first quarterly edition of Blues, Williams’s introductory salvo echoes Tyrus Miller’s aforementioned account of the re-emergence of ‘innovative writing’ in the wake of first-generation modernism. A threshold does seem to have been crossed. At the same time, this introductory piece also chimes with something Williams said a few months earlier, in the second issue of Blues. In ‘Notes for a New Magazine’, Williams argued that younger second-generation modernist writers such as Ford needed to build on the literary advances made by their elders. In particular, ‘the young writers of today must not be allowed to lose what those of 1914 and thereabouts won – even to be held as weakly as it is – with difficulty’ (Blues 1: 2, 30). Filled as it is with talk of ‘difficulty’ and weakness, this is, it seems fair to say, hardly the most inspiring of railing cries. Williams’s contribution to the seventh issue of Blues continues in much the same vein. ‘We live, gentle reader, in a world very much gone to pot’, Williams writes, ‘the thought of it tortured, the acts of it blind, the flight from it impossible. What to do? Either retreat, swallowing whole, as complete as it is the SUMMA THEOLOGIAE, the philosophy dependent on therefrom and the poetry pinned thereto and go to rest with John Donne in the tight little island of dreams where all past wealth is garnered; or face the barren waves –’ (Blues 2: 7, 3).106 What to do? The question would have been on Ford’s mind around the time he was editing and publishing the seventh issue of Blues. Consider the letter Kenneth Rexroth sent on 30 November 1929: I have been thinking a great deal about Blues and the work it has been doing for U.S. letters. Certainly you would be making a great mistake to discontinue it, for it has been one of the most valuable, perhaps the most valuable, periodicals in a long, long time, and with the #7 it has really just begun. It seems to me that the first 6 numbers were primarily explorative, intent on discovering what exactly a new generation of writers wanted to say, both you and your contributors were in a sense feeling your way.107

To this, Rexroth adds: ‘Not until #7 does your editing become completely conscious in its selectivity (of course you had more time) and the work of your contributors in the majority of cases achieves at least a preliminary finish.’108 While I would seek to dispute the suggestion that Ford’s editorial selectivity


Charles Henri Ford

only ‘became completely conscious’ for the first time in the seventh number of Blues, I think it possible to read Rexroth’s letter in relation to the tripartite account of little magazines proffered by Hamilton. That is, we might say that Rexroth is here suggesting that Ford’s Blues had now moved into a phase of genuine identity. To be sure, something seems to have changed. Led by Ford, the secondgeneration modernists featured in the seventh Blues sought to demonstrate that the contemporary situation into which they entered was not altogether hopeless. Where Williams saw only ‘barren waves’, the energetic second-generation Blues writers saw the opportunity to make a positive intervention in the contemporary cultural field. Many of the second-generation contributors to the seventh issue of Ford’s little magazine follow the example set by Paul Bowles: No, I’m tired of being the passive element I’m tired of hearing your fingers snap And of feeling my muscles respond without volition (Blues 2: 7, 25)

Tired of waiting, the speaking subject in ‘Promenade des Anglais’ wants evidently to affect a more active, conscious sort of literary intervention. In this sense ‘Promenade des Anglais’ might be read as a poetic statement of intent. Bowles’s speaking subject is evidently no longer content with mere passivity. His decidedly impatient speaker desires to bring about a more active and conscious sort of literary intervention. This desire corresponds directly with Ford, who, as Rexroth recognized, sought to make an active intervention in the contemporary literary sphere with the publication of the seventh issue of Blues. The animated seventh Blues is best understood as a conscious, confident  – and by no means hopeless – response to some of the established modes of modernism set out in the earlier issues of Blues. In contrast to the previous issues, the seventh Blues is assertive and visually arresting. In purely visual terms, we can compare Andrée Rexroth’s abstract geometrical artwork with the unchanging, uniformly minimal – or depending how you choose to look at it, formally conservative – cover design adorning the previous six issues of Ford’s little magazine. Rexroth’s cover is in this sense a visual marker serving to differentiate the seventh Blues from the previous issues. The first fictional contribution to the seventh issue of Blues functions in a similar fashion. Edgar Calmer’s ‘Any Given Segment’ revisits the expatriate

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


scene evoked in the previous issue of Blues. By a certain time on any given day, Calmer’s narrator writes, ‘the lesbians will be up on the terrace of the deux magots, warming in the sun. myself rising and to the window, acutely hungover and with the threatened attack of falling of the face. before me in the courtyard all dank summer, sweating and rising in mist’ (Blues 2: 7, 4). Having name-checked the famous rendezvous of the Parisian literary elite, Calmer’s unnamed narrator proceeds to describe ‘the indescribable clatter the absurd people. with comedy like that in the streets the theatre has a right to be bad in this country’ (Blues 2: 7, 4). Reading on, it soon becomes clear that a number of American expatriates dominate this particular milieu: voices: ‘listen dearie maybe you haven’t a yen for me and maybe that’s too bad. but you can’t fix me you’re just as queer as I am dearie’. there was once a frenchman seen in this cafe but that was during the second empire and besides the wench he came to meet is dead. so are we all dead. I am dead. I have been dead three days and am just beginning to stench. (Blues 2: 7, 4)

The sentiment expressed in ‘Any Given Segment’ corresponds directly with the outlook expressed in the preceding issue of Blues. Like Vail’s satirical ‘Suicide for Effect’, Calmer’s ‘Any Given Segment’ reads as critical of the expatriate condition. Specifically, Calmer’s narrator has clear reservations about the apparent expatriate oversaturation of Paris. Secondly, consider how the story ends. In a turn of phrase that anticipates Tyrus Miller’s aforementioned account of the emergence of late modernist literature, Calmer’s ‘Any Given Segment’ closes with yet another suggestion that a significant threshold of sorts has indeed been reached. Finally, consider the inherently queer and camp ‘voices’ that feature prominently in the above passage. Jaime Hovey argues that queer modernist culture ‘takes great pleasure in talking for its own sake’.109 Hovey suggests that the idle chatter produced by what she describes as a logorrheic form of modernism ‘takes great pleasure in its own performance, and suggests the perversity of this pleasure by insisting that it circulate as the spectacle of its own pleasure, already framed for an audience constructed as an in-crowd of participants’.110 According to Hovey, ‘The pleasure of the talker taking pleasure in herself, and the audience taking pleasure in this pleasure, is then circulated as the foremost pleasure of art.’111 In addition, ‘hearing one’s self being heard, like seeing one’s self


Charles Henri Ford

seeing one’s self, embraces self-consciousness as a strategy and pose’.112 This deployment of self-consciousness as both a strategy and a pose is pretty much exactly what we get in Calmer’s contribution to the seventh Blues. The haughty pieces of unabashedly voluble chatter that punctuate the monologue of Calmer’s sardonic narrative form part of ‘a self-consciously theatrical stage patter that dramatizes abnormality, anxiety, effeminacy, and queerness’.113 However, at the same time it is important to recognize that the explicitly satirical aspect of Calmer’s writing complicates our understanding of his contribution to the seventh Blues. There is undeniable ambiguity permeating Calmer’s treatment of the logorrheic chatter that circulates in his expatriate scene. There is simply no way of knowing what Calmer’s irritable narrator makes of all the non-normative theatricality and self-conscious queerness surrounding him. Putting it another way, how can we be certain that the queer scene represented in ‘Any Given Segment’ is celebrated, and not, like the other aspects of expatriate existence described by Calmer, simply satirized or deflated? In a sense, it doesn’t really matter what Calmer’s narrator thinks. What matters instead is the way in which the queer voices assume a primary position in this, the very first piece of fiction to feature in the seventh Blues. They are explicit, in your face, and, as it turns out, going absolutely nowhere. Indeed, Calmer’s queer, chattering ‘voices’ were in good – and voluble – company in the second volume of Blues. The seventh Blues in particular includes inherently queer contributions like Ford’s demotic and melodramatically logorrheic ‘Suite’, Tyler’s metaphorical account of non-normative sexual awakening, and Richard John’s ‘Robert in Berlin’. The seventh issue of Ford’s little magazine thus hints at the viable possibility of a second-generation mode of modernist expression far removed from the ironic detachment and masculine rhetoric familiar to readers and students of first-generation modernism. The selfconsciously theatrical and effeminate pieces of positive ‘stage patter’ featured in texts like Tyler’s ‘3 Poems’ and Ford’s ‘Suite’ also differentiates Blues from first-generation modernist little magazines such as, say, Wyndham Lewis’s Blast.114 While the antagonistic and oppositional editor of Blast wanted, as is well known, to banish the ‘effeminate lout within’,115 Ford sought to open up a communal, inclusive textual space in which self-consciously ‘effeminate’ and queer modernist voices might flourish without fear of chastisement or censorship. In this regard, the seventh Blues is an important critical document

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


because it denotes a moment when Ford came tantalizingly close to realizing this ambition. It seems fair to say that this moment had been a long time coming. Looking back, it now becomes apparent that clues as to the direction that Blues was to take had in fact been scattered like poetic breadcrumbs throughout earlier issues. Recall, for instance, the ‘Sonnet’ that Parker Tyler published in the second number of Ford’s magazine. As well as challenging assumptions about coherence and meaning, Tyler’s tonally ambiguous ‘Sonnet’ also opens up a textual space for the poetic investigation of queer desire. The opening lines of the poem foreground the fact that the unnamed – and ungendered – speaking subject of Tyler’s poem is enamoured with an unidentified ‘suit’-wearing businessman. Exuding a fair amount of ‘sex appeal’, oblique descriptions of this anonymous and perfumed figure begin to dominate while the syntax of the poem continues to proliferate: I dream of     smell an oriental luxur     him at night that           y from him he I makes love to me yes smell an oriental luxury from    strenuous love him (Blues 1: 2, 50)

One particular phrase stands out in this syntactically disjunctive passage: ‘He makes love to me.’ Satirical or not, the assertion of queer desire that we find in Tyler’s ‘Sonnet’ is the first of numerous subsequent expressions scattered throughout the first volume of Blues. We get a better sense of this in another of Tyler’s contributions. The poetic sequence ‘Frustration: From a Slender Coffin’ appeared in the fourth issue of Blues. Entitled ‘He the More, I the Less’, the first poem to feature in Tyler’s sequence is a treatment of the vagaries of nonnormative desire: (But if all over the round world


Charles Henri Ford

There were a coming all To his center I there should be first Kneeling, having eclipsed the Bright sun, reaching him In his bed, Better loved and more willing To be fondled because of Things which came before most Sweetly in the shrinelight Memory of the heart a talking) (Blues 1: 4, 96)

As Tyler’s sensual poem unfurls it becomes clear that all is not well: The breeze that cheats while I love him, All over the world will be in losing Memory the part of him I hold here now Sweetly in the bed a grim giving all of him (Blues 1: 4, 96)

Increasingly, it appears that the ‘willing’ devotee of Tyler’s poem is locked in an oppressive relationship with a self-centred lover (the clue being in the title). Despite recognizing the shortcomings of his supposed beloved, Tyler’s devotee seeks nevertheless to Live and die an honest giver So I make a breathing Wind and what I lose Is national and overcome By what I gain in love A paradise Of breezeless monitude (Blues 1: 4, 96)

The ‘paradise’ evoked at the end of ‘He the More, I the Less’ is, as we can see, hardly perfect. Tyler’s neologism ‘monitude’ suggests as much. Tyler’s splicing together of ‘monad’ and ‘solitude’ implies that the arid and ‘breezeless’ idyll that the steadfastly ‘honest’ devotee claims to have gained through ‘love’ is destined to be a lonely one. Tyler’s devotee is well aware of the absurdity that lies at the heart of his illusory, solitary ‘paradisal estate’ (Blues 1: 4, 96). Yet he seems unable to make a positive intervention. The reader is left with the impression

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


that the emotional life of Tyler’s devoted and ‘honest giver’ is characterized by compromise, self-deception, and meek passivity. While the conclusion of ‘He the More, I the Less’ is decidedly subdued, it should not prevent us from appreciating the fact that Tyler’s queer poem serves a specific critical function: it acts as a counterweight to some of the more universalizing tendencies endemic in certain models of earlier modernist expression. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick reasons that the ‘rhetoric of male modernism serves a purpose of universalizing, naturalizing, and thus substantially voiding – as depriving of content – elements of a specifically and historically male homosexual rhetoric’.116 In this sense, poems like ‘Sonnet’ and ‘He the More, I  the Less’ are interesting and important as they effectively invert the naturalizing logic that heterosexual (high, first-generation) modernism often deploys in order to keep homosexual rhetoric firmly in the closet. Ford, I want now to suggest, was well aware of this; it in part explains why he was more than willing to cede a significant amount of space in the various issues of magazine to a poet such as Tyler. Following Juan A. Suárez, I want also to suggest that Ford (and Tyler) instinctively recognized that, ‘if modernism provided an outlet for queer expression, it did so in a way that was intermittent and conditioned. Modernism was, in sum, as much a liberation as a closet’.117 Desiring to engender a textual space in which individual poetic voices could exist according to their own specificity, Ford came thus to favour forms of demotic and queer writing that sought to break away from the closeted conditions established in some earlier, predominately masculine models of literary modernism.

6 Sadly, however, Blues was to fold just as things were starting to get really interesting; it would be almost sixty years before Ford published another issue of his modernist little magazine.118 The speed at which Blues emerged and faded from public view is a factor that caused Ford no end of strife. Judging by the reviews it received at the time, most of Ford’s peers simply didn’t really understand what he had hoped to achieve with Blues. Some of these people had at one time or another expressed great interest in Blues. A number of them had even been published in Blues. Joseph Vogel was one of these people. Around


Charles Henri Ford

the time of the seventh issue of Blues, in the October 1929 issue of New Masses, Vogel suggested that Ford’s little magazine, on whose editorial board he had once sat, ‘has persistently avoided life and human beings. The work in it has been metaphysical, treating with petty emotions, describing souls of lousy poets’119 These are strong words, which would have in all likelihood surprised Ford.120 I think it fair to say that Ford would have also been taken aback by Vogel’s assertion that ‘it is time that young writers dissociate themselves from all these abstractions, as many have long ago done from Pound, the dean of corpses that promenade in graveyards’.121 What are we to make of such a statement? Given what we have established as regards Ford’s desire to break away from certain modes of first-generation modernism, I’m not all that sure Vogel gets it right when he moves to associate Blues with that ‘dean’ of high modern ‘corpses’, Pound. Speaking of first-generation modernism, I wonder what Vogel would have made of the following piece of prose, which was printed in the eighth issue of Blues: Experiment we must have, but it seems to me that a number of the younger writers have forgotten that writing doesn’t mean just inventing new ways to say ‘So’s your Old Man’. I swear I myself can’t make out for the life of me what many of them are talking about, and I have a will to understand them that they will not find in many another. (Blues 2: 8, 47)

These words belong to William Carlos Williams. Found in the cautionary essay, ‘Bread and Caviar Again: A Warning to the New Writer’, this passage reveals that Williams’s enthusiasm for Ford’s project had – by early 1930 – taken something of a nosedive. As to which of the writers Williams couldn’t comprehend? Somewhat frustratingly though absolutely typical of his criticism, he isn’t all that specific when it comes to details. Still, the question I think we need to ask here is this: Who gets it right? Williams or Vogel? In a word, neither. Vogel gets it wrong when he moves reductively to equate the first-generation modernist Pound and the second-generation Ford; Williams is wrong to assume – in a passage that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Riding and Graves’s Survey – that much if not all of the second-generation modernist work featured in the later issues of Blues was intended as nothing more than a collective thumbing of the nose aimed in the general direction of first-generation literary modernism.

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


Yet things were more complicated than either Williams or Vogel were willing to concede, or even admit. That being said, this wouldn’t be the last time Ford was to find himself – or his work – caught between two seemingly antithetical positions. Perhaps this explains why he felt moved to draft something approaching a proper manifesto. Co-authored with Parker Tyler, Ford drafted a lengthy ‘Program’, which was to have been issued in the tenth issue of Blues. This is how it begins: ‘Since a program may begin in the middle of things, this, in a sense, is true of Blues’ program. We are going to commit ourselves about certain things which, to let alone any longer would be to present as permissible.’122 Whereas before ‘the time to speak had not yet come – there has been growing in all directions a curious plant of opinion and trend, criteria and predilection, of which Blues may be easily conceived to be a name. It is to contradict such a superstitious conception that this program has been formed’. Couched in unnecessarily oblique language, the above extract also hints at why Ford felt the need to append a ‘Program’ to what was meant to be a tenth Blues.123 Despite being rather short on detail, the unpublished ‘Program’ was intended to counteract the ‘great deal of nonsense’ that had been ‘expressed about Blues in the pulpy mouths of various licensed literary bushrangers, identifying themselves, for the moment, as more or less literary commentators’.124 Ford and Tyler’s ‘Program’ makes clear that, initially, ‘Blues had not deemed it necessary to offer a protest in [sic] behalf of its rightful constituents’.125 But now, having listened to the criticism of those such as Williams and Vogel, it seems that Ford recognized that a different approach was needed. Yet the fact remains that Ford and Tyler’s ‘Program’ went unpublished. Could it have made a difference? Maybe. In any case, Ford and Blues now began to slip through the cracks at a rather alarming rate. Dissatisfied with this newfound position on the avant-garde sidelines,126 Ford (again with the aid of his trusted lieutenant Tyler) sought in the pages of The Sewanee Review to launch one final, spirited defence of the soon-to-be discontinued Blues. Drawing to a close, I propose that this article holds the key to understanding precisely what it was Ford had hoped to achieve with Blues. In ‘What Happens to a Radical Literary Magazine’, Ford and Tyler exclaim proudly: ‘Blues started with a jump – with a spurt from the brain. The world was not prepared for it, for the world is never prepared for the really good things that are also new.’127


Charles Henri Ford

Ford and Tyler also do their best in this piece to deflect attention away from what they seem to have come to regard as shortcomings in the early issues of Blues. ‘Obviously’, they concede, ‘something attacked the nostrils in Denmark, and, speaking more plainly, each notice had been fraught with a determination to overlook what was worthwhile (however sometimes awkward or abortive) in Blues.’128 ‘No doubt’, Ford and Tyler admit, some perfectly worthless stuff got in: it was not, at first, our intention to publish blueribbon literature. The general tendency in taste was certainly toward the significant in legitimate new literary modes. But the important thing to be considered is the fate which must befall any attempt at cultural renovation (we prefer the word to revolution), for each attempt has the partially secret but wholly venomous antipathy of the lords of cultural destiny.129

Notice in particular the distinction Ford and Tyler make here between cultural renovation and revolution. Ford is now suggesting that his little magazine was characterized by the former tendency: renovation. This distinction between revolutionary rupture and more tempered cultural renovation is of fundamental importance when attempting to understand Blues. It is only by considering the role renovation plays in Ford’s thinking that we are properly able to understand Blues. However, given that Ford places great emphasis on cultural renovation in The Sewanee Review piece about Blues, it does seem surprising that initial advertisements for his little magazine would choose, as we heard earlier, to describe a process of ‘more complete revolt’. I want finally to suggest here that Ford’s tempering of his rhetoric can be understood as an attempt to more properly differentiate his magazine from competitors such as transition. This is where Ford’s distinction between outright revolution and more modest cultural renovation comes into play. The Sewanee Review article in this sense hints at a conversation between transition and Blues, with Ford slyly hinting that literature needs to be renovated or refurbished in contrast with the revolutionary rhetoric that famously underpinned Jolas’s secondgeneration modernist project. As to why Ford might think this? The answer speaks ultimately, I think, to Ford’s sense of the queer, of his desire both in and after Blues to produce a textual space – or renovated second-generation modernist ‘haven’ – in which ‘unorthodox’, purportedly abnormal figures traditionally excluded from mainstream literary discourse, might gather

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


together, collaborate, and generally do as they saw fit. This, as we will now see, is something that came to the fore in Ford’s first major post-Blues project of the 1930s.

Notes 1 Some of these entries can be unintentionally humorous. For instance, the journal entry of 17 January 1923, which the fifteen-year-old Ford jotted down while enrolled at The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, states simply: ‘I’ve got those dyin’, cryin’, homesick blues.’ Charles Henri Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am: A Documentary Portrait’, [n.d.], 134, series 1, box, 3, folder 1, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, 26. 2 Having said that, Ford gets off to what might be regarded a slightly inauspicious start when it came to the highbrow. Dated 18 January 1924, the first primarily ‘literary’ entry in Ford’s journal concerns the author of Tarzan of the Jungle, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Ford describes Burroughs’s work as ‘rather fantastic but good nevertheless’. Ibid., 41. 3 Brief mention is made of Dickens’s David Copperfield in a journal entry dated 25 September 1924; Ford describes how he borrowed a volume of Hugo’s poetry from another student on 18 March 1925. Ibid., 54, 61. 4 Ibid., 70. 5 When it comes to the question of Ibsen’s standing in relation to the historical development of modernism, I defer to the analysis proffered by Toril Moi. She acknowledges that ‘on the one hand, [Ibsen] represents the unquestioned beginning of modernism in the theatre; on the other, there is a widespread feeling that however important he was for the development of modernism, Ibsen himself was not a modernist. Ibsen thus comes to occupy a strangely liminal position as an artist at once essential and irrelevant to the theory and history of modernism’. Taking issue with this view, Moi proposes instead ‘that the works of Henrik Ibsen provide a near-perfect genealogy of the emergence from the demise of idealism; and that by reintroducing the concept of idealism, we can see that what we usually call modernism is the result of a historical development that only really gathers pace after 1914’. Toril Moi, Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 1–2, 3. 6 Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 73. 7 Ibid., 75.

Charles Henri Ford

56   8 Ibid., 76, 75.   9 Ibid., 76. 10 Ibid., 77. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid., 77, 79. 13 Ibid., 79. 14 Ibid., 83.

15 Ford was also by now familiar with the work of Sigmund Freud. On 8 June 1926 Ford writes: ‘Finished Freud’s “A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis.” It seems to me that Sigmund has a libido-complex. Very!’ Ibid., 84. 16 Ibid., 90. 17 Ibid., 87. 18 Ford’s ‘Interlude’ appeared in the 20 August 1927 edition of The New Yorker. 19 Ibid., 91. 20 Ibid., 97. 21 Ibid., 105. 22 The palpable sense of delight Ford conveys in his journal upon receiving Pound’s postcard is perhaps telling in this regard. 23 Ibid., 91. 24 Ibid., 94. 25 As we will see, Ford found other ways to circumnavigate his geographical and cultural isolation. 26 John Howard has much to say about the complex history of same-sex desire in the American South. Take, for example, his opening remarks about the Ford’s home state, Mississippi. Howard notes that ‘to be labelled queer meant to be cast as different in any more or less threatening ways – from peculiarities of speech, manner, and daily habits to gender and sexual nonconformity’. In equal measure, however, ‘This ambiguity frequently benefitted those willing to test convention because it often shielded them from accusations of a more explicitly sexual – and thus menacing – nature.’ While Howard’s remarks pertain here directly to midtwentieth-century Mississippi, we would, I think, do well to keep them in mind when approaching the formative years of Ford’s life and career. John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2001), xi. 27 It seems that Ford went first to San Antonio in January 1923 to spend time with his ailing mother, Gertrude Cato Ford. Judging by ‘I Will Be What I Am’, Ford was, for a time at least, enrolled at a prominent Catholic university in San Antonio. On 28 January 1928 Ford wrote: ‘The crisis is past. I have registered at

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


St. Mary’s. I have enrolled for French, Latin, English, biology and mathematics. There seems to be a paucity of students, but the ones there are do not look so bad. Brothers for instructors, of course. Think I will like it.’ Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 97. 28 Ibid., 115, 111, 112, 109, 110. Ford refers repeatedly to a certain ‘Pibas’ in his journal entries of 1928. Ford also alludes to an incident concerning a young man known as ‘Edward L.’ in a diary entry dated 29 May 1928: ‘A letter from Daddy [Charles L. Ford] saying to expect another cheque by Monday and that it would be the last if I wrote anymore to “that boy”, meaning, of course, Edward L. whom I haven’t heard from in God knows when.’ Ibid., 112. Truth be told though, this is pretty tame when compared to Ford’s later diaries. Consider the content of the following passage, taken from Ford’s (published) diary entry of October 1948: ‘When I was ten a man gave me a dollar to suck him off.’ Charles Henri Ford, Water From a Bucket: A Diary 1948-1957 (New York: Turtle Point Press, 2001), 12. 29 Having said that, Ford’s experiences in San Antonio certainly seem in some way to have impacted on his subsequent behaviour in Mississippi. He suggested as much in later life to the Mississippi-born photographer, Allen Frame. Pressed on his behaviour in Columbus, Mississippi, Ford recounted that ‘during the Blues days, in the neighborhood there was a counter cafe – so, fresh from Texas, editing Blues, I would say to the counter boys, “I’ll give you a dollar if you let me kiss you”’. Ford adds that he was ‘totally, totally uninhibited. Well, that didn’t make me very popular in Columbus, because, you know, word got around and all that’. Quoted in Allen Frame, ‘Charles Henri Ford’, Journal of Contemporary Art [n.d.]: (accessed 22 January 2016). 30 Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 114. 31 Ibid., 118. 32 It appears that Ford left for Mississippi at the behest of his father. Ford mentions this on 28 July 1928: ‘A letter from Daddy saying I could come to Columbus and work for him if my plans were not to return to school this fall. He perhaps does not wish me to come until September but I’ll leave any day he sends me my fare.’ Ibid., 116. 33 If we were to borrow from the critical work of Scott Herring, we might say that Ford had already begun to codify ‘the metropolitan as the terminus of queer world making as many have come to know it’. Scott Herring, Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism (New York: New York University Press, 2010), 4. 34 Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 116. 35 Ibid., 116.

Charles Henri Ford


36 Christina Britzolakis, ‘Making Modernism Safe for Democracy: The Dial (19201929)’, in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II, North America 1894-1960, ed. Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 88. 37 Britzolakis, ‘Making Modernism Safe for Democracy’, 87. 38 Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 100. 39 Until recently, relatively little has been written about Kathleen Tankersley Young (1903–33). By far the most insightful account of Young’s brief and tragic life can be found in Chapter 6 of Eric B. White, Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013). 40 Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 100. 41 Ibid. 42 Quoted in Frame, ‘Charles Henri Ford’. 43 Pierre Bourdieu reasons that access to – and status within – the ever-shifting field of cultural production and power relations is determined by the possession and accumulation of cultural capital. While cultural capital does not necessarily ensure financial reward, the cultural benefits it does offer – honour, recognition, prestige, status – are invaluable. See Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure in the Literary Field (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996). 44 Suzanne W. Churchill, ‘The Lying Game: Others and the Great Spectra Hoax of 1917’, in Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches, ed. Suzanne W. Churchill and Adam McKible (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007), 179. 45 Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 99. 46 Ibid., 81. 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid. 49 See Alexander Howard, ‘Into the 1930s: Troubadour (1928–32); Blues (1929–30); Smoke (1931–7); and Furioso (1939–53)’, in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II, North America 1894-1960, ed. Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 352–4. 50 See Howard, ‘Into the 1930s’, 350–2. 51 Grace Arlington Owen, ‘Untitled’, Troubadour 2, no. 6 (1930): 2. 52 Owen, ‘Untitled’, 2. 53 Quoted in Owen, ‘Untitled’, 2. 54 Hugh Kenner, A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers (London: Marion Boyars, 1977), 169. 55 Kenner, A Homemade World, 169.

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


56 Charles Bernstein, ‘Objectivist Blues: Scoring Speech in Second-Wave Modernist Poetry and Lyrics’, American Literary History 20, nos. 1–2 (2008): 348. 57 Bernstein, ‘Objectivist Blues’, 348. 58 Kathleen Tankersley Young to Charles Henri Ford, 23 November 1928, series 3, box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 59 Ford, Water From a Bucket, 182. 60 There are, of course, many ways in which we might interpret the title Ford chose for his modernist little magazine. Consider the stance that Eric B. White takes when it comes to the title of Blues: ‘Perhaps he felt it captured the “rhythms” of malaise, barrenness and cultural exhaustion that were gripping American modernists during the build-up to the stock market crash of 1929.’ Eric B. White, Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), 188. 61 This troubling act of cultural appropriation in some senses mirrors the problematic application of dialect in earlier modernist praxis. Michael North reminds us that the modernist application of dialect is ‘a constant reminder of the literal unfreedom of slavery and of the political and cultural repression that followed’. Michael North, The Dialect of Modernism: Race, Language, and Twentieth Century Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 11. 62 There is, of course, another factor that could have feasibly informed Ford’s decision to call his magazine Blues. Perhaps he was responding in some way to the non-normative aspect of the blues. This is a subject that Eric Garber touches on in his account of the relationship between music and queer subculture in the Harlem Renaissance period. ‘The blues reflected a culture that accepted sexuality, including homosexual behaviour and identities’, Garber writes, ‘as a natural part of life.’ Eric Garber, ‘A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age Harlem’, in Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, ed. Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus and George Chauncey, Jr. (London: Penguin Books, 1991), 320. 63 Kathleen Tankersley Young to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 1, box 2, folder 189, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 64 Kathleen Tankersley Young to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 3, box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Young also encouraged Ford to ‘study the TRANSITION [edited by Eugene Jolas] closely. I think you could make a go of something like this’. Kathleen Tankersley Young to Charles Henri Ford, 28 December 1928, series 3,

Charles Henri Ford


box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 65 Kathleen Tankersley Young to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 1, box 2, folder 194, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 66 As to whether Ford did in fact agree wholeheartedly with Young’s damning estimation of The Dial, the matter is still open to dispute. It is worth bearing in mind here that Ford praised The Dial in his journal back in 30 July 1928, a mere seven months before he received Young’s letter. While I firmly suspect that Ford would indeed have agreed with Young by the time he received her letter, I cannot say with absolute certainty that he did, one way or the other. 67 But perhaps things aren’t quite as clear-cut as they seem initially. Riding’s work did in fact appear in Blues. However, there is documentary evidence that suggests that Ford published Riding’s work in the ninth issue of Blues without her permission. In an undated letter to Ford, Riding charges: ‘You have treated me not as a work that caused you satisfaction or botherance but as a woman with whom you were having sexuo-literary intercourse.’ Laura Riding Jackson to Charles Henri Ford [n.d], series 1, box 1, folder 87, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 68 ‘There has been’, Riding and Graves posit, ‘a short and very concentrated period of carefully disciplined and self-conscious poetry. It has been followed by a pause in which no poetry of any certainty is appearing at all, an embarrassed pause after an arduous and erudite stock-taking. The next stage is not clear. But it is not impossible that there will be a resumption of less eccentric, less strained, more critically unconscious poetry, purified however by this experience of historical effort.’ Laura Riding and Robert Graves, A Survey of Modernist Poetry and A Pamphlet Against Anthologies (Manchester: Carcanet Press Limited, [1927, 1928] 2002), 132. 69 Ezra Pound, Ezra Pound to His Parents: Letters 1895-1929 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 618. 70 Ezra Pound, Selected Letters: 1907-1941 (New York: New Directions, 1971), 223. 71 Nor was Pound the only first-generation modernist whose attention Ford managed to capture. To take another example, the true author of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933) once remarked: ‘Of all the little magazines which as Gertrude Stein loves to quote, have died to make verse free, perhaps the youngest and freshest was the Blues.’ Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (London: Penguin Books, [1933] 2006), 260. 72 Pound, Selected Letters, 224. 73 Ibid.

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


74 Ibid. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid. 77 One thinks here of Pound’s role in the creation of The Egoist. 78 William Carlos Williams to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 1, box 2, folder 189, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 79 Quoted in Charles Henri Ford, ‘Scrapbook: 1928-1931’ [n.d.], oversize, box 6, folder 327, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University, n.pag. 80 Quoted in Charles Henri Ford, ‘Scrapbook’, n.pag. 81 Ibid. 82 The announcement is printed in small black type on a uniformly deep blue cover page, making it quite difficult to read, as well as fairly hard to find. This fact was not lost on Kathleen Tankersley Young. In a letter of 20 April 1929, Young told Ford: ‘The April issue of BLUES is at hand. it is much much better than the other issues. the cover is better and one can read without difficulty the inside of the cover.’ Kathleen Tankersley Young to Charles Henri Ford, 20 April 1929, series 1, box 2, folder 189, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 83 Ibid. 84 Adam McKible, The Space and Place of Modernism: The Russian Revolution, Little Magazines, and New York (London: Routledge, 2002), 10. 85 Peter Marks, ‘Making the New: Literary Periodicals and the Constructions of Modernism’, Precursors & Aftermaths: Literature in English, 1914­-1945 (2: I, 2004): 37. 86 Quoted in Ford, Scrapbook, n.pag. 87 Ibid. 88 Ian Hamilton, The Little Magazines: A Study of Six Editors (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976), 9. 89 The doyen of periodical studies Frederick J. Hoffman once praised the ‘selfconscious, enthusiastic, and daring’ literary experimentalism contained in the pages of Blues. To my mind, such phrasing in certain senses echoes Hamilton’s theoretical account of ‘jaunty’ assertiveness. Frederick J. Hoffman, Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich, The Little Magazine: A History and Bibliography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947), 290. 90 By extension, the premature collapse of Ford’s little magazine need not be viewed negatively. Indeed, the relative brevity and premature collapse of Blues while still in the first flush of youth prevented it from falling into the typical trap of little magazines as charted by Hamilton.

Charles Henri Ford


  91 Charles Henri Ford, ‘To Be Pickled in Alcohol’, Blues: A New Magazine of Rhythms 1, no. 2 (1929): 39. Hereafter all references to Blues appear parenthetically.   92 Parker Tyler, ‘Imaginary Conversation between Mr. E. E. Cummings and the Editors of BLUES’ [n.d.], series 3, box, 19, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, n.pag.   93 Riding and Graves, Survey, 30.   94 David Arnold, Poetry and Language Writing: Objective and Surreal (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007), 58.  95 Arnold, Poetry and Language Writing, 59.   96 Lynn Keller, Re-making it New: Contemporary American Poetry and the Modernist Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 10.   97 Consider, for example, Jessica Nelson North‘s criticism of the first issues of Ford’s magazine: ‘Blues, a magazine of new rhythms, contains no surprisingly new rhythms, but some notable poems by Louis Zukofsky, Kathleen Tankersley Young, and Horace Gregory. It features the modish uncapitalizing and unpunctuating which have been the conventional symbol of the modernist, and which will in the course of time be a brand of conservatism.’ Jessica Nelson North, ‘Convention and Revolt’, Poetry: A Magazine of Verse (July 1929): 216.   98 Uncredited, ‘Out of a Blue Sky’, Transition: An International Quarterly for Creative Experiment (16–17, 1929), n.pag.   99 We will have a little more to say about the similarities and differences between Jolas’s transition and Ford’s Blues at the close of this chapter. 100 Daniel Katz, American Modernism’s Expatriate Scene: The Labour of Translation (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007), 1. 101 Dougald McMillan, Transition: The History of a Literary Era, 1927-1938 (London: Calder and Boyars, 1975) 119. 102 Miller, Late Modernism, 209. 103 Ibid., 7. 104 Ibid., 10. 105 Ibid., 14. 106 Williams is of course talking about T. S. Eliot here. In a characteristic swipe at his poetic bête noire, Williams criticizes Eliot’s ‘retreat’ from life. This attack on Eliot relates to an earlier piece – ‘A Note on the Art of Poetry’ – that Williams wrote for the fourth issue of Blues. In that piece, Williams took umbrage at ‘the voluntary spectacle T. S. Eliot has made of himself during the past year: the academic thing’ (Blues 1: 4, 77). Williams evidently thought very little of academism: ‘Next to the rascality of our legislative and judicial bodies the

Blues and the Belated Renovation of Modernism


university, the true home or learning, is the worst scandal of our day. Never has it heralded genius. Always must it be broken into by men of genius before its check can be removed and thought advanced’ (Blues 1: 4, 77). In Williams’s caustic reckoning, ‘Its sole excuse and Eliot’s likewise must be that in certain seasons the intelligence goes into the spore stage for hibernation, getting a shell of high resistance. Eliot is tired’ (Blues 1: 4, 77). This snipe at Eliot’s alleged ‘tiredness’ is worth considering – both in relation to his piece in the seventh Blues and to Tyrus Miller’s theorization of late modernism. According to Williams, Eliot’s condition has taken a definitive turn for the worse in the time between the fourth and seventh issues of Blues. Williams is now arguing that Eliot has been metaphorically laid to ‘rest’ in England. In this regard, when read alongside Williams’s instruction to ‘come over’, it once again seems as if a symbolic threshold of sorts has indeed been reached. 107 Kenneth Rexroth to Charles Henri Ford, 30 November 1929, series 1, box 2, folder 157, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 108 Kenneth Rexroth to Charles Henri Ford, 30 November 1929. 109 Jaime Hovey, A Thousand Words: Portraiture, Style, and Queer Modernism (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006), 50–1. 110 Hovey, A Thousand Words, 51–2. 111 Ibid., 52. 112 Ibid. 113 Ibid., 69. 114 Albeit for different reasons, Sidney Hunt also takes aim at the former editor of BLAST in the seventh issue of Blues. In his ‘London, September 1929’, Hunt asks: ‘Who wants a rock of ages? There is a good variety – Eliot’s anglo-catholic royalist classicism, Wyndham Lewis’ less ladylike alignment with Aquinas in torrents of words, Middleton Murray’s hopeful it’ll-all-come-right-in the-endsomewhere-somewhen gropings in the infinite, expressed respectively in the CRITERION, THE ENEMY, NEW ADELPHI’ (Blues 2: 7, 40). 115 Quoted in Karin Orchard, ‘“A Laugh Like a Bomb”: The History and the Ideas of the Vorticists’, in BLAST: Vorticism, 1914-1918, ed. Paul Edwards (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 18. 116 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley: California University Press, 2008), 165. 117 Juan A. Suárez, Pop Modernism: Noise and the Reinvention of the Everyday (Urbana and Chicago: Illinois University Press, 2007), 190. 118 We will discuss the tenth issue of Blues in Chapter 5.

Charles Henri Ford


119 Joseph Vogel, ‘Literary Graveyards’, New Masses (October 1929): 30. 120 As an associate editor of Blues, Vogel had resource to a privileged vantage point that would have allowed him to appreciate how Ford’s magazine could – at any given moment – be metaphysically, experimentally, or socially inclined. This flexible, inclusive aspect of Blues accounts for, say, the positioning of Kathleen Tankersley Young’s more properly metaphysical poetic reveries alongside the socially conscious prose of William Closson Emory (in the third issue of Blues). 121 Vogel, ‘Literary Graveyards’, 30. 122 Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, ‘Program’ [ca.1931], series 3, box, 19, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1. 123 The tenth issue of Blues was scheduled to appear in 1931. This issue, which never appeared, was slated for publication in Paris. It was set to feature the work of Djuna Barnes, Gorham Munson, Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, and others. 124 Ford and Tyler, ‘Program’, 1. 125 Ibid. 126 Consider, for instance, Ford’s figurative and literary marginalization in the famous ‘Objectivist’ issue of Poetry (February 1931). 127 Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, ‘What Happens to a Radical Literary Magazine’, The Sewanee Review (January 1931): 62. Notice also the sexual dimension of Ford and Tyler’s language here. In a way, the emphasis on sexualized imagery foreshadows their brazenly explicit collaborative novel, The Young and Evil (1933). 128 Ford and Tyler, ‘What Happens to a Radical Literary Magazine’, 63. 129 Ibid., 64. Original emphasis.


Community, Circularity, Sociability, Postcards 1 Charles Henri Ford travelled to New York City for the first time in January 1929. It seems that he had been planning this trip for quite a while. Ford makes mention of his desire to visit the metropolis in a letter to his father dated 5 February 1928: Mother has no doubt written you of my decision to remain and enter the University here. There will not be, after all, much to be regretted by the postponement of my debut in New York. Just before the second semester began, though, I received an inviting from a well-known writer and publisher of Greenwich Village urging me to come, ‘by all means’.1

Ford wrote this while still based in Texas. The institute he refers to in this letter is the San Antonio-based St Mary’s Catholic University. But who is the unnamed Greenwich Village publisher and writer that Ford mentions to his father, Charles? Recall at this juncture Kathleen Tankersley Young’s very first letter to our Mississippi-born subject – the one in which she wrote longingly of sunsets and shared bags of popcorn. Eric B. White reminds us that ‘Ford and Young began corresponding following their joint appearance in the First National Poetry Exhibition, convened in Greenwich Village by the Texas writer, editor and Village impresario Luther Widen, better known as Lew Ney’.2 In all probability, Ney is the ‘well-known writer and editor’ to whom Ford refers in the letter above. Fast forward to 17 March 1930. Ford had by now made his way from regional Mississippi to Greenwich Village. He had been living there since January – in an apartment just off Washington


Charles Henri Ford

Square Park.3 We know this because he told his father as much in a rather entertaining dispatch: this letter begun is with a baby screaming at the TOP of its voice on Macdougal street and & if its not a baby its an Italian hollering GEORGE together with (1) how many taxis with engines running (2) the 3rd avenue elevated ½ block away (3) wheels of milkwagons at 4 a.m. & cetera ad infinitum… . INcluding the mechanical piano grinding out last year’s tunes, just as if there were NO law!4

Ford, as the tremendous soundscape evoked in this letter attests, clearly wasn’t in Mississippi anymore. His letter-writing style had also changed dramatically. But some things hadn’t changed. Blues was still at the forefront of Ford’s mind. He had obviously been keeping himself busy since debuting in the Village. ‘I have been getting along very well financially’, Ford writes, ‘Brentano’s sends a check for $24.50 for sold copies of the last BLUES. H. D. (Hilda Aldington) sends check for two pounds (ten dollars) on her London bank, saying credit her account and send some back numbers of BLUES.’5 Luther Widen then makes his entrance: Now isn’t it marvelous that No. 8 will be at his own risk? The contents are better than any other number. There will be 48 pages and the cover will be folded like the French books. It’s going to be a knock-out sure enough. If I  had to pay for the printing it would have cost me well over $200.00 anywhere in New York.6

‘Of course’, Ford continues, ‘the reason Lew is printing it is that his name will be on it as PUBLISHER and the reputation of BLUES is sufficient to add his prestige if his name IS on it, see? Then too, he will run some ads of his: for his type-shop and whatnot.’7 In addition to this, Ford planned ‘to get a page ad from a place in the Village with the stipulation that I take out the cost of the ad to them, $25.00, in FOOD, which will be a big help. Lew, however, insists (and it is only fair) that his only expense be the actual printing’.8 Ney certainly sought to emphasize his role in the funding and creation of the eighth issue of Blues. We get a clear sense of this in the prefatory note – ‘Friends of Blues’ – printed on the first page of the magazine. Ney’s version of events is slightly different to the rendition extended by Ford. ‘This number of Blues is not essentially different from the seven numbers that have preceded

Community, Circularity, Sociability, Postcards


it,’ Ney begins: ‘When Charles Henri Ford came to New York last January I entered into an arrangement with him, which means as far as any poetry magazine is concerned, patronage. Eventually we have, with the help of Parker Tyler, been able to bring out the following examples of new rhythms by our contemporary moderns’ (Blues 2: 8, 2). Whether or not we class it as an act of patronage, Ney’s efforts on behalf of Ford’s Blues certainly produced some positive results. Ney’s Greenwich Village connections afforded financial relief and increased publicity for Blues; as the previously discussed letter to his father attests, Ford’s ability to secure this patronage also acted as a seal – or stamp – of approval from the wider literary community. At the same time, increased association with Ney had far-reaching consequences for both Ford and his little magazine, as they became linked to Greenwich Village. Unsurprisingly, this association saw an increase in the number of contributions printed in Blues from writers based in the Village.9 In earlier days perhaps this would not have been a problem, but by the time of production, some of the connotations attached to the area were negative. In the minds of many older writers and critics, the Village had long since lost some of its cultural sheen. For instance, prominent first-generation modernists such as Malcolm Cowley could, not long after Ford moved to the bright lights of the big city, be heard opining that Greenwich Village ‘was really dying, it was dying of success. It was dying because it became so popular that too many people insisted on living there’.10 To take another example, Ford’s relocation to Greenwich Village must have, for some people at least, confirmed Ezra Pound’s fears – expressed in the second issue of Blues – about impressionable young men being seduced and corrupted by the city’s glitz and glamour.11 However, it is clear that Ford did not share Pound’s fears. As Lynne Tillman suggests, Ford was eager to ‘lead la vie bohème in Greenwich Village’.12 It is easy to see why. For a relatively affluent gay man raised in some of the less glamorous parts of the Deep South, life in Greenwich Village would have been a highly attractive alternative, with its well-established reputation for unconventional and permissive sexuality. Or as Ford put it late in life: ‘What made Greenwich Village was the unconventionality and the acceptance of any eccentricity, so naturally every kind of deviation would surface and be accepted. I mean, that was what Greenwich Village was all about.’13 Ford’s retrospective account of his time in the Village dovetails neatly with the important historical research


Charles Henri Ford

of George Chauncey. In Chauncey’s estimation, ‘Greenwich Village hosted the best-known gay enclave in both the city and the nation – and the first to take shape in a predominantly middle-class (albeit bohemian) milieu.’14 As a result of this, in Chauncey’s words, ‘the Village took on special significance for lesbians and gay men around the country, and disaffected New Yorkers were joined in the Village by waves of refugees from the nation’s less tolerant small towns.’15 Seeking sanctuary, these queer refugees ‘fled to the Village, and in the 1920s they built an extensive gay world there’.16 This, then, was the social world that Ford entered into upon his arrival in 1930. As Chauncey demonstrates in his extensive cultural history of New York’s bohemian epicentres, the highly visible queer men and women that Ford would have counted as his neighbours played a crucial role in ‘shaping both the image and reality of the Village, for they became part of the spectacle that defined the neighborhood’s colorful character, even as they used the cultural space made available by that character to turn it into a haven’.17 Chauncey’s account of Greenwich Village as both a vibrant ‘cultural space’ and a welcoming ‘haven’ is of especial interest when considered in relation to what we have already said about Ford and Blues. Surrounded now by an intimate and social network of like-minded individuals in the unorthodox ‘haven’ of Greenwich Village, Ford found a habitat conducive to the aesthetic and literary expression of polymorphous queer desire. Given what we already know, it makes conceptual sense that Ford would continue to work on Blues while living in Greenwich Village. Having said that, we already know that the Village incarnation of Ford’s modernist little magazine – which ceased publication in late 1930 – was too short-lived to truly flourish.18 Despite this, the work that Ford undertook during this period undoubtedly laid the foundations for his subsequent literary ventures. This brings me back to the letter Ford sent to his father on 17 March 1930: Plans for our bookshop are still simmering. Mrs Tyler said we should look around for a good location so that’s what I shall be doing for a while instead of looking for a job. When I actually do have to relinquish one of the Privileges of a Poet the Doubleday, Doran people may put me in one of their bookshops until I have one of my own.19

I have as of yet been unable to determine how close Ford came to realizing his ambition of opening a bookstore somewhere in Greenwich Village.

Community, Circularity, Sociability, Postcards


Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize the sheer scope of the youthful ambition and determination on display here. If nothing else, it serves to remind us that Ford was absolutely resolved to make his mark on the literary scene at a young age. The second point of interest in this portion of Ford’s letter concerns the mention of a certain Mrs Tyler. Ford is likely referring in this instance to Parker Tyler’s mother, Eva. Ford had become quite close to the Tyler family by March 1930. Tyler was one of the first people Ford met in New York. In fact, Tyler was there to greet Ford when he arrived in 1929. In Ford’s words, Tyler was, when they first met, ‘full of suntan-powder. I could hardly see his face. Everyone was powdering their faces in suntan-powder then. He had it collar-to-collar. He was also a Southerner, from Louisiana’.20 But as we already know, Ford and Tyler’s friendship went back further than this.21 They had, lest we forget, been correspondents for the best part of a year prior to their first face-to-face meeting in New York, suntan-powder and all. This, in turn, returns us to the issue of Ford’s modernist little magazine; it was Blues that first brought Ford and Tyler together, in spirit if not in flesh. This was, we recall, part of Ford’s broader plan from the very outset. As we established in the previous chapter, Blues provided him with a means to sidestep the issue of his geographical isolation. Lacking the financial resources that would enable him to make the trip to New York, Ford realized that the best option available to him at the time was to try to foster a sense of collegiality and community in the pages of his little magazine. In this sense, Ford recognized early on that establishing Blues might make ‘meeting’ like-minded people just that little bit easier. Nor was he the only person to realize this. Consider afresh Ezra Pound’s advice about literary programmes. ‘As you don’t live in the same town with yr start[ing] contribs’, Pound told Ford on 1 February 1929, ‘you can not have fortnightly meeting and rag each other. Best substitute is to use circular letters. For example write something (or use this note of mine) add your comments; send it on to Vogel, have him show it to Spector; and then send it to Bill Wms. each adding his blasts and blesses or comment of whateverdamn natr. Etc. When it has gone the rounds, you can send it back here.’22 As noted previously, it is clear that Pound wanted some sort of say when it came to determining the direction of Blues. But Ford, as we saw in the last chapter, had no interest whatsoever in ceding any sort of control over his fledgling second-generation modernist little magazine to Pound.


Charles Henri Ford

I propose that we consider Pound’s advice from a slightly different vantage point than we did in the previous chapter. The specifically ‘circular’ shape of Pound’s attempted intervention is of particular interest. Pound is advocating that Ford foster a collective sense of modernist camaraderie in a relatively controlled, secure, and stable textual environment. Notice also that he wanted any process of circular exchange – and the exchange of circulars – to take place within a clearly delineated, almost hermetically sealed sphere. Further to this, Pound wanted the results of such a process of circular consensus to be kept private: at least until someone (preferably him) could bestow their authoritative signature – or stamp of approval – upon any sort of hypothetical Blues manifesto. In other words, when it came to Ford’s Blues, the approach that Pound privileged demanded private consensus and codification prior to potential public distribution. But our young Mississippian was seemingly having none of it. To be sure, Ford’s decision not to heed Pound’s advice is an early instance of his desire to differentiate his approach from that of his literary elder. It is, however, by no means an outright rejection of Pound’s advice. As I will demonstrate, Ford clearly recognized the important role that circular letters and literary circulars might assume when it came to establishing networks of communication. At the same time, Ford also grasped the role the letters and circulars could play in the construction of one’s poetic identity. So much so in fact that it became an ingrained aspect of his approach to poetry. Accordingly, the present chapter considers Ford’s commitment to what we can describe productively as a distinctively circular brand of poetic practice – one that revolves around notions of sociability and epistolary exchange, and which strives to fashion ever-widening networks and relay systems of alternative literary circulation, participation, and collaboration. As we will see, Ford’s poetic practice is one that strives to establish increasingly expansive, transnational networks of alternative literary circulation, participation, and collaboration. In the process of so doing, as this chapter will demonstrate, Ford’s ‘circular poetics’ is one that breaks away from certain strictures of modernist authorship and anticipates simultaneously the emergence of specific trends in postmodern artistic production. Specifically, Ford’s circular approach is indicative of a shift from the sort of intimate private exchange associated with models of canonical modernism to a more ostentatiously public – and potentially postmodern – sort of cultural display.

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2 Ford himself thought and wrote of his approach to poetics in terms of circularity. We see this in a portion of verse published in 1974: The faded magnificence of emerald ponds Pre-figures the death-trap of a counterclockwise game The Legend of Myself, theme of circularity, Like a strangler without a victim, whose rhythmic signature Discarded and discovered on ladders and scaffoldings Denies that immortality is ever interrupted23

Written while Ford was living in Kathmandu, and printed on Ira Cohen’s Nepal-based Bardo Matrix Press, these lines, featuring mentions of circularity, scaffoldings, signatures, counterclockwise motion, and gaming speak to many of the concerns of this chapter. Yet these lines tell only part of the story. Ford’s interest in the ‘theme of circularity’ went back much further than 1974. Ford first began to explore the possibilities of what I describe in this chapter as his ‘circular poetics’ while working on the first volume of Blues. Think back to the fourth issue of Blues from May 1929, and specifically to Parker Tyler’s contribution of the extended poetic sequence ‘Frustration: From a Slender Coffin’; a sequence which includes the previously discussed ‘He the More, I the Less’ (Blues 1: 4, 96–8). If we are to properly appreciate this poem (and the longer sequence of which it is a part) we also need to consider it in relation to some of the other surrounding poems. In the spirit of circularity we return now to the previous chapter, in which I sought to highlight the overtly queer nature of Tyler’s early contribution to the equally non-normative Blues. While that analysis still holds, we can now see clearly an implicit aspect of collaboration in Tyler’s contribution to Blues. At first glance, this might strike the reader as slightly odd. After all, ‘He the More, I the Less’ is the work of an individual poet; that is, it belongs solely and indisputably to Tyler. In equal measure, however, Tyler’s sequence needs to be read in relation to Ford’s contribution to the fourth issue of his Blues. Situated next to each other, Tyler’s ‘From a Slender Coffin’ and Ford’s ‘Four From Tension’ are grouped together under the umbrella term: ‘Frustrations’. Tyler’s contribution comprises three poems: ‘He the More, I the Less’, ‘Instruction of the Sensibility’, and ‘For Some Pins’; Ford chose to include four: ‘why ears’, ‘n. b.’, ‘denudation of tributes’, and ‘poem’.

Charles Henri Ford


Tyler’s ‘He the More, I the Less’ needs to be read alongside Ford’s ‘why ears’ (Blues 1: 4, 99). Ford’s oblique and formally discrete piece is, I want now to argue, best understood as a direct response to the relatively more conventional contribution proffered by Tyler. As we noted in the last chapter, the emotional life of the devoted and ‘honest giver’ in Tyler’s ‘He the More, I the Less’, is characterized by undue compromise, self-deception, and meek passivity. In a similar fashion, Ford’s formally oblique ‘why ears’ can be read as a personal address to an unnamed object of desire: why should you lie dead at ten o’clock then carelessly talk and rise into a gold awakening then (tell me) why should you as fondling draw in the scent through two chiseled nostrils (Blues 1: 4, 99)

It soon becomes clear that the anonymous owner of this particularly welldefined nose is – like the persona of Tyler’s poem – the cause of some undisclosed irritation: why are you never specific the morning is definite the wind is you are a ghost on horseback or the image of a hotness caught in ice you are the loophole in a hangrope and i forever harmonious discords sagging about your head and ears (Blues 1: 4, 99)

Superficially, the references to ‘morning’ awakenings and ‘wind’ in Ford’s poem recall the evocations of breezes and potentially steamy bedroom scenes in Tyler’s. However, we can also discern noticeable differences between the two poems when it comes to the division of content and form. In terms of content, Ford’s account is much more tonally ambivalent than Tyler’s; Ford’s contribution to the fourth issue of Blues contains nothing approaching the sort

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of devotional awe expressed in ‘He the More, I the Less’. Nor is there anything approximating Tyler’s admittedly arid, Milton-alluding ‘paradisal estate’ in Ford’s poem, characterized as it is by ‘discord’ and dissonance. Poetic form is another point of difference. Much of Tyler’s ‘He the More, I the Less’ tends towards interlocking internal rhyme and occasional enjambment. By way of direct contrast, Ford’s poem is an example of fragmentary free verse. Whereas Tyler cloaks devotion in symbolistic ‘breezes’ that summon suggestions of emotional turmoil and which trigger memories of his often-absent loved one, Ford prefers to present the object of his poetic affection in a number of vivid, relatively direct images of juxtaposition that would later become one of his most recognizable literary trademarks.24 In spite of these tonal and formal differences, however, we need to emphasize the fact that Ford and Tyler’s contributions to the fourth issue of Blues represent a sort of a collaborative poetic dialogue. Significantly, this formative collaborative exchange was of a necessarily and specifically epistolary nature, conducted as it was through a very particular relay system: the postal network of the United States. As we know, Ford and Tyler had to yet meet in person when this ‘frustrated’ exchange appeared in Blues. I mention this here as it reminds of the vitally important role that postal networks and letters played in Ford’s early poetic and editorial endeavours.25 At this point in his life and career, letters were, for the geographically and culturally isolated Ford, a figurative and at the same time quite literal lifeline to the outside world. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise whatsoever to find that the exchange of letters and other epistolary forms factor in many of Ford’s myriad literary and aesthetic ventures. This is just as true as it was with, say, Blues,26 as it was with the collaborative project that Ford was working on around the same time that his little magazine folded. We know this because Ford told Gertrude Stein so on 22 January 1931. ‘Dear Gertrude Stein’, Ford writes, your letter as well as the end of your long series of meditations on writing reached me in new york and it is now that I should answer if at all; so we want to use this ms in no. 10 blues which will be published doubtless in paris or italy or paris; if at all; LOVE AND JUMP BACK will decide it being a novel and love and back  (jumps) ward by parker tyler and me and sooner than later it will decide it;27


Charles Henri Ford

Ford is referring here to the book-length manuscript that later became The Young and Evil (1933).28 Co-authored with Tyler and published on Jack Kahane’s English-language, Paris-based Obelisk Press, the sexually explicit and formally experimental The Young and Evil is important for a host of reasons, all of them related. In a fashion similar to the earlier Blues, epistolary exchanges carried along postal relay networks played an important role in the construction of The Young and Evil, which Ford and Tyler worked on between 1930 and 1932 in three very different locations: Mississippi, New York, and Paris.29 Retrospectively, Tyler acknowledged the important role played by epistolary exchange in the creation of the novel in a letter to Alice B. Toklas, dated 10 September 1959: About The Young and Evil, I appreciate your recollection. I never really knew how much Ch. Henri Ford told Gertrude Stein or anyone else about the method of the book’s composition. In wordage, I must have written about half, considering that perhaps a fourth or fifth of the whole thing was ‘collaged’ by CHF from my letters. If I had a ‘corrective hand’ it was probably spiritual, at the outset of the book when CHF proposed to make a ‘story’ of our and others’ melodramas and rushed ahead. As to the final text, CHF, being at the publisher’s end, was in a position to determine that. It might amuse you, if the book is still around, to verify our respective contributions by noting that the very first section is wholly mine and ‘Julian’s’ idyll with his girl wholly Charles’.30

There are a number of things that need to be said about Tyler’s revealing letter. For one thing, Tyler makes it clear that the original idea for the novel came from Ford. For another, Tyler confirms that Ford was far more involved than he when it came to getting the finished book into print. It should be added that getting the book published proved much easier said than done. The manuscript was rejected out of hand by a number of publishers, including the up-and-coming Horace Liveright. As to why publishers might have chosen to pass on the novel? A note from Liveright to Ford contains something of a clue: ‘I read with infinite pleasure your brilliant novel, but I could not think of publishing it as a book – life is too short and the jails are unsatisfactory.’31 Notice also Tyler’s assertion ‘that perhaps a fourth or fifth of the whole thing was “collaged” by CHF from my letters’. Observe, finally, that Tyler seems totally at ease with Ford’s very public deployment of epistolary materials that

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may well have been intended for strictly private consumption. As we well see, this desire to transform the private into something public is part and parcel of Ford’s circular poetics. But what of the content of the letters that Tyler mentions? Judging from even the most cursory of glances at the text of The Young and Evil, Tyler’s letters must have been full of details of his and Ford’s shared experiences in New York at the dawn of the 1930s. Throughout the novel, explorations of avant-gardism are interspersed with regular forays into the popular sites of so-called low culture: Manhattan dive bars, Village dance clubs, and Harlem drag balls ‘too large to be rushed at without being swallowed’.32 Standing in for the authors, the characters of Karel and Julian offer a running commentary on the various scenes they witness: The negro orchestra on the stage at one end was heard at the other end with the aid of a reproducer. On both sides of the wall a balcony spread laden with people in boxes at tables. Underneath were more tables and more people. The dance-floor was a scene whose celestial flavor and cerulean coloring no angelic painter or nectarish poet has ever conceived.33

Of course, there is a self-consciously poetic dimension to this co-authored depiction of the heavenly dance-floor. However, Karel and Julian’s attention soon wanders elsewhere: They found Tony and Vincent at a table with K-Y and Woodward. Vincent spoke with the most wonderful whisky voice Frederick! Julian! Tony was South American. He had on a black satin that Vincent had made him, fitted to the knee and then flaring, long pearls and pearl drops.34

Our narrators are clearly less interested in aesthetic representations of the ‘angelic painter’ or the gauchely ‘nectarish poet’ in moments such as these than they are in meeting interesting people. Specifically, they are interested in meeting figures like the ‘black satin’-clad Tony and Vincent: Vincent had on a white satin blouse and black breeches. Dear I’m master of ceremonies tonight and you should have come in drag and you’d have gotten a prize. He had large eyes with a sex-life all their own and claimed to be the hardest boiled queen on Broadway. Frederick he said you look like something Lindbergh dropped on the way across.35


Charles Henri Ford

Much like their fictional counterparts, the co-creators of The Young and Evil were evidently enchanted with the figure of this wide-eyed drag queen. In this respect, we might say that Ford and Tyler seek to capture something of that which Justus Nieland describes as ‘the joyous hum of public being, physically undone by collective scenes of sympathy, and ever-attentive to intimate potential of public spaces, finding new homes for feeling in uncanny places’.36 When read in such a fashion, it soon becomes clear that the authors of The Young and Evil seek to depict to suitable public ‘spaces’ (in this instance an underground drag ball) that are capable of producing new, intimately charged, non-normative regimes of feeling. To be precise, the non-normative regimes of feeling which Ford and Tyler privilege are of a distinctly queer persuasion. In this manner, The Young and Evil can also, in certain respects at least, be spoken of as a companion piece to Ford’s modernist little magazine. Juan A. Suárez situates Ford and Tyler’s novel in an urban social space ‘where normality was suspended, where alliances between social, racial, and sexual others created something akin to what we would call a queer polity based on a common fringe identity’.37 Building on this assessment, I suggest that The Young and Evil can – much like the earlier Blues – be conceptualized as a kind of non-normative textual fringe space, or haven, where, in the words of Joseph Allan Boone, ‘homosexuality is the norm rather than the exception’.38 In this sense, then, The Young and Evil picks up where Blues left off. Ford and Tyler certainly revel in all things queer in their novel. We get a sense of this in the following passage: baggage grand cocksucker fascinated by fairies of the Better Class chronic liar fairy herself sexual estimate crooning I’M A CAMPfire girl gratuitous sexually meaning both my thighs are so much stouter tongue’s hanging out sprawled in bed lower than my naval tie beginning between his breasts nest of

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Lesbian eyebrows so perfect what it is to blossom before his style started going uphill on one-ballbearing rollerskates and the curious pain39

Approximating the form of free associative verse, the above extract reads as a litany of all things non-normative; it is one of many to be found in The Young and Evil. Thinking back to the previous chapter, one can’t help but wonder what critics such as Riding and Graves would have made of a passage such as this. Given their predilection for ‘colloquial dignity and grace’ in poetry,40 it is difficult to imagine them having anything positive to say about the content and indeed the form of The Young and Evil. Still, perhaps the co-authors of A Survey of Modernist Poetry might have had something interesting to say about Ford’s decision to write and then push to publish a novel with a literary collaborator of equal standing. At the risk of stating the obvious, it is important to bear in mind at all times the ostensibly simple fact that The Young and Evil is the work of two equally ambitious young gay men, both of whom wanted desperately to make their respective marks on the modernist scene. Yet in spite of these personal ambitions Ford and Tyler were perfectly happy to share equal billing as co-signed collaborators. In certain respects, this seems not to matter all that much. After all, as Wayne Koestenbaum has demonstrated, the history of male literature – and male literary modernism more specifically – is replete with numerous instances of works written under the sign of a ‘double signature’,41 of texts determined by what we can describe as a complex process of metaphorical intercourse between passive and active collaborators.42 One need only think here of the shared (male) labour that went into the creation of that most famous of first-generation Anglophone modernist poems, The Waste Land. But perhaps things aren’t quite as straightforward as they appear at first. As is commonly known, Ezra Pound played a crucial role in the shaping of T. S. Eliot’s long modernist poem. But the simple fact remains: it is Eliot’s name – and Eliot’s name alone – that is to be found on the frontispiece of the finished poem. We need now, I propose, to step a little further back in time to find bona fide examples of co-signed modernist literary collaborations. I am thinking here of the three now largely forgotten novels produced by Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford in the first decade of the twentieth century: The Inheritors (1901), Romance (1903), and The Nature of the Crime (1909).43


Charles Henri Ford

To the best of my knowledge, Conrad and Ford were the only modernist novelists willing to share the plaudits (or lack thereof) when it came to the act of co-signed literary collaboration.44 The only modernists, that is, until Ford and Tyler.45 I find this fact, which has until now gone entirely unnoticed, particularly striking.46 How are we to account for this rather peculiar state of literary affairs, which lasted, as we can see, for some twenty-four years?47 The answer has much to do with the notion of authorial control and anxieties concerning the issue of modernist mastery. ‘The great Modernisms were’, Fredric Jameson argues, predicated on the invention of personal, private style, as unmistakable as your fingerprint, as incomparable as your own body. But this means that the modernist aesthetic is in some way organically linked to the concept of the unique self and private identity, a unique personality and individuality, which can be expected to generate its own unique vision of the world and to forge its own unique, unmistakable style.48

Drawing on this famous theorization, Aaron Jaffe sets out to demonstrate the manner in which major first-generation modernists – especially the male ones – tended to publicly downplay the often profoundly collaborative nature of their various literary and aesthetic projects.49 This they did in order to ensure their own critical reputations. And it by and large worked. While many modernist voices have now faded into relative or total obscurity, a few key, unmistakable signatures remain instantly recognizable to both eye and ear: Joyce, Pound, Lewis, Eliot, Woolf, Faulkner, and so on. Let me be clear. I am not saying that the high modernists were against artistic collaboration. Far from it. What I’m trying to say is simply this: first-generation modernist literary praxis was, almost exclusively, marked by a profound anxiety when it came to the notion of co-authorship and co-writing.50 This leads me to Jaffe’s account of modernism and the culture of celebrity. Jaffe reminds us that when it comes to the related issue of modernism and the question of critical posterity ‘the name of the author won’t go away. As so many entrance and exit visas, authorial names warrant the exchanges, the translations, the bearing of bodies and discourses’.51 ‘At best’, Jaffe suggests, ‘authors are forever elusive, off-stage paring fingernails, feigning disinterest. In their “diminished” capacities, however, they’re arranging a host of contacts, ordinary labors, and

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promotional exchanges.’52 The underlying reason as to why the modernists chose to perform such tasks is not difficult to grasp. ‘As producers of culture’, Jaffe notes, ‘modernists were keenly involved with the exigencies of making a place for themselves in the world and for their products in the cultural marketplace.’53 We are, in other words, dealing here with the production and management of meaning, value, and cultural capital. We can put it like this: all of the major modernist figures listed in the previous paragraph realized that they needed to fashion an unmistakably recognizable – and recognizably unique – brand name in order to get ahead in the crowded, value-driven cultural sphere. This is where the notion of the ‘modernist imprimatur’ becomes important. Imprimaturs, Jaffe tells us, ‘sanction elite, high cultural consumption in times when economies of mass cultural value predominate’.54 Building on this suggestion, the notion of the specifically modern imprimatur is, in Jaffe’s estimation, ‘one familiar from countless accounts of modernism, that the modernist literary object bears the stylistic stamp of its producer prominently’.55 Jaffe is suggesting that the major modernists grasped the fact that if one had a recognizable, clearly visible name (or imprimatur), one could generate personal cultural capital. In order to do so, however, one also needed to position one’s work carefully. ‘The key ingredient of modernist reputation is not merely the demonstration of high literary labor through extant literary texts’, Jaffe explains, ‘but the capacity to frame this work in reference to the contrastingly lesser work of certain contemporaries.’56 Hence the modernist distrust of any act that might compromise or dilute the strength of one’s (brand) name. Collaboration, Jaffe posits, proved ‘particularly vexing for authors keenly invested in promoting unrivalled, detached originality. The subordination of collaborative work thus served as a controlling mechanism for ordering networks of literary relationships vis-à-vis hierarchy and selfpromotion’.57 This, then, is the reason as to why so few modernists chose openly to admit to collaboration. And this is one of the reasons as to why The Young and Evil matters so much. Breaking away as it does from certain ‘controlling mechanisms’ associated with first-generation modernism, Ford and Tyler’s co-signed and proudly collaborative novel in this sense signals a subtle shift in the wider developmental trajectory of Anglophone modernism. Ford and Tyler certainty sought to situate their novel in relation to the groundbreaking work of the first-generation moderns. In Tyler’s words, he and


Charles Henri Ford

Ford ‘were both dreadfully impressed by modern poetry, and we were trying to create our own brand of it. What we didn’t realize too consciously was that we were (I hope this isn’t too much of a boast!) modern poetry!’58 Interestingly, Ford turned not to poetry but to prose when asked about the modernist roots of The Young and Evil. Pressed on the topic, Ford recalled that ‘many of us had been introduced to The Sun Also Rises and everyone wanted to write a novel about their life like that novel’.59 Yet it is important to recognize that Ford and Tyler – who do in fact name-check and debate the worth of modernists such as Eliot, Pound, Lewis, Stein, and Hemingway in their novel – had absolutely no intention of merely imitating what had come before.60 Taking The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway as his primary point of contrast, Boone emphasizes this in his reading of The Young and Evil. He notes that, at the level of content, ‘the experimental text that [Ford] and Tyler produced is not stylistically but thematically worlds removed from Hemingway, for its “lost generation” is composed of the queer fringe that Hemingway’s novel continually attempts to excise’.61 This is not all though. We need at all times to remember that we are dealing here with a text that self-consciously meshes together the energies of, to cite Suárez, ‘experimental modernism with the camp idiom of gay street culture’.62 Punctuation-free passages of what at first glance appear to be a curious admixture of camp verbiage and almost unintelligible modernist prose are in fact, Boone argues, ‘designed to hide their gay content from outsiders while revealing themselves to those readers who share what is in fact a highly developed use of gay argot’.63 Bearing such an assessment in mind, Boone is surely right to suggest that Ford and Tyler’s novel is one that, among other things, bends ‘modernist technique to queer purposes with a vengeance’.64

3 It would, however, be decades before writers, artists, and literary critics came to appreciate this fact.65 In the meanwhile, Ford continued to refine his ‘circular’ approach to collaborative literary praxis. The circular and collaborative aspect of Ford’s epistolary poetic approach comes to the fore at the beginning of the 1940s. Ford’s so-called ‘chainpoem experiments’ continue in the circular vein of postal poetic exchange previously established in his earlier literary ventures.

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Ford’s chainpoem project was a collective experiment, featuring a variety of poets from a number of different countries. Before work on a chainpoem began, a preliminary list with the names and postal addresses of the selected ‘chainpoets’ would be circulated among Ford’s chosen contributors.66 In receipt of this list, one of the selected poets would, in Ford’s words, then write an opening line, before sending the manuscript to the ‘next [poet] on the list (which has been drawn up in advance by whoever starts the chainpoem), together with the list itself, and so the chainpoem revolves to completion. Anyone may decide he has written the concluding line, in which case he makes copies of the chainpoem and sends one to each chainpoet on the list’.67 The first thing we notice is the way in which Ford’s instructional account of the chainpoem project echoes Pound’s aforementioned advice about the distribution of circular letters. Keeping that in mind, consider now how Ford chose to theorize his collaborative, multi-author undertaking, the fruits of which appeared in the 1940 edition of James Laughlin’s New Directions in Prose & Poetry. Ford’s introduction to the chainpoem section of the New Directions annual is self-explanatory. According to Ford, ‘after the first line is written, the problem of each poet, in turn, is to provide a line which may both “contradict” and carry forward the preceding line.’68 Significantly, ‘the chain poet may attempt to include his unique style and make it intelligible to the poem; in which case the chainpoem will have a logical and spontaneous growth. Alternatively, using the surrealist approach, he may automatically add a line that springs from whatever is suggested by the preceding line.’69 Ford then suggests that the chainpoem is not only an intellectual sport but a collective invention. However, it is not a product of social collaboration in the sense that architecture is. Each poet is architect, supervisor, bricklayer, etc., of the construction. The blueprint of the chainpoem is the anonymous shape lying in a hypothetical joint imagination, which builds as though the poem were a series of either mathematical or dream progressions.70

While the chainpoem is thus determined by the input of individual poets (or ‘supervisors’), it is a resolutely ‘collective’ literary construct: one that immediately complicates notions of poetic individuality, autonomy, uniqueness, and, to borrow from Jaffe once more, ‘unrivalled, detached


Charles Henri Ford

originality’.71 In addition, Ford makes it absolutely clear that anyone can decide that the chainpoem is finished. The collaboration can be brought to a close at any given moment: there is no need for prior codification or consensus. The implication here is that all the chainpoem contributors are afforded the same status. Ford’s approach thereby ensures that there is no single dominant, supervisory – or quasi-Poundian – voice overseeing the collaborative ‘blueprint’ of any given chainpoem.72 Let us now look at some examples of chainpoems in action. Consider the opening of Ford and Tyler’s relatively small-scale ‘Duo No. 2’: The melted harp you inhaled with your ear Grew in your wrist like a lady-limbed spear. The broken blue eye your bed’s foot wept Returned to the phantom that parades in your coat.73

As with the rest of the poem these lines function as an oscillating kind of poetic call-and-response, with both Ford and Tyler building on – or contradicting – the other’s suggestion. As should be obvious, there is a line of collaborative continuity here: Ford and Tyler’s chainpoem has its conceptual roots in the ‘frustrated’ dialogue that appeared in the earlier Blues. But what we have here is a far more intimate type of dialogue, taking place across smaller units of poetic space. Ford and Tyler’s dialogue rumbles along under the empty space separating the couplets, as well as in the lines of the poem. Occurring more or less in the middle of the poem, one such moment of intimate movement stands out: How you drink the drowned dream of Not That makes your heart run backwards like a clock. When your arms are open, a big toe in each hand, The past slaps you when you dare to stand.74

These two couplets are revealing. We get the sense here that Ford and Tyler are being deliberately provocative, or, if you prefer, wilfully perverse. This, I think, has much to do with an incident that occurred around the time that Blues folded. Ford and Tyler were by this time incredibly frustrated with the fact that certain avatars of first-generation modernism still dominated in contemporary literary circles. Pound, in particular, had come to represent

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something of a perceived obstacle standing in their way. Tyler acknowledged as much in a letter he sent to Pound: ‘Therefore we are stopping for a few moments to speak to you; we agree with little you have ever said in theoretic and practical direction; i think we have passed up everybody you have noticed recently except zukofsky but he IS good.’75 ‘The longer we move desperately around the clock’, Tyler continues, ‘permitting its mobility, concerned with the familiar gestures of writing and editing a magazine, the more perverse, the more dilatory, the blinder you seem from the peculiar and oracular vantage point you have established for yourself in this century, first and now second quarter.’76 Bear in mind that Tyler is also speaking on behalf of Ford here. Taking his cue from his friend, editor, and collaborator, Tyler seems to be turning his back on Pound’s ‘theoretic and practical’ advice. Tyler is in effect making it clear that he and Ford were no longer prepared simply to rely on the scraps thrown to them by Pound. In a roundabout fashion, this accounts for Ford and Tyler’s otherwise baffling decision to cling to a deliberately awkward semblance of rhythmic poetic form in their chainpoem. It is as if Ford and Tyler’s co-signed chainpoem strives to run in a counterclockwise – and counter-intuitive – manner to the final of Pound’s famous modernist imperatives of 1913: 1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing’ whether subjective or objective. 2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation. 3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.77 Much as he sought to break away from Pound’s advice for poets and his commands about the rules of circulation, Ford is now (with the aid of Tyler) responding parodically to perceived paternalistic ‘slaps’ by distancing himself from his modernist elder’s poetic dictates. To take another example, we see that while the line-by-line dialogues that comprise the chainpoems are fairly compressed, the networks of epistolary exchange are in fact increasingly expansive. This comes to the fore when we consider the unfinished (and unpublished) ‘International Sonnet No.1’. Serving as American representative to the London Bulletin in the 1930s, Ford had forged links with the British poets of the New Apocalypse. Led by Henry Treece and J. F. Hendry, the now largely forgotten New Apocalypse movement


Charles Henri Ford

is usually described as a poetic manifestation of Neo-Romanticism.78 Two of the writers associated with the movement contributed to Ford’s chainpoem venture.79 ‘International Sonnet No. 1’ reads like this: There are these hungers the corse beak brings amputating the public ghosts of public poets as they pound the gavel and say: Watch how I sing; in the milky night I swing you in a cradle of bone! With fumbled lava and ransacked moon on your unskinned baby-skin the lullabye wind tattoos.80

Having reached the end of the first line of the sonnet, logically one anticipates the second will open with an alliterative repetition – ‘back’ seems likely – to carry over the rhythmic movement generated just as the bringing ‘beak’ paradoxically signifies the line’s abrupt termination. Not so, however. If not an outright contradiction, the act of amputation that greets the reader in the opening of the sonnet’s second line does denote a turn of sorts. Shifting from the bleak depiction of natural desolation and starvation, the poem’s second line shifts register into something altogether more literary. Changing direction again, the third line of the poem carries forward – rather than refutes – the ghostly spectres mentioned in the second. The semi-colon that punctuates the close of the third line does not act as a thematic connective, although a lingering sense of that line is carried forward into the fourth. The fourth and fifth lines of ‘International Sonnet No. 1’ belong to writers of the New Apocalypse (Norman McCaig and Dorian Cooke, respectively), and it is perhaps unsurprising that at this point, given their shared thematic sensibilities, the poem shifts yet again into more recognizable Neo-Romantic tropes, evocative both of death (‘cradle of bone’) and destruction (‘lava’). Correspondingly, the reader encounters the somewhat trite – but nevertheless momentum-sustaining – conversion of ‘milky night’ into ‘fumbled lava’. The sixth line of the poem is Ford’s, and it falls to him to bring order – or potentially, contradictory disorder – to the chainpoem. Ford plumps in this instance for order over chaos. The ‘unskinned’ depiction of the anonymous infant corresponds with the ‘amputation’ that inaugurated the second line of the sonnet. Furthermore, not only does Ford’s wind-beaten tattoo of a ‘lullabye’ relate back to the nocturnal song spread over lines three and four, it also suggests the sort of emotional nourishment meted out to dependent children laid in ‘cradles’. In turn, Ford’s ‘lullabye’

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relates back to the poem’s opening line, where – if not for the unavoidable sense of truncation presupposed by the switch from poet to poet – the ‘beak’ might well be in the process of bringing ‘back’ something to stave off physical hunger. In this manner one can indeed say that this particular chainpoem – despite failing to meet the formal requirements traditionally associated with the sonnet – does somehow manage to ‘revolve’ to completion. However, while ‘International Sonnet No.1’ reads, in spite of its brevity, as more or less finished, it is by no means representative of the complete chainpoem relay system. The ‘International Chainpoem’ serves, on the other hand, to convey a clear sense of the depth and breadth of the collaborative poetic relay system envisioned by Ford:81 When a parasol is cooled in the crystal garden, one spire radiates and the other turns round; a toad, the Unwanted, counts the ribs’ teardrops while I mark each idol in its dregs. There is a shredded voice, there are three fingers that follow to the end a dancing gesture and pose a legend under the turning shade where the girl’s waterfall drops its piece. Then balls of ennui burst one by one, by and by metallic metres escape from ceramic pipes. Oh sun, glass of cloud, adrift in the vast sky, spell me out a sonnet of a steel necklace.82

Themes of circularity are foregrounded in this chainpoem, as ‘one spire radiates and the other turns round’ under the similarly ‘turning shade’. Notions of transmutation also abound. For instance, ‘teardrops’ seemingly cascade from a ‘girl’s waterfall’ before turning into ‘balls of ennui’ which then ‘burst one by one’. Similarly, a process of alchemical transformation can be discerned in the poem, as ‘the crystal garden’ gives way to an image of ‘metallic metres’ leaking from ‘ceramic pipes’. Be that as it may, underlying issues of composition are arguably more important than those concerning content when it comes to this poem. What we are witnessing here is a prime example of Ford’s desire to branch out and establish increasingly expansive networks of circular poetic communication. Two of the lines belong to the aforementioned Dorian Cooke and Norman McCaig; four belong to Americans: Ford, Tyler, Gordon


Charles Henri Ford

Sylander, and George Marion O’Donnell. The remaining six lines belong to the Japanese ‘VOU’ poets: Takesi Fuji, Katue Kitasono, Saburoh Kuroda, Nagao Hirao, Syuiti Nagayasu, and Tuneo Osada. Recall here, for one final time, Pound’s advice about circulars. In Pound’s reckoning, one needed, at all times, to maintain complete control over the circular letters (or chainpoems) that one chose to distribute. When it came to the question of circulars (and circular poetics), Ford evidently thought otherwise. In choosing to hand his invention over to a group of relative strangers scattered across the globe, Ford is, contra Pound, signalling his willingness to become one poetic voice among many others. The sheer bravado of this conceptual gesture accounts for the reception meted out to Ford’s collaborative project. The chainpoems were met with a mixture of bewilderment and outright hostility.83 John Peale Bishop’s comments prove representative. ‘I cannot but wonder why it occurred to him and his companions in the craft to do them at all’, Bishop writes, ‘and why, having undertaken them, the world being what it is, their compositions should have turned out as they have.’84 While collaborative poetic experimentation during times of global crisis might not be to everybody’s taste, is Bishop right to call the very existence of the chainpoems into question? Given the need for gestures of solidarity and comradeship at times of global crisis, Bishop’s argument against poetic collaboration is at best curious: For more than a year we have seen in continuous advance of devastation an army long prepared and disciplined to the death. And I cannot but ask why, in this year of 1940, in the midst of a war in which the conquerors have left nothing conceivable to chance, in which the exact methods have been adopted to promote a brutal triumph, why so many poets have collaborated on a work from which discipline has been deliberately discarded and which, if it is to succeed, can only do so by the happiest of hazards.85

Bishop then moves to attack the apparently ‘ill-disciplined’ element of chance inherent in the production of the chainpoem. Having done so, he concludes by suggesting that Ford’s project ‘is a necessary protest, but like so many protests, costly to those who make it. For it is the responsibility of the poet to be aware of every aspect of the speech he uses and to use less than the whole word is to aim at less than the whole man’.86 Bishop’s criticism of the chainpoem project is in this sense twofold. To begin, Bishop’s criticism of Ford’s collaborative

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venture is underwritten by an anxiety pertaining to the potentially unwelcome ‘cost’ of poetic collaboration. Bishop is in effect arguing that the inevitable ‘cost’ attached to the ‘protest’ of collaborative writing is the attendant loss of authorial ‘discipline’ and control. We might think about it like this: implicit in Bishop’s criticism of the chainpoem concept is a presupposition about poetic individuality and autonomy. In poetic collaborations such as these it is impossible for any given writer to be in total control of ‘every aspect of speech’ because there are a number of other architects, supervisors, and bricklayers who have an equal share in the poetic process. This accounts for Bishop’s disapproving comments. Much like the first-generation modernists before him, Bishop is in this sense fearfully opposed to anything that might challenge the primacy of the hard-earned imprimatur. Yet such a possibility seems not to have perturbed Ford in the slightest. And with each subsequent delivery of a chainpoem, the value placed on the idea of hard-won modernist autonomy receded one step further, at least in Ford’s work. In its place, as we will now see, came something more akin to a proto-postmodernism. Ford’s chainpoems arose out of the historically regulated relay system of international postal exchange. I want now to suggest that Ford wanted to use – or rather, subvert – pre-existing, regulated routes of standardized postal exchange as a means to create something approaching a subjective, transnational, and collective poetic sensibility. It is the subversive aspect of Ford’s attempt at postal appropriation that gives the collaborative chainpoems an anticipatory postmodern quality. In his discussion of networks of artistic production after 1945, Craig J. Saper argues for the emergence of what he terms intimate bureaucracies. ‘An intimate bureaucracy makes poetic use of the trappings of large bureaucratic systems and procedures (e.g., logos, stamps) to create intimate aesthetic situations’, Saper suggests, ‘including the pleasures of sharing a special knowledge or a new language among a small network of participants.’87 Ford’s chainpoems – those created ‘among a small network of participants’ and which also make ‘poetic use of the trappings of large bureaucratic systems and procedures’ associated with international postal relay systems – prefigure Saper’s theorization of intimate bureaucracies. Such bureaucracies hinge upon both individual and communal activity. Further, in Saper’s estimation, ‘These almost opposed values of collective action and self-promotion combine to form an alternative to more hierarchical


Charles Henri Ford

systems of appraising artworks.’88 The emphasis that Saper places in this passage on personal and collective activity resonates with what has already been said about Ford’s chainpoem project – a project which, as well as being predicated on individual and communal activity, unsettles hierarchical assumptions pertaining to preconceived notions of poetic autonomy. It also tallies with the conceptual processes of collaborative exchange privileged in the work in one of Ford’s associates of the 1960s, the American Pop Artist Ray Johnson.89 José Esteban Muñoz reminds us that Johnson’s artistic world was also ‘a queer world of potentiality’.90 According to Saper, Johnson ‘initiated a practice called “on-sending” which involved sending an incomplete or unfinished artwork to another artist, critic, or even a stranger, who, in turn, helped to complete the work by making some additions and then sending it on to another participant in the network’.91 Saper describes how Johnson’s ‘gift exchanges, begun in 1955, evolved into more elaborate networks of hundreds of participants, but at first they included a relatively small circle of participants’.92 Reading this, it becomes impossible to ignore the points of comparisons that emerge when we compare Ford’s postal practice of the 1940s with the one developed by Johnson in the 1950s.93 At the very least, we can say with confidence that Ford’s chainpoems anticipate aspects of Johnson’s mail art. Ford’s chainpoems and Johnson’s mail art share a sense of (queer) cultural heritage.94 In addition, both attempt to draw old and new friends together through the otherwise regimented routes of postal exchange in order to create alternative and intimate networks of intersubjective communication. Indeed, as William S. Wilson notes, Johnson’s collagist practice ‘was most useful to him as a means of thinking about friends. He made art so that his collages were, as works of art, one of the variables in friendship’.95 Johnson’s demotic aesthetic was in this respect a fundamentality sociable endeavour. The most satisfying art Johnson, in Wilson’s reckoning, ‘was the art of friendship. Loving movement, he used art to set a set of friends in motion’.96 This description of Johnson’s love of ‘motion’ and his desire to use art ‘to set a set of friends in motion’ chimes, I think, with Ford’s desire to be thought of as, in his own words, a poetic ‘catalyst’.97 However, in spite of these personal and aesthetic similarities, there is one major difference between the respective postal practices of Ford and Johnson. While Ford’s chainpoems work to preliminary, yet predetermined list of potential contributors, Johnson’s collagist mail art is utterly contingent. ‘An item

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in one of Ray’s envelopes could refer to something within the same mailing’, Wilson argues, ‘or might also refer away from the piece of mail to a prior mailing. The chain of references was not closed, but was open to combining with other images linked in reciprocating references.’98 What we have here is the beginning of what might be described as postmodern proliferation. Of course, Ford’s chainpoems, based as they are upon a predetermined list of participants, can only hint at the direction of Johnson’s radically performative – and potentially unending – postal practice, casting away as it does the need for anything approaching what a critic such as Jameson would describe as a private personal style. But the point to be made is that they certainly do anticipate some of postal routes that Johnson’s subsequent intimate bureaucracies take.

4 Permit me here a brief coda with which to close out our discussion of literary circulars and circular exchange. In 1976 Charles Henri Ford curated an exhibition of his work at the New York-based Iolas Gallery. Nothing unusual there, one might say. Nothing unusual that is, until we consider the materials Ford selected for inclusion. Ford’s exhibition comprised 108 postcards, all of which were addressed to him. The names of those senders selected by Ford to feature in his exhibition – which he wryly titled ‘Having a Wonderful Time: Wish You Were Here’ – reads as a hit-parade of twentieth-century avant-gardism. Among others, the exhibition included postcards from Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, Hilda Doolittle, and HenriCartier Bresson. On the one hand, Ford’s postcard exhibition represented the culmination of a process of epistolary sociability that stretched back almost fifty years. On the other, it can be read as a final refutation of modernist strategies of circular exchange. While modernists such as Pound wanted to keep the processes of their circular exchange private and controlled, Ford sought decisively, as his exhibition at the Iolas demonstrates, to make them ever more public; he most surely delighted in tearing open the envelope of intimacy and exposing the mechanisms and value-hoarding machinations of hitherto private expressions of modernist discourse. Ford’s use of the postcard is in this sense absolutely scandalous: he is parodically highlighting the role

Charles Henri Ford


that sociability has always played in the circulation of modernist capital. As this provocatively hung exhibition of postcards suggests, Ford is more interested in revealing the taste-making and reputation-making mechanisms of circular exchange as a kind of art in and of itself. It is, was, and always will be first and foremost a performance. Ford is thus brazenly suggesting that it is who you’re in correspondence with (i.e. who’s sending you postcards and who’s performing in your chainpoem experiments) that determines your allotted fifteen minutes of poetic fame. In other words, Ford is suggesting that poetic expression can be a fortuitous by-product of sociality, of collaboration, of circular exchange. Much as he said of his friend Andy Warhol: ‘You are what you eat.’99

Notes 1 Charles Henri Ford to Charles L. Ford, 5 February 1928, series 2, box 7, folder 7, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 2 White continues: ‘Ford was unable to attend that event, but he and Young eventually met in San Antonio, beginning their intense relationship and collaboration, and their broader engagement with the modernist transatlantic.’ White, Transatlantic Avant-Gardes, 187. 3 Ford could be found at 11 Macdougal Street. 4 Charles Henri Ford to Charles L. Ford, 17 March 1930, series 2, box 7, folder 7, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 5 Charles Henri Ford to Charles L. Ford, 17 March 1930, HRC. 6 Ibid. 7 Ibid. 8 Ford’s letter to his father continues: ‘The cost of mailing (stamps), envelopes for mailing, express packages to bookstores, cost of copyright, the plates for a new cover and an art reproduction that we are considering: these things he is leaving up to me: expenses that will probably not run over $35.00. Of course, the only one I can turn to for this amount is you. That this is a small sum, proportionately, you realize. I hope that you will also consider it a worthwhile artistic investment. Incidentally, there will be one thousand copies of this number of BLUES printed: twice the number of previous issues.’ Ibid. 9 The eighth and ninth issues of Blues feature contributions from Greenwich Village affiliates such as John Rose Gildea, Lionel Abel, Joseph Rocco, and Ben Maddow.

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10 Malcolm Cowley, Exile’s Return: a Literary Odyssey of the 1920s (London: Penguin Books, [1934] 1994), 65. Incidentally, in late 1929, Parker Tyler wrote that Greenwich Village had ‘ceased to be more than a romantic memory. There has been an influx of bank clerks, gangsters and sharp real estate dealers. The proper people are becoming elegiac’ (Tyler, ‘New York Notes’, Blues 2: 7, 41). 11 A more measured assessment of Greenwich Village during the 1920s can be found in the literary criticism of Cristanne Miller. She notes that ‘by the mid1920s … the Village was less of a radial cultural than a media-celebrated enclave, where the “new” appeared as much in “lifestyle” as in art or politics’. Cristanne Miller, Cultures of Modernism: Marianne Moore, Mina Loy, and Else LaskerSchüler (Michigan: Michigan University Press, 2007), 38. 12 Lynne Tillman, ‘Cut Up Life’, in Water From a Bucket: A Diary 1948-1957, ed. Charles Henri Ford (New York: Turtle Point Press, 2011), viii. 13 Quoted in James Dowell and John Kolomvakis (dirs.), Sleep in a Nest of Flames. 14 George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994), 227. 15 Chauncey, Gay New York, 234. 16 Ibid., 237. 17 Ibid., 242. 18 In the context of the current discussion, I think it worth mentioning that the ninth and final issue of Blues carried the sexualized and indeterminately gendered line drawings of the queer Mexican ‘Los Contemporáneos’ artist and playwright Augustín Lazo. Created by the man usually credited with introducing Surrealism into Mexico, these line drawings were very much in keeping with the queer remit of Ford’s magazine. 19 Charles Henri Ford to Charles L. Ford, 17 March 1930, HRC. 20 Quoted in James Dowell and John Kolomvakis (dirs.), Sleep in a Nest of Flames. 21 Not all of Ford’s friends were impressed with his decision to move to Greenwich Village. Nor were they all that taken with the company Ford kept while in the Village. Consider Kathleen Tankersley Young’s letter of 29 February 1929: ‘I wish I was there because I would certainly like to steer you clear of that Village bunch so you could someday be something beside a Village Poet. But we all pass through that stage a little. And by your address I see that you are in the very midst of the Village. Watch Gildea. HE’s not as much genius as personality. Watch Tyler. HE’s not very deep.’ Kathleen Tankersley Young to Charles Henri Ford, 29 February 1929, series 3, box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Charles Henri Ford

92 22 Pound, Selected Letters, 224.

23 Charles Henri Ford, 7 Poems (Kathmandu, Nepal: Bardo Matrix, 1974), n.pag. 24 On a related note, it is tempting to read a line like Ford’s ‘why are you never specific’ as a playful rebuttal of what we might describe as Tyler’s career-long penchant for indirect symbolist allusion. 25 It also proves Pound correct. 26 The use of letters and dispatches from Paris, London, and New York in the later issues of Blues is another example of Ford’s early eagerness to construct routes of communication through the postal network. In addition to this, Blues also carried advertisements for a variety of other sympathetic little magazines: Bozart: The Bi-Monthly Poetry Review, Palo Verde: A Radical Southwestern Poetry Review, Japm: The Poetry Weekly, Contemporary Verse, Morada, The Hound and Horn, Tambour, Janus: A Quarterly Review of Letters, Thought and the New Mythology, Alhambra: A Monthly Magazine Devoted to Spain and the Americas, and Revista de Advance: A Cuban Monthly of the Newer Arts and Letters. Ford’s decision to give over advertising space to magazines like Alhambra and Revista de Advance can be thought of as an early instance of his desire to establish networks of everwidening geographical and international scope. 27 Quoted in Charles Henri Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 138–9. Ford was living in Columbus, Mississippi at the time. 28 Ford sailed to France in May 1931. According to Steven Watson, ‘Ford arrived in a Paris that had been thoroughly colonized by expatriates and he immediately negotiated his way through its social circuits.’ Steven Watson, ‘Introduction’, The Young and Evil, ed. Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler (London: Gay Men Press, [1933] 1989), n.pag. 29 Tyler lived in New York during this period. Ford finished working on the manuscript while living in Paris. On 18 April 1932, Ford told his mother that ‘the novel is all typed and last night I took it around to their hotel and Frederick read it aloud to us until three o’ clock in the morning. Carmita [Mariňo, a friend of Tyler’s] loved it, said it was the only modern novel she could think of that didn’t bore her, parts of it exquisite, tender, extraordinary piece of organization, etc.’ Quoted in Charles Henri Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 217–18. 30 Parker Tyler to Alice B. Toklas, 10 September 1959, container 5, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 31 Quoted in Watson, ‘Introduction’, n.pag. 32 Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, The Young and Evil (London: Gay Men Press, [1933] 1989), 152. 33 Ford and Tyler, The Young and Evil, 152.

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34 Ibid. 153. 35 Ibid. 36 Justus Nieland, Feeling Modern: The Eccentricities of Public Life (Urbana and Chicago: Illinois University Press, 2008), 2. 37 Suárez, Pop Modernism, 181–2. 38 Joseph Allen Boone, Libidinal Currents: Sexuality and the Shaping of Modernism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998), 252. 39 Ford and Tyler, The Young and Evil, 164. Ford and Tyler refer in this extract to Beatrice Lillie’s rendition of the song ‘I’m a Campfire Girl’, which was popular in the gay urban world of the 1920s and 1930s. 40 Riding and Graves are referring here to another Southern writer: John Crowe Ransom. They describe Ransom as having ‘a colloquial dignity and grace which it is possible to call Southern and a quality in his poetry that is definitely aristocratic’. Riding and Graves, A Survey of Modernist Poetry, 48. We will have cause to revisit this assessment in Chapter 3. 41 Wayne Koestenbaum, Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary Collaboration (New York and London: Routledge, 1989), 2. It should be added Koestenbaum’s argument is both gendered and selective. This is something Marjorie Stone and Judith Thompson address in their co-signed account of literary collaboration. In their estimation, ‘Although he describes his queer theoretical approach to male collaborators writing between 1885 and 1922 as feminist (in some respects it is), Koestenbaum is disturbing dismissive of the female partners in mixed-sex couples of various kinds.’ Marjorie Stone and Judith Thompson, ‘Contexts and Heterotexts: A Theoretical and Historical Introduction’, in Literary Couplings: Writing Couples, Collaborators, and the Construction of Authorship, ed. Marjorie Stone and Judith Thompson (Madison: Wisconsin University Press, 2006), 18. 42 Melissa Jane Hardie makes a similar claim about The Young and Evil. ‘The creation of the text is fantasized as a fathering by two men’, Hardie writes, ‘a collaborative effort that mimes the status of “Ford and Tyler” as a double signature.’ Melissa Jane Hardie, ‘ “That Man in My Mouth”: Editing, Masculinity and Modernism’, in Modernism and Masculinity, ed. Natalya Lusty and Julian Murphet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 47. 43 Koestenbaum has much to say in particular about the critically neglected Romance, combining as he does textual analysis with biographical information concerning the working relationship of Ford and Conrad. In his provocative account, Koestenbaum argues that we read Ford’s collaboration with Conrad as an instance of textually sublimated male homosexual contact.

Charles Henri Ford


44 These co-signed works tend to fare poorly in the critical estimation of Ford and Conrad scholars. 45 To clarify: I am talking only of novel-length works of modernist fiction. I do not seek in any way to dispute the rich tradition of collaboration in the history of proto-, first-, and second-generation Anglophone modernism. One need only think here of the turn-of-the-century collaborative undertakings of W. B. Yeats and George Moore (Diarmuid and Grania), as well as the literary undertakings of William Dean Howells (The Whole Family). To take another example, we might also consider the interdisciplinary collaborative projects of canonical first-generation figures such as Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell (Kew Gardens). In a similar fashion, one might also think of the collaborative partnership of Wyndham Lewis and Naomi Mitchison (Beyond This Limit), the historic sketches of Ford Madox Ford and Violent Hunt (Zeppelin Nights: A London Entertainment), and even the output of D. H. Lawrence and Mollie Skinner (The Boy in the Bush). In addition to literary examples such as these, there is, of course, always Riding and Graves’s aforementioned Survey. Expanding our historical and categorical remit somewhat, one might also speak here of a text such as Wallace Thurman and Abraham Furman’s Harlem-based The Interne (1932). Moving forward chronologically, we soon also encounter the collaborative output of writers such as W. H. Auden and Christopher Isherwood (The Dog Beneath the Skin). To this list, we might also add the co-signed poetic travelogue produced by Auden and Louis MacNeice (Letters from Iceland). 46 I also find it striking that the collaborative novel Romance has been discussed by some critics in terms of queerness. Sadly, however, further discussion of this issue remains beyond the scope of this study. Interested parties are encouraged to seek out Sarah Cole, Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) and Richard J. Ruppel, Homosexuality in the Life and Work of Joseph Conrad (New York: Routledge, 2008). 47 One final piece of information: The Nature of Crime appeared in the April and May 1909 editions of The English Review. It was not published as a novel until 1924. 48 Fredric Jameson, ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’, in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Washington: Bay Press, 1983), 114. 49 By way of direct contrast, openness about collaboration and co-authorship was not as much of an issue for the historical avant-garde. One thinks, for instance, of the work of Verlaine and Rimbaud, of Breton and Soupault.

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50 Critics such as Koestenbaum would likely – and rightly – frame a discussion of such anxiety in terms of homosociality. 51 Aaron Jaffe, Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 9. 52 Jaffe, Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity, 9. 53 Ibid., 7. 54 Ibid., 20. 55 Ibid. 56 Ibid., 101. 57 Ibid. 58 Quoted in Watson, ‘Introduction’, n.pag. 59 Ibid. 60 It is also worth noting that Gertrude Stein conceived of The Young and Evil as a sort of companion piece to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s debut novel This Side of Paradise (1920). Stein said as much to Charles Henri Ford. He passed on the message to Parker Tyler in a letter dated 26 January 1932: ‘Sunday I had gone to Gertrude’s at 2 o’ clock and we talked about Jump Back until teatime when the others came in (Grisham comes on Sunday to wash Basket, Gertrude’s dog!). Well she gave me some good advice, showed me places where I had lost my “point of view” – she had found where the words themselves didn’t sound right there was an error in the meaning, always. She didn’t like the woman chapter and I told her I didn’t either (and D____ doesn’t) but you had said when I said it wasn’t needed to put it in as a LUXURY and she said your advice was wittier than the chapter and that it wasn’t good enough to be a luxury so I think it had better come out. She said Hemingway hadn’t given the world a generation that it was Scott Fitzgerald who did it in This Side of Paradise and that we had done the same thing and that was the importance of it.’ Charles Henri Ford, ‘I Will Be What I Am’, 202. 61 Boone, Libidinal Currents, 255. 62 Suárez, Pop Modernism, 261. 63 Boone, Libidinal Currents, 255. 64 Ibid., 255. This is a point that Sam See also emphasizes in his critical account of modernism, myth, and queerness in Ford and Tyler’s co-signed novel. See suggests that ‘Ford and Tyler’s text shuttles between two collective, and to them, similar, experiences – those of the queer community and literary modernist culture at large – to blur the line between the strange and common, the queer and the mainstream, in American modernism’. Sam See, ‘Making Modernism New: Queer Mythology in The Young and Evil’, English Literary History 76 (2009): 1076.

Charles Henri Ford


65 For one thing, it was difficult to get hold of a copy of the Obelisk Press edition of The Young and Evil. Steven Watson notes that British customs found the content of the novel so scandalous that they move to ‘seize and burn 500. American customs officials did not set such conflagration, but turned back the shipments that made it to American shores’. Watson, ‘Introduction’, n.pag. The Olympia Press reissued The Young and Evil as part of its ‘Traveller’s Companion Series’ in 1960. 66 The complete list of chainpoem contributors reads as follows: Forrest Anderson, Hilary Arm, John Bayliss, Harvey Breit, Nicolas Calas, Dorian Cooke, Matta Echaurren, Charles Henri Ford, Robert Friend, Takesi Fuji, Troy Garrison, John Hastings, H. R. Hays, J. F. Hendry, Jyun Higasi, Nagao Hirao, Robert Horen, Elgar Hougton, Kohiti Kihara, Katue Kitasono, Takesi Koike, Saburah Kuroda, Conroy Maddox, Norman McCaig, Robert Melville, Townsend Miller, Nicholas Moore, Syuti Nagayasu, Tio Nakamure, Helen Neville, George Marion O’Donnell, Tuneo Osada, Paul Eaton Reeve, Harry Roskolenko, Giko Sirota, Gordon Sylander, Henry Treece, Ryoozen Torii, Napier Towne, Parker Tyler, Mary Woodman, and Minoru Yasosima. 67 Charles Henri Ford, ‘How to Write a Chainpoem’, in New Directions in Prose & Poetry, ed. James Laughlin (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940), 369. 68 Ford, ‘How to Write a Chainpoem’, 369. 69 Ibid., 369. Emphasis added. The chainpoem project, as this passage makes clear, was in part inspired by specific artistic practices of a decidedly surreal tenor, such as ‘cadavre exquis’ and literary automatism. We will have much more to say about Ford’s interest in Surrealism in Chapter 3. For the time being, however, I want simply to draw attention to the way in which, as Mary Ann Caws notes, the exquisite corpse ‘experiments combined communality, performance, and personality. They took the measure of the collective mind’. Describing the conceptual procedures underpinning the Surrealist exquisite corpse, Caws reminds us that the purpose of such ‘play is both collective and automatic: the unleashing of the marvellous or the irrational in a group, with each individual effort working toward the final result greater than the sum of its parts’. Mary Ann Caws, The Surrealist Look: An Erotics of Encounter (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), 223, 228. 70 Ford, ‘How to Write a Chainpoem’, 369. 71 Based as they are in a ‘hypothetical joint imagination’, Ford’s chainpoem experiments attempt poetically to approximate psychoanalytical concepts – such as the idea of the ‘collective unconscious’ – associated with Carl Jung. Ford’s

Community, Circularity, Sociability, Postcards


choice of language certainly has a Jungian ring to it. For instance, his account of the ‘anonymous shape’ lurking at the bottom of the ‘joint imagination’ is clearly indebted to Jung’s famous definition of the psychoanalytical archetype. As described in ‘On the Psychology of the Unconscious’ (1917), the typical primordial archetype is, according to Jung, an ‘idea that has been stamped on the human brain for aeons. That is why it lies ready to hand in the unconscious of every man. Only, certain conditions are needed to cause it to appear’. Encountering this, we get the distinct sense that Ford’s chainpoems represented an ambitious attempt to tap into the hidden reservoir of what Jung might describe as the ‘greatest and best thoughts of man [which] shape themselves upon these primordial images as upon a blueprint’. Carl Gustav Jung, ‘On the Psychology of the Unconscious’, in Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume Seven: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, ed. Herbert Read (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953), 69. 72 The chainpoems also hint at Ford’s later interest in Japanese poetic forms like haiku. Traditionally, the Japanese renga – a poetic form determined by communally written, interlinked sequences of haiku – was characterized by a largely democratic impulse. The democratic aspect of renga finds an unexpectedly correlative in Ford’s chainpoems. However, there is one significant difference between Japanese renga and Fordian chainpoems. In traditional renga there is always a so-called ‘master of renga’: one who directs the process of this otherwise non-hierarchical poetic procedure. In Ford’s chainpoems, however, there are only provisional supervisors. We will return to the topic of Ford’s interest in Japanese poetic form in Chapter 5. 73 Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, ‘Duo No. 2’, in New Directions in Prose & Poetry, ed. James Laughlin (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940), 370. 74 Ford and Tyler, ‘Duo No. 2’, 372. 75 Parker Tyler to Ezra Pound [n.d.], series 1, box 2, folder 176, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 76 Parker Tyler to Ezra Pound [n.d.], series 1, box 2, folder 176, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. 77 Ezra Pound, Literary Essays (New York: New Directions, 1968), 3. 78 In Treece’s words, the New Apocalypse aimed ‘to collect and display [various] international examples of a new Romantic tendency, whose most obvious elements are love, death, an adherence to myth and an awareness of war’. Henry Treece, The Crown and Sickle: An Anthology (London: P.S. King & Staples Limited, 1943), 5.

Charles Henri Ford


79 The involvement of such sympathetic British writers in the chainpoem projects would have obviously appealed to Ford, whose partner was the Neo-Romantic painter Pavel Tchelitchew. 80 Charles Henri Ford et al., ‘International Sonnet No. 1’, [n.d.], series 1, box 1, folder 5, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. ‘International Sonnet No. 1’ in order of appearance (and location): 1. Harvey Breit (New York), 2. Harry Roskolenko (New York), 3. Robert Friend (New York), 4. Norman McCaig (Edinburgh), 5. Dorian Cooke (Lincolnshire), 6. Charles Henri Ford (Norwalk, Connecticut). 81 ‘International Chainpoem’ in order of appearance (and location): Takesi Fuji (Tokyo), Katue Kitasono (Tokyo), Charles Henri Ford (Paris), Dorian Cooke (London), Norman McCaig (Edinburgh), Gordon Sylander (Madison), George Marion O’ Donnell (Belzoni), Parker Tyler (New York), Saburoh Kuroda, Nagao Hirao, Syuiti Nagayasu, and Tuneo Osada (all Tokyo). 82 Charles Henri Ford et al., ‘International Chainpoem’, in New Directions in Prose & Poetry, ed. James Laughlin (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940), 370. 83 Dylan Thomas was particularly dismissive of Ford’s project: ‘And thank you for the collaborated poem. I liked bits of the language, but it didn’t seem to make anything. It was very nice of you to ask me to collaborate, but I don’t want to. I think a poet today or any other day is most pleasurably employed writing his own poems as well as he can. With all due lack of respect, I believe this chainpoem to be a pretentious, and lazy, game.’ Dylan Thomas to Charles Henri Ford, 14 December 1939, series 2, box, 15, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 84 John Peale Bishop, ‘Chainpoems and Surrealism, 1940’, in New Directions in Prose & Poetry, ed. James Laughlin (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940), 363. 85 Bishop, ‘Chainpoems and Surrealism, 1940’, 363. 86 Ibid., 363. 87 Craig J. Saper, Networked Art (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2001), xii. 88 Saper, Networked Art, xii. 89 Reproductions of Ray Johnson’s art featured in the tenth issue of Blues (1989). We will discuss the tenth issue of Ford’s modernist little magazine in Chapter 5. 90 José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 119. 91 Saper, Networked Art, 31. 92 Ibid., 31.

Community, Circularity, Sociability, Postcards


93 Given the role that issues of modernist ‘circulars’ have played in the current discussion, it seems fitting to discover that Johnson once sent Ford a collection of mail art sealed in an envelope bearing the slogan ‘Ezra Pound for President!’ Ray Johnson to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 2, box, 14, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 94 Whereas Ford’s chainpoems develop avant-garde strategies like the exquisite corpse, Johnson’s mail art collages arguably represent a culmination of such avant-garde praxis. Johnson’s mail art, in the words of Ina Blom, ‘not only attempts to sanction the free reception of gifts of art without obligation (in a sense to restore the symbolical division between gift and exchange in an increasingly commodity-orientated society). More importantly, it accords to each and every one without exception the power of a giver who gives the most and thus obligates the others – a social impossibility if there ever was one and perhaps the purest expression of the many avant-garde dreams of an existence beyond social division (from Dadaist to Surrealist notions of collective creation and the politics of the subconscious, to Joseph Beuys’s dictum Jedermann ist Künstler)’. Ina Blom, ‘How to (Not) Answer a Letter: Ray Johnson’s Postal Performance’, Ray Johnson: Please Add To & Return (Barcelona: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2009), 103. Original emphasis. 95 William S. Wilson, With Ray: The Art of Friendship (Black Mountain, NC: Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center, 1997), 12. 96 Wilson, With Ray, 12. 97 Quoted in Asako Kitaori, ‘Charles Henri Ford: Catalyst Among Poets’, Rain Taxi Review of Books (Spring 2000), (accessed 4 December 2015). 98 Wilson, With Ray, 20. 99 ‘He feeds off other people, and he is a product of what he eats. You are what you eat.’ Quoted in John Wilcock, The Autography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol (New York: Trela Media LLC, 2010), 61. We will discuss Ford’s relationship with Warhol at greater length in Chapter 4.



Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism 1 In 1940, the American author, composer, and former Blues contributor, Paul Bowles gently chided Charles Henri Ford for what he perceived as yet another instance of his friend’s wilful contrariness. ‘You’re always building up just when everything’s breaking down,’1 wrote Bowles. This assertion provides an initial means with which to consider, as I propose to do in this chapter, Ford’s output of the 1940s and his critical standing in the 1950s. Historical context is important in this regard. Bowles is referring here to Ford’s decision to publish what was in essence a pacifist avant-garde art journal – View – at a time when many in the United States supported the idea of a foreign policy intervention in war-torn Europe. His decision to found View not all that long after the start of the Second World War can be said to mirror the earlier decision to launch Blues in the same year as the Wall Street Crash. And much like Blues, Ford’s View was removed from the wider concerns and demands of the society into which it emerged.2 Still, View matters. For one thing, as we will see, it offered a port of textual refuge to the various displaced figures of the European avant-garde.3 In addition to this, we can read this seminal – and influential – magazine as another key moment in Ford’s development as an artist and editor. I want to discuss Ford’s developmental trajectory in the opening sections of the present chapter, before turning my attention to the issue of our Mississippian’s critical standing in the middle decades of the twentieth century. In particular, I suggest that Ford’s inquisitive aesthetic sensibility and his avant-garde disposition – both of which impacted his journal and the attendant View Editions imprint that he also founded in the 1940s – put him at odds with at least three of the dominant


Charles Henri Ford

cultural and critical tendencies of the day. To begin, I move to consider Ford’s fraught relationship with dominant models of Surrealism. Here, I draw on unpublished archival materials newly unearthed from the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. This section reveals the depth of Ford’s engagement with the Surrealists, while suggesting that it is his inquisitive, questioning attitude that condemns him to the margins the movement founded, promoted, and guarded by André Breton. Having done so, I then propose to scrutinize Ford’s marginalization in the wider context of the historical narrative of mid-twentieth-century artistic practice and development. Referring here to Clement Greenberg’s heroic, masculinist narrative of painterly modernist progress, this portion of the chapter demonstrates that Ford’s overtly surreal stance is one of the primary reasons behind his enduring relegation to the footnotes of critical and cultural history. Finally, I consider Ford’s fractious encounter with purveyors of New Criticism. In this section, I propose that Ford’s unpublished theoretical output of this historical period should be read as a clear riposte to the contemporaneous brand of high modernist-inflected impersonality promoted by John Crowe Ransom and his formally conservative allies. Building on this line of critical inquiry, the chapter closes by gesturing to the ways in which Ford – in spite of the various critical obstacles he encountered along the way – directly influenced a host of crucial post-war, ostensibly postmodern American poets.

2 Ford’s interest in Surrealism is in a very specific sense bound up with the history of his Blues. Recall that in order better to achieve his aims when it came to his modernist little magazine, and so as to more nimbly sidestep the issue of his perceived adolescent isolation in the Deep South, Ford sought to establish contacts with writers, editors, and artists across the globe. Ford, as we know, was more than willing to take advice – and contributions – from a range of European sources. Significantly, one source of assistance came from the well-known American expatriate poet and editor Eugene Jolas, who was based in Paris. Ford admired Jolas, so much so that he eventually approached him to join the editorial board of Blues.4 Above all, Ford was much taken with

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


Jolas’s influential second-generation modernist little magazine transition. It was in this little magazine that Ford first discovered surrealistically inflected instances of literary avant-gardism. Interviewed in 1987 by Bruce Wolmer, Ford detailed the way in which his initial encounter with transition, and his reading of Jolas’s work, shaped his own creative praxis. Ford’s response to the following question is revealing: BW: Who were you influenced by in transition? CHF: Eugene Jolas himself. Later on I discovered Paul Eluard and AndréBreton and the poet Benjamin Péret. But my first surrealist thrill came from a nonmember of the official group who was, however, an advocate of surrealism – Jolas himself. I remember that distinctly.5

Ford’s reply resonates in relation to his decades-long engagement with all things officially Surrealist, as both a committed ‘advocate’ and, significantly, as an inquisitive non-member. Equally, if on a more immediate level, Ford’s retrospective account of his initial introduction to Jolas’s transition is also useful. It captures something of the sensual, almost palpable physical ‘thrill’ he experienced when first coming into contact with surrealistic materials. This experience, when combined with, and complemented by, his subsequent reading of prominent Surrealist poets such as Breton, Eluard, and Péret, were to electrify many, if not all, of his subsequent literary, aesthetic, and editorial ventures.6 Ford articulates his commitment to the precepts of Surrealism in his poetry of the early 1940s. Consider the following lines, which come from his 1941 collection, The Overturned Lake: To tone down language is to tongue‐tie the pulse, meter of mood, tape‐line of longing, and so we are boosted by the measureless dream and awake to an algebra whose symbols cry havoc.7

Ford’s ‘Comedy of Belief’ contains a number of allusions to the central tenets of Surrealism. The remark about a ‘tape‐line of longing’ refers to the crucial role that desire plays in Surrealist thought and literature. In Jennifer Mundy’s estimation, ‘The word desire runs like a silver thread through the poetry and writings of the surrealist group in all its phases.’8 For the Surrealists, ‘desire was the authentic voice of the inner self’.9 Notions of love and desire certainly


Charles Henri Ford

play an important role in the work of the movement’s guiding light. For instance, in his poetic meditation L’Amour fou (1937), Breton asserts that love can function ‘as a fundamental principle for moral as well as cultural progress’.10 In Breton’s eyes, literary activity represents ‘a tried and tested means’ with which ‘to fix the sensitive and moving world on a single being as well as a permanent force of anticipation’.11 In other words, concentrated poetic activity can provide a means with which we can better understand (the objects of) our desire and affection. Ford’s declaration that ‘we are boosted by the measureless dream’ also relates to conceptions of Surrealism. As is well known, Breton and his followers looked to the Freudian unconscious and the attendant psychoanalytic interpretation of dreams for artistic inspiration. Dismissing formal divisions between conscious and unconscious states of existence in Les Vases Communicants (1932), Breton argues that the true ‘poet to come will surmount the depressing idea of the irreparable divorce between action and dream’.12 Further to this, Breton argues that via a fusion of conscious and unconscious states of perception, the Surrealist poet might restore ‘man to the heart of the universe, extracting him for a second from his debilitating adventure and reminding him that he is, for every pain and every joy exterior to himself, an indefinitely perfectible place of resolution and resonance’.13 This assertion allows us better to understand Ford’s reference to the ‘measureless dream’ in the poem above. Following Breton, Ford is suggesting that a committed exploration of the ‘measureless’ reservoirs that underpin subjective perception might awaken a new kind of poetic ‘algebra’ whose seemingly irrational ‘symbols’ might ‘cry havoc’ and thereby tear apart previously held antimonies pertaining to objective and subjective experience.14 In equal measure, however, it is important to bear in mind that Ford was not content merely to praise or reaffirm conceptual notions set forth in Bretonian Surrealism. Rather, he sought also to differentiate his approach and outlook from that of the card-carrying members of the Surrealist group. There are reasons as to why he did so. First, Ford and Breton hardly saw eye to eye when it came to issues of sexuality. Breton’s homophobia was, as is commonly known, the stuff of legend.15 This was a man, lest we forget, who once accused ‘homosexuals of confronting human tolerance with a mental and moral deficiency which tends to turn itself into a system and to paralyze

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


every enterprise I respect’.16 Yet, on the face of it, Ford seems not to have been all that bothered by Breton’s personal prejudices. This comes across in Ford’s aforementioned interview with Wolmer: BW: What are your feelings about the well-known, almost doctrinal antipathy on the part of Breton and many of the other official surrealists to homosexuals? CHF: That has been exaggerated. The skeleton came out of the closet when Louis Aragon died. BW: You didn’t feel personally alienated or antagonistic to Breton? CHF: Not at all. Not at all, because he was certainly amiable and welcoming. The thing it started with is very simple: Jean Cocteau was Breton’s bête noire, and that symbolized the whole sexual ambiance. That’s it. Jean was famous, was arrogant, he was talented and he was there before the surrealists got there. They had to put down somebody. BW: So Breton was, in effect, competing with Cocteau for the leadership of the French avant-garde? CHF: At one point Man Ray took a beautiful photograph of Cocteau. It was all very friendly at the beginning. There were even groups with Cocteau and Tzara and Man Ray and so forth. But Cocteau was pushed out. BW: So there was no homophobia on the part of others besides Breton, like Eluard? CHF: No, totally, totally mythic. Eluard was very friendly with me too, and I took photographs of him. Nothing of that. And everybody knew about Dalí and Garcia Lorca. BW: I didn’t know that. CHF: Now you do.17

Gossip, as we all know, makes the cultural world go round. Gavin Butt emphasizes as much his critical account of the vibrant queer art scene that developed in New York in the decades after the Second World War. According to Butt, ‘gossiping is a social activity which produces and maintains the filiations of artistic community.’18 Precisely, in Butt’s estimation, ‘gossip’s informal and trivializing mode of address [came] to be elevated to the status of an artistic expression, particularly within one cross-disciplinary community of practitioners centred on the so-called New York School of poetry’.19 I mention this here for two reasons. The first point concerns the general narrative arc of the present discussion. As will become clear in the final pages of this chapter,


Charles Henri Ford

Ford’s career intersects with those of the core poets associated with the New  York School. The second point speaks directly to the notion of gossip. Ford was, among other things, a certified quidnunc. This much is evident in the passage quoted above. To be perfectly clear though: in no way, shape, or form whatsoever is such a statement to be construed as negative. Quite the opposite. Ford always appreciated the radical – and radically subversive – potential of gossip. We get a better sense of Ford’s fondness for a good chinwag in his interview with Wolmer. Ford’s gossipy recollections perform a number of distinct, yet simultaneously related critical functions. First, following Butt, we might say that Ford’s seemingly offhand remarks in fact serve, at least in one respect, to remind us of the role that a shared sense of filiation necessarily plays in the construction of a community, artistic or otherwise. As Ford says, ‘It was all very friendly at the beginning.’ At the same time, notice the manner in which Ford seeks quickly to foreground the fact that notions of community and exclusivity are linked inextricably. This becomes glaringly apparent when Ford broaches the topic of Jean Cocteau’s treatment at the hands of Breton and his acolytes. The issue of sexuality creeps into the picture at this point. Ford is suggesting that the significance of Cocteau’s homosexuality has been overplayed somewhat, at least when it comes to the issue of his vexed relationship with Breton and the Surrealists. Cocteau’s homosexuality, Ford argues, had less to do with his marginalization in the wider Surrealist community than might be expected. The Surrealists simply, in Ford’s estimation, ‘had to put down somebody’ in order to assert their aesthetic primacy. Taking this a step further, one could even say that it appears as if Ford is trying, in what would surely be a decidedly strange turn of events, to downplay the issue of Breton’s homophobia altogether. After all, as he says, Breton was always both ‘amiable and welcoming’. But this would be to miss the point entirely. With the hint of a twinkle in his eye, Ford tells a clearly astonished Wolmer: ‘Everyone knew about Dalí and Garcia Lorca.’ How are we to read this statement? We can put it like this: having at first gone to great lengths to downplay the issue of Surrealism’s well-documented heteronormative predilections, Ford flips the script. As we can now see, he is in fact suggesting that if there was any homophobia, it came mainly from Breton. A weirdly staid, isolated, and sexually fusty Breton at that. In this sense, then, Ford’s

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


use of gossip serves to put a queer spin on what has long been considered a primarily heterosexual cultural formation. As to whether Ford’s account is completely accurate? It is difficult to say with absolute conviction either way. In any case, portions of his remarks certainly do ring true. He is, for instance, surely right to emphasize the competitive nature of the Surrealist enterprise. Indeed, as will become apparent in the next section of this chapter, we need look no further than to Ford’s dealings with Breton during the 1940s in order to confirm this.

3 Generally considered the last historical European avant-garde, Surrealism experienced a surge of popularity in the United States during the early 1940s.20 The increased visibility of Surrealism in North America can be attributed to the enforced mass emigration undertaken by the various members of the European intelligentsia in 1941. Glossing this point, the historian Serge Guilbaut reminds us that ‘by 1943 the surrealists had already been in New York for two years, and the public had become used to their extravagances which, if Salvador Dalí’s exhibitions in the windows of large New York department stores are any indication, were by now familiar to the man in the street’.21 Long established as an important aesthetic movement on the other side of the Atlantic, many prominent European Surrealists also benefited from increased exposure in the large gallery spaces of New York during the early 1940s. To quote Guilbaut again: ‘Max Ernst was the darling of museums and society matrons alike. Matta was the young eccentric whom other artists took seriously. Masson was doing automatic drawings. The unconscious was on everybody’s mind.’22 Guilbaut’s wry suggestion that the ‘unconscious was on everybody’s mind’ in New York during the early 1940s warrants further consideration here. ‘The influx of European refugees, who brought with them a cultural baggage that American artists had always admired without altogether assimilating’, Guilbaut notes, ‘suddenly brought home to New Yorkers especially that the United States was indeed at the center of the cultural upheaval provoked by the war.’23 Guilbaut’s account of the upheaval provoked by the Second World War provides us with a more accurate means of contextualizing the impact of the displaced Surrealist


Charles Henri Ford

émigrés. Crucially, young American artists and intellectuals no longer needed to travel to Europe to enrich their avant-garde education because the last vestiges of the very same avant-garde were now living alongside them. The immediate proximity of the displaced European émigrés thus afforded a whole  generation of American artists the unique opportunity to reconsider their cultural relationship with national and international culture and thereby, to borrow from Guilbaut one last time, ‘adjust their actions accordingly’.24 Accepting this, we might reasonably assume that Guilbaut would have thought to group Charles Henri Ford among those fortunate Americans who afforded the ‘unique’ and culturally ‘enriching’ opportunity of getting to know their European counterparts that little bit better. Ford did, after all, live in New York during the 1940s. But things aren’t quite as simple as they appear at first glance. On the one hand, Ford was very much interested in observing Breton and the other assorted Surrealists at intimately close quarters. As we will see later, Ford had a variety of reasons for doing so: many of which run contra to the decidedly Eurocentric version of events proffered by Guilbaut. For one thing, Ford had no interest in simply adjusting his actions accordingly, just because the Surrealists happened to be in town. And why would he? Ford had known the Surrealists for years. He first met them while living in Paris in the early 1930s. In a letter dated 3 December 1931, Ford reports to Parker Tyler that he has been introduced to the tragic Surrealist writer René Crevel at a cocktail party held at La Galerie de la Plume d’Or. In characteristic prose, Ford describes Crevel as ‘famous for his poetic books mostly on homosexual love, young, blond hair all about sort of fluffy and a little in front and such sweet blue eyes but too fat because he had tuberculosis’.25 From here on, Ford sought to keep up to date with all things Surrealist. We get a sense of this in a piece of prose – ‘Gossip from Abroad’ – that Ford wrote sometime in the latter half of 1936.26 By this time Ford was living in Italy with the Russian Neo-Romantic painter, Pavel Tchelitchew. We know this because Ford makes mention of it in his pseudo-letter. Written from the perspective of a certain ‘Hobo Peep’, Ford’s letter is full to the brim with detail – and gossip – pertaining to the comings and goings of Europe’s best and brightest. The aforementioned Cocteau is, for example, reported as having returned from a trip around the world, ‘with a new coiffure to match his new face (youthified by the painful burning process which has kept the Hon Mrs Reginald Fellowes

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


more beautiful than her daughters, who have children of their own) consisting of a high clip, with curls in front a la Hepburn’.27 Not all that long after this, Salvador Dalí makes an inimitably theatrical entrance. Hobo Peep recounts how, at a lecture in London, Dali appeared in a deep-sea diver’s costume, leading from two large-wolf hounds. SALLLLLLVADOR DALI! came from the loud-speaker in the back of the room, the microphone on the platform receiving Dali’s opening words, his own name. He went on (in French, with a heavy Spanish accent) to tell of his pictures, speaking of one that represented the cadaver of a jackass, and a fly buzzing in a Bacchic dance around the rotting matter, but instead of flashing on the screen his picture, appeared the portrait of his wife and chief source of inspiration, Gala.28

Meanwhile, on the other side of the English Channel, Hobo Peep recounts how ‘André Breton and Paul Eluard have quarrelled but Eluard continues to be Man Ray’s best friend’.29 What, I want now to ask, are we to make of these seemingly inconsequential remarks, presented as they are without much in the way of critical comment, or, to adapt from Hobo Peep himself, any evaluative judgement?30 There are, in my estimation, a number of things that need to be emphasized. First, consider the manner in which this unpublished text resonates when situated in relation to Ford’s long-standing interest in networks of social exchange. As we established in the previous chapter, Ford sought, throughout his career, to foreground the role that sociability plays in the circulation of cultural capital. Do we not get a flavour of something similar here, in Hobo Peep’s discursive missive, crisscrossing as it does from artist to artist, gallery opening to gallery opening, country to country? I think we do. Further to this, albeit on a less conceptual level, ‘Gossip from Abroad’ serves to remind us once more of the important fact that – and this is something that bears repeating – the Surrealists were very much at the forefront of Ford’s thoughts long before they disembarked en masse on the eastern shores of the United States. Yet this is only part of the story. Dickran Tashjian argues, rather dismissively, that upon reaching Paris in May 1931, Ford ‘did not immediately infiltrate the Surrealist group. Although he met individual Surrealists like Man Ray and Jacques Baron, he was perhaps too distracted by the gay life that Paris offered. Then, too, he was understandably drawn to Jean Cocteau, who was anathema


Charles Henri Ford

to the homophobic Breton’.31 Be that as it may, the fact remains that our young and ambitious Mississippian did indeed make quite the impression on the Surrealists in the 1930s. Archival research reveals that Ford figured in their thoughts a number of years before they arrived in New York. As a matter of fact, it turns out that Breton sought to involve Ford in some of the matters most crucial to Surrealism in the latter part of the 1930s. Consider the information contained in the letter Ford sent to Parker Tyler on 5 April 1939: A telephone call from Breton summoned me to a ‘confidential’ meeting of the FIARI – the committee for CLE. There has been no large and general reunion as yet. I was asked to speak and reported the first call & plans for future organization (though I had to say I knew of no PLAN as yet) under auspices of [P]artisan [R]eview. Breton seemed impatient at not having heard from them.32

Discussion concerning the possible formation of the Fédération Internationale de l’Art Révolutionnaire Indépendant having drawn to a close, the group then decamped to that most venerable of Parisian avant-garde institutions, the Deux Magots. Ford describes how, once ensconced at a table, the editor Albert Skira wanted to know about agents and I suggested the Gotham BM; it costs him 100,000 francs $3000. for this issue and he breaks even on sales & others. Breton said he hoped I wasn’t disappointed in the FIARI meeting; it’s true it wasn’t very brilliant; MSS were read & there was some discussion – the atmosphere in the café was more informal. I made a report on my recent visit chez Eluard, at which I was shocked by his naive or ignorant adherence to the idea of the Soviet Union; also his willingness to engage in the next war, as officer: ‘and instruct his soldiers in the principles of Communism’!33

Critical consensus suggests that Ford’s slightly disparaging remarks that the ‘confidential’ portion of the meeting was not particularly ‘brilliant’ weren’t all that wide of the mark.34 However, the reason I cite this passage at length here has less to do with Ford’s dismissive account of official Surrealist business than it does with Breton’s candid, apologetic remark about the unsatisfactory nature of the FIARI meeting. Without belabouring the point, Breton seems to have had no trouble, in Ford’s retelling at least, confiding in a relative outsider. An openly queer American outsider.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


In equal measure, it seems that Breton made quite the impression on Ford. This also comes to the fore in his letter to Tyler: Breton I find very sympathetic, I gave him my Garden of Disorder with dedication to Andre Breton, Lenine de la Revolution Surrealiste and just finished reading his Les Vases Communicants, and have bought other of his books. I find I have been underestimating him all along, (though not the accomplishments of the surrealist painters), through not having read his works. I’m lunching Friday with him and will take photos.35

What are we to make of Ford’s admission that he had been ‘underestimating’ Breton? As far as divulgences go, this is decidedly curious. All the more, given that Ford had been interested in Surrealism for the best part of a decade. On a related note, what is to be made of the frankly remarkable admission that he had yet to work his way through Breton’s oeuvre? It is difficult to know whether to take Ford’s comments at face value. Tashjian posits that ‘only by the late 1930s, during the course of working through left-wing politics, did Ford finally make his way to Breton and the Surrealist coterie’.36 There is, I think, an element of truth in this statement. That being so, perhaps the most charitable way to put things would be to say that Ford’s meetings with Breton spurred the former figure into action. Indeed, from this point on, Ford sought, in both his poetic and editorial praxis, to rectify this unsatisfactory state of creative affairs. Moreover, it was at this point in his career that Ford began actively to consider what he could do with and make out of pre-existing forms and conceptions of Surrealism. All of which is conceivably to say that the late 1930s and early 1940s found Ford at his most conceptually focused and driven, especially when it came to Surrealist aesthetics and ideas. We see this in another letter Ford sent to Tyler in 1939: Les Vases Communicants is one B’s most brilliant works of prose; I’m reading it 2nd time as first time I read I didn’t have the eye on the translation. Other books of his I’ve read recently: Position Politique du Surrealisme; L’Amour Fou; Second Manifeste du Surrealisme. It’s easy, as I said, to underestimate the surrealist movement if one judges it only by the painting products… . However, Breton is an orthodox surrealist in his art-judgments, in spite of the ‘independent’ line taken in the manifesto. His group meets at 2 Magots on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays. My lunch with him lasted


Charles Henri Ford

from one until night during which time we had a lot to say: I told him I was shocked at his puritanism in the Sex Conference in Varietées wherein he protested against discussing pederasty, so I bluntly said it must have been because of an inhibition and he agreed.37

Reading this, it soon becomes clear that Ford had been spending significant time with the primary texts of Surrealism. Notice also the manner in which Ford draws attention to Breton’s ‘orthodox’ stance in matters of Surrealist aesthetics. This notion of ‘orthodoxy’ is something that we will return to when discussing Ford’s critical intervention in the realms of Surrealism. Further to that, consider the way in which Ford appears to take Breton to task on issues of sexuality. This carries over into the next section of Ford’s communiqué: I told him if I appreciated his lyricism inspired by ‘la femme’ it was only because I substituted the symbol of the Other Sex. He is revolted by obvious Lesbians as well as ‘fairies’ like we used to be… . Which doesn’t OBVIATE his looking like a woman in the first place without wearing his hair long in the 2nd… . Velvet knee pants and silk stockings would make him the REINCARNATION of O. Wilde, for whom, as is, he’s much more of a DEAD-RINGER than Robert Morley… . In fact Miss Morley has to be made up to the high g-ds in order to HOLD A CANDLE to Miss Breton… . Aside from the frivolity on my part, I take him seriously up to a POINT.38

In one sense, of course, we find ourselves on familiar ground in these lines. What we have here is yet another instance of prime Fordian gossip. In addition, there is much that might also be said about the manner in which Charles Henri moves to foreground the inherently performative dimension of self-presentation in this passage. Having said that, on a slightly different note, consider the cutting tone that underlines Ford’s ostensibly ‘frivolous’ remarks. Specifically, consider his assertion that while he is willing to take Breton seriously, he does so only up until a certain ‘POINT’.39 It was precisely at this juncture that Ford’s working association with Breton changed forever. Their relationship now becomes increasingly fraught and competitive. This appears clear when we turn our attention to the New York of the early 1940s. For instance, Breton’s decision to found an official magazine of orthodox Surrealism while exiled in New York in 1942 can be read, at least in part, as an implicit response – or even rebuke – to Ford’s decision to establish View in 1940. Realizing that Ford was better placed when it came

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


to the promotion of Surrealism in America, Breton tried to bring Ford into the ‘orthodox’ Surrealist fold via the offer of an editorial position with his magazine, which was called VVV. Breton did this so as to nullify any potential threat that Ford might have posed to his aesthetic authority. Ford, however, quickly grasped the none‐too‐subtle implications of this ostensibly altruistic offer.40 As Tashjian tells it, ‘Ford was apparently asked to be editor of VVV, but declined the position for the same reasons that he refused to hew strictly to the Surrealist line in View. “I knew [Breton] would be looking over my shoulder,” he later said, preferring a catholic stance for View.’41 This sort of statement needs to be borne in mind when we approach Ford’s retelling of what proved to be suitably awkward – and competitive – exchange with Breton in midtown Manhattan: I invited [Breton] to the View office one day and I said, ‘Andre, I would like to publish a book of your poems’ So he looked at me and said, ‘vous etes malin.’ Now that’s hard to translate. ‘Malin’ means something like I was undercutting him. ‘You got me by the balls,’ so to speak. He knew it would be a feather in my cap, but he also knew that he couldn’t resist because nobody else had asked him.42

There is, to be sure, much humour to be found here: all of it at Breton’s expense. Yet we would do well to remember that in spite of all their competitive jostling, Ford and Breton both wanted exactly the same thing. That is, they both wanted to promote and thereby ensure the survival of Surrealism in the United States. Having said that, as we will now see, it soon becomes strikingly clear that Ford was by no means content merely to praise or reaffirm conceptual notions set forth by Breton. Cupping André’s balls in one hand, Charles Henri sought with the other to differentiate his approach and outlook from the leader of the ‘orthodox’ Surrealist group.

4 In his ‘Open Letter to Surrealists Everywhere’ (1938), the American expatriate novelist and occasional View contributor Henry Miller declares that ‘scarcely anything has been as stimulating to me as the theories and the products of the Surrealists’.43 As far as Miller is concerned, ‘There is no doubt about it.


Charles Henri Ford

Surrealism is the secret language of our time, the only spiritual counterpart to the materialistic activities of the socialist forces which are now driving us to the wall.’44 In Miller’s eyes, ‘The seeming discrepancies between the language of Breton and Lenin, or Marx, are only superficial. Surrealism will give a new, deeper, truer, more immediate spiritual doctrine to the economic, social, and political revolutionists.’45 As these comments make clear, on the one hand, Miller has many positive things to say about Surrealism, but on the other it soon becomes painfully apparent that he’s a hopeless literary case who shouldn’t be left unattended anywhere near the avant-garde cutlery drawer. When it comes to the specific poets and artists who identify as surreal, the author of The Rosy Crucifixion is far from effusive. Indeed, he goes as far to propose that the Surrealists ‘await the miracle, but they do nothing to assist it, to bring about an accouchement. They talk of ushering in a general confusion, but they live like the bourgeoisie. They believe in the revolution but there is no real revolt in them’.46 Having questioned the political credentials of Breton and his cohorts in this fashion, Miller turns his attention to aesthetic matters. He seeks now to remind us that the Surrealists ‘have demonstrated the possibilities of the marvellous which lie concealed in the commonplace’.47 Significantly, Miller reads this ‘tremendous emphasis on the marvellous’ as an integral part of the Surrealist ‘reaction against the crippling, dwarfing harmony imposed’ by the ‘fake Hellenism of French culture’, a culture in which, according to Miller, ‘the sense of the marvellous, the sense of magic, of wonder, awe, mystery, was doomed to perish’.48 It thereby comes as no surprise to discover that French culture comes in for a fair bit of criticism in the closing stages of Miller’s letter. ‘French life has become stylized,’ he argues: ‘It is not a life rhythm but a death rhythm. The culture is no longer vital … it is decayed. And the French, securely imprisoned within this cultural wall, are rotting away.’49 This profound disdain for existing forms of French culture in part accounts for Miller’s interest in Surrealism. He is of the opinion that Surrealism will have performed ‘a valuable function’ if it serves to ‘destroy’ the ‘death grip’ of Francophile culture.50 Yet lingering suspicions about the viability of this supposedly liberatory project remain. We get a clear sense of these reservations when Miller asserts that Surrealism might in fact be a mere manifestation ‘of a life becoming extinct, a virus which quickens the inevitable end’.51 Even so, in his reckoning, this might be a step

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


‘in the right direction. Europe must die, and France with it. Sooner or later a new life must begin, a life from the roots’.52 As to where such new life might spring? Miller doesn’t specify. We might speculate as to exactly what Charles Henri Ford would have made of his American compatriot’s assertions and accusations, couched as they are in bombastic and iconoclastic rhetoric. Surely the seemingly unselfconscious, homoerotic quality of much of Miller’s diction would have caused him to chuckle. He may well have also had something to say about the question of precisely where new, presumably surrealistically inflected forms of cultural ‘life’ might spring. To put this in the simplest terms possible, Ford believed the ‘roots’ from which new cultural forms of ‘life’ were to ‘spring’ were to be found in his own creative, editorial, and theoretical praxis of the 1940s. Archival research confirms this. I am thinking specifically of Ford’s unpublished ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’. These fragmentary notes shed a great deal of critical light on the scale of Ford’s dialogue with Surrealism.53 ‘What will the New Modernism be?’54 ‘Is Surrealism still modern?’55 These are the sorts of questions Ford poses in this particular text. Reading through this significant document, which was most likely written in the first half of the 1940s, we get the sense that Ford had grown especially frustrated with Bretonian conceptions of Surrealism.56 This much is evident in the section of Ford’s ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’ that proffers a provisional ‘Critique of Pure Surrealism’. This unfinished commentary reads both as a critique and as a call to arms. Suggesting that as a ‘vice nouveau’ orthodox Surrealism ‘has lost its appeal, [and] its novelty’,57 Ford here announces his divergence from the aesthetic programme as outlined by Breton.58 Conscious of the fact that Surrealism had already begun to attract significant amounts of public and critical attention in the United States during the late 1930s and early 1940s, Ford proposes, in highly suggestive language, to bring Surrealism ‘out from [the] underground’.59 In his critique, Ford envisions a transformative reworking of what he believed to be a conceptually stunted Surrealism. Imaginationism is the so-bad-it’s-almost good, quasi-Coleridgean name that Ford gives to his proposed modification of Surrealism.60 Ford goes to great length to emphasize the avant‐garde heritage of Imaginationism. ‘Just as Surrealism came out of Dada’, he writes, ‘so Imaginationism was born of Surrealism.’61 Furthermore,


Charles Henri Ford

in Ford’s estimation, ‘The Imaginationist is the son of the Surrealist – with an Oedipus complex.’62 Building on this, he reasons that ‘Imaginationism [is] more revolutionary than Surrealism because [it is] less passive, more active’.63 The distinction being made here between the active and the passive helps us better understand the difference between Imaginationism and Surrealism. Elsewhere in his notes, Ford alludes to Breton’s description of Surrealist automatism as a fundamentally passive activity, which is dependent on placing oneself in a receptive state.64 In Ford’s conception of Imaginationism, he wholly rejects the notion of unconscious passivity: instead the conscious mind also needs to be actively engaged. The following analogy succinctly demonstrates this distinction: The surrealist is the somnambule who walks in the depths of the unconscious. The imaginationist is also the somnambule – but he has awakened while in the unconscious, and keeps on waking.65

Ford contrasts the figure of the passive, sleepwalking Surrealist with the more proactive, conscious Imaginationist. Ford is effectively suggesting that a sort of somnambulistic blindness has marred the conceptual and aesthetic merits of Bretonian Surrealism. While too harsh an assessment, the point that Ford is trying to make here is that ‘orthodox’ Surrealism often seems overly reliant on the insights afforded by constant and, in his estimation, passive recourse to the unconscious.66 Where the orthodox approach sees the Surrealist practitioner firmly located in, and constrained by, the unconscious, for Ford, the lessons of the unconscious are there to be consciously and artfully applied.67 Equally, it should be noted that Ford’s proposed critique is not quite as groundbreaking as it purports to be. For one thing, the language in which Ford couches his critique is indebted to the aforementioned Communicating Vessels. This much becomes evident when we read Ford’s remarks about somnambulism in relation to the vision of Surrealism articulated in a wellknown passage featured in Breton’s treatise, where the self-styled Magus of Surrealism characterizes the ideal communicating vessel as a capillary tissue, without which it would be useless to try to imagine mental circulation. The role of this tissue is, we have seen, to guarantee the constant exchange which must occur in thought between the exterior and the interior worlds, an exchange that requires the continuous interpenetration of the

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


activity of waking and that of sleeping. My entire ambition has been to give here a glimpse of its structure.68

Breton seeks in this passage to foreground the dialectical nature of the relationship that exists between notions of interiority and exteriority. Mary Ann Caws suggests that it is precisely this dialectical relationship between the interior arena of subjective experience and the exterior world of facts and figures – realms personified by the respective figures of sleep and wakefulness – that resides at the heart of Breton’s study. In her summation, ‘This passing back and forth between two modes is shown [in Breton’s reading] to be the basis of surrealist thought, of surreality itself.’69 What, then, can we make of Ford’s critique of Surrealism, and his consequent theory of Imaginationism? Upon re-reading both his ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’ and ‘Imaginationist Manifesto’, it now seems as if Ford was either unfamiliar with, or wilfully misinterpreted, Breton’s dynamic conception of Surrealism as outlined in Communicating Vessels. The former is, as we already know, impossible. Archival research demonstrates that Ford was well aware of Breton’s Communicating Vessels. Bearing this in mind, we need to turn our attention now to the possibility that Ford chose to misread, deliberately or otherwise, the Surrealist message contained in the pages of Breton’s text. Were this the case, such a glaring oversight would surely and severely dent Ford’s standing as a dedicated follower, let alone consistent critical thinker, of Surrealism. Still, in his defence, it is worth remembering that the document we are dealing with here is fragmentary, provisional, and unfinished. That being so, in the end, we can only speculate about the way in which Ford might have chosen to develop the critique of ‘Pure’ Surrealism that he had begun to fashion in his ‘Notes’ and the complementary ‘Imaginationist Manifesto’. Nevertheless, what does remain clear is Ford’s burning desire to use Surrealist techniques as he sees fit. Ford stresses this at the very end of his fragmentary notes on the future of modernism and Surrealism, when he declares: ‘Instead of automatism I would propose autonomy.’70 Among other things, this desire for ‘autonomy’ speaks to Ford’s decision to turn down Breton’s offer of a place on the editorial board of VVV. Our man was, it seems, characteristically determined to go his own way, on his own terms. We see this when we turn our attention to View and the attendant View Editions. As I mentioned at the outset of this chapter, Ford’s magazine


Charles Henri Ford

served as a vital conduit for the dissemination of Surrealism on the shores of the United States. Functioning both as a textual home away from home for the displaced Europe intelligentsia and as a showcase for local American talent, Ford’s View, in the words of Catrina Neiman, ‘set the stage for what was to come: it succeeded in popularizing the avant-garde’.71 Furthering Neiman’s claim, Stamatina Dimakopoulou argues that Ford’s periodical, which championed aesthetic movements of a predominantly figurative persuasion (most visibly Surrealism and Neo-Romanticism), ‘constitutes an important backdrop to the emergence of America’s first international avant-garde, not despite, but because of its resistance to the emergence of Abstract Expression’.72 Significantly, in Dimakopoulou’s estimation, ‘As the consonance between aesthetic and political radicalism could no longer be sustained, Surrealism in View encouraged an opening out to mainstream and popular cultures that were elided from the early experiments of the Abstract Expressionists.’73 Dimakopoulou’s statement resonates with Ford’s aforementioned desire, expressed in his neo-modernist notes, to bring Surrealism ‘out from [the] underground’.74 I want, in a moment, to consider some of the specific ways in which Ford sought to achieve exactly that. Before doing so though I want first briefly to draw the reader’s attention to Dimakopoulou’s mention of that most crucial of North American post-war cultural formations: Abstract Expressionism. Ford wasn’t – to put it mildly – much of a fan of this particular grouping. We know this because he admitted as much to Bruce Wolmer in 1987: BW: You obviously felt friendlier to the Pop artists than to the Abstract Expressionists. You’ve said that you found Pollock worrying and Rothko empty. Do you still feel that way about them? CHF: Even more. BW: Why? CHF: Because they don’t work any magic for me. I feel no rapport. I feel no poetry. I feel it’s … the technique is totally easy. Anybody can do it. All you have to do is look at their early work which is just hopelessly untalented. They couldn’t draw. They went into something very easy and something very easy to put over. And it was all put over on the American public for art. And they took it up in a big way.75

Notice the emphasis that Ford places on the issue of ‘technique’ here. Without wishing to get too far ahead, I mention this now as the notion of ‘craft’ is

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


one that we will return to when it comes time to discuss Ford’s dealings with New Critics such as John Crowe Ransom. In a similar fashion, pay especial attention to Ford’s assertion that the Abstract Expressionists ‘went into something very easy and something very easy to put over. And it was all put over on the American public for art. And they took it up in a big way’. In a manner not all that dissimilar to art historians like Serge Guilbaut, Ford is hinting at the massive expenditure of ideological and intellectual labour that went into the promotion of the Abstract Expressionist aesthetic. As to why I allude to this now? The answer, as we will see in the next section of this chapter, has much to do with another of Ford’s detractors, the vocal proselytizer now most commonly associated with the fortunes of those such as Pollock and Rothko: Clement Greenberg. For the time being, however, I want to focus on some of the ways in which Ford moved to bring Surrealism up from the underground and out into the North American mainstream in the 1940s. Consider here how Ford chose to deal with the displaced leader of ‘pure’ Surrealism in the various issues of View. Having expressed his genuine admiration and enthusiasm for Breton’s work since the late 1930s, Ford took steps to publish the guardian of Surrealism in View soon after the elder writer arrived in New York. As well as granting Breton his first interview in the United States,76 Ford afforded him significant room in View with which to promote his avant-garde movement and to celebrate the artistic successes of those closest to him. We see this in Breton’s essay on Marcel Duchamp, which appeared in the March 1945 issue of View. Effusive in his praise, Breton asserts here that the singular Duchamp is ‘the only one of all his contemporaries who is in no way inclined to grow older’.77 Equating Duchamp’s aesthetic with the characteristically Surrealist desire to fuse together the rational and irrational, Breton cleaves to the orthodox party line in this article. He suggests that his colleague’s aesthetic output ‘determines a fundamental crisis of painting and sculpture which reactionary maneuvers and stock-exchange brokerages will not be able to conceal much longer’.78 None of this really comes as much of a surprise. Given the opportunity, Breton was always going to sing the praises of an artist whose achievements reflected positively on the avant-garde organization that he had worked so tirelessly to establish. By the same token, Ford evidently had no problem ceding space to Breton in the pages of View, for he clearly had no intention


Charles Henri Ford

of  letting this notoriously controlling émigré have things all his own way. Reading through View, the impression one often gets is that Ford and a number of his contributors are taking humorous swipes at Surrealism’s draconian founder. Consider the events surrounding the publication of Breton’s Young Cherry Trees Secured against Hares. Translated into English by Edouard Roditi, this bilingual collection – which featured drawings by Arshile Gorky and appeared on Ford’s View Editions imprint in 1946 – was the first edition of Breton’s poetry to be published in the United States. Ford paid a great deal of attention and took significant care in bringing this volume to press. Among other things, Ford commissioned a review by his longtime supporter, William Carlos Williams. Published in the October 1946 edition of View, ‘The Genius of France’ opens on an approving note, with Williams singling out Breton’s poetic technique for praise. Williams argues that ‘there is no looseness in Breton’s work, it is all calculated, the tight plot precedes all composition, a coralization microscopic in the detail of its vastness’.79 Yet this approval is far from unequivocal. Williams is also of the opinion that ‘everything’ Breton puts down on paper ‘is completely predictable and is thus reassuring to schoolmistresses and the young who need the support of the master’.80 Williams then turns his attention to artwork that adorns the dust jacket of Breton’s collection, which was designed by Duchamp. Ford had a great deal of admiration for this seminal artist. Indeed, this is something that comes to the fore in his unpublished neo-modernism notes, in which Duchamp is described as the ‘modernist par excellence’.81 That being so, it must have felt like quite the coup when Ford found himself in a position to feature Duchamp’s work on the cover of a View Editions volume, especially one authored by Breton.82 This becomes strikingly apparent when we appreciate just what it is that we are actually seeing. The cover of Young Cherry Trees features Breton’s stern, paternalistic visage superimposed over a full-length image, flowing robes and all, of the Statue of Liberty. Essentially a depiction of Breton in drag, this palpably camp cover design would have both amused and delighted Ford. Moreover, it was a perfect fit for his general remit: it serves to remind us of the fact that Ford was unwavering when it came to the issue of the promotion of Surrealism in the United States. In equal measure, however, it also resonates with his desire to poke fun at and simultaneously foreground what he had come to perceive as the restrictedly gendered and sexually conservative aspects of Bretonian orthodoxy.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


In the final reckoning, one can only speculate as to what Breton made of all this. Certainly, it is not all that difficult to imagine how he would have reacted if confronted with the aforementioned ‘Critique of Pure Surrealism’ contained in Ford’s Imaginationist Manifesto. Given that he had long since marked Ford out as a potential competitor, Breton would surely not have taken kindly to the existence of a document that sought to critique the version of Surrealism that he had worked so hard to establish. Having said that, it is just as likely that the possibility of incurring Breton’s wrath would not have perturbed Ford. He was, as we have seen, determined to make his own mark on Surrealism. Yet despite his steadfast commitment to the promotion and dissemination of Surrealism, Ford usually warrants no more than the briefest of mentions in many historical accounts of the movement.83 Much the same is also true of those accounts that focus on the belated emergence of a staunchly ‘orthodox’ Surrealist Movement in the United States during the 1960s. Founded by Franklin and Penelope Rosemont in 1966, the Breton-approved Chicago Group purported to ‘disturb ceaselessly and without pity the complacency of the American people. We shall encourage and support, with every available means, every expression of wholehearted revolt’.84 Denouncing what they considered to be the crass, commercialized version of Surrealism operating in the United States, the Rosemont-led Chicago Group pledged an unswerving allegiance to the aesthetic precepts established by Breton. In Franklin Rosemont’s words, they were not ‘interested in the Americanization of surrealism, but the surrealist transformation of America’.85 This sits in clear contradistinction to Ford’s approach. Where the Chicago Group sought to adhere to Breton’s prescriptive Surrealist strictures, Ford moved to adapt them as he saw fit. He grasped intuitively that one need always – regardless of potentially negative ramifications stemming from such a decision – to ‘harness the new, or the horse will wagon you’.86

5 That said, it is important to recognize that Ford’s steadfast, albeit idiosyncratic commitment to the Surrealists caused him no end of trouble during the 1940s. In order to appreciate this, we need first to take a small art-historical step back. Historical context is once again important here. In a manner not all that dissimilar to the previously mentioned Guilbaut, Martica Sawin


Charles Henri Ford

notes that the presence of the displaced Surrealists in 1940s New York and the prominent displays of their work ‘in its small arena gave the American artists an opportunity to observe automatism at work and to examine at first hand the art that it generated, though they had little awareness of Surrealism’s original objectives’.87 In this fashion, the shipwrecked remnants of the displaced European cultural intelligentsia were to play an important – if perhaps unwitting – role in the ‘rebirth’ of Western culture in the United States. A number of younger American artists took their aesthetic cues from the displaced Surrealists. I have in mind here painters such as Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. This loosely aligned group of New York-based painters – more commonly known as the Abstract Expressionists – came to dominate American aesthetics in the late 1940s and 1950s. However, while the output of these artists bore the imprint of European avant-gardism, there was, in the words of Guilbaut, ‘a clear difference in what the painters wrote about their work, [and] in the image they projected of themselves’.88 The same critic also reminds us of the fact that ‘to be modern in New York in 1946, to wish to live or rather to survive in one’s own time, meant [that one had] to be pessimistic, somber and incapable of painting the visual reality of the atomic age’.89 As a result, to be truly ‘modern’ was also, Guilbaut notes, ‘to be incapable of painting viscera, such a statement or description of reality having become frivolous, superfluous, hollow’.90 Having thus come to the conclusion that figurative forms of painterly representation tended to deform the very reality that it claims to depict, these and other younger American artists turned their attention to other modes of representation that might more accurately express the conditions of the contemporary world. Alighting on the notion of total aesthetic abstraction, the New York School artists subsequently developed a communal style that increasingly eschewed volumetric depth and representation in favour of flatness. This turn to abstraction also plays a vital role in the critical work of the pre-eminent theorist of the New York School, the art historian Clement Greenberg. As is commonly known, Greenberg’s narrative of modernism tells the story of the historical avant-garde’s heroic resistance to the forces of commercialization and ideological coercion. In his seminal essay ‘AvantGarde and Kitsch’ (1939), Greenberg argues that the function of the historical

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


avant-garde is to keep genuine ‘culture moving in the midst of ideological confusion and violence’.91 Greenberg here insists that the avant-garde has aggressively to assert its independence in order to detach itself from the prevailing attitudes and strictures of a hopelessly compromised contemporary society. Further to this, Greenberg reasons that the avant-garde’s desire for autonomy is registered on a purely aesthetic level. ‘In turning his attention away from subject matter of common experience’, he argues, ‘the poet or artist turns it in upon the medium of his own craft.’92 Casting his eye across the aesthetic field, this influential and always opinionated critic then posits that a number of diverse and prominent artists like ‘Picasso, Braque, Mondrian, Miró, Kandinsky, Brancusi, even Klee, Matisse, and Cézanne derive their chief inspiration from the medium they work in’.93 Form trumps content in this account. ‘The excitement of their art seems to lie most of all in its pure preoccupation with the invention and arrangement of spaces, surfaces, shapes, [and] colors’, Greenberg writes, ‘to the exclusion of whatever is not necessarily implicated in these factors.’94 Such comments come to factor prominently in Greenberg’s overarching narrative of modernism, which is developed in the slighter later ‘Towards a Newer Laöcoon’ (1940): The history of avant-garde painting is that of a progressive surrender to the resistance of its medium; which resistance consists chiefly in the flat picture plane’s denial of efforts to ‘hole through’ it for realistic perspectival space. In making this surrender, painting not only got rid of imitation – and with it, ‘literature’ – but also of realistic imitation’s corollary confusion between painting and sculpture.95

Suggesting that the origins of this ‘denial’ can be traced back to the work of the French Impressionist Édouard Manet,96 Greenberg speculates as to how, at each stage in the historical process of progressive surrender, the picture plane itself grows shallower and shallower, flattening out and pressing together the fictive planes of depth until they meet as one upon the real and material plane which is the actual surface of the canvas; where they lie side by side or interlocked or transparently imposed upon each other.97

Greenberg’s account of this ‘flattening out’ culminates in the radical collage experiments of the Cubists. The Cubist painter systematically eliminated


Charles Henri Ford

traces of colour from his art because, in Greenberg’s estimation, ‘consciously or unconsciously, he was parodying, in order to destroy, the academic methods of achieving volume and depth, which are shading and perspective, and as such have little to do with color in the common sense of the word’.98 As well as doing away with the illusion of depth, Greenberg notes that the Cubists employed similar ‘methods to break the canvas into a multiplicity of subtle recessive planes, which seem to shift and fade into infinite depths and yet insist on returning to the surface of the canvas’.99 In this sense, then, Cubism represented, for Greenberg at least, a point-of-no-return in the narrative of avant-garde painting. Indeed, he goes as far as to assert that ‘as we gaze at a cubist painting of the last phase we witness the birth and death of threedimensional pictorial space’.100 While considerations of time and space do not allow for a thoroughgoing appraisal of Greenberg’s individualist, heroic definitions of Abstract Expressionism,101 it is clear that Surrealism simply could not fit into his valiant narrative of modernist aesthetics. He is absolutely clear on this point. In ‘Surrealist Painting’ (1944), Greenberg attacks what he perceives as the fundamentally compromised quality of Surrealism. Pay particular attention to the language he uses: For the sake of hallucinatory vividness the Surrealists have copied the effects of the calendar reproduction, postal card chromeotype and magazine illustration. In general they prize the qualities of the popular reproduction because of its incongruously prosaic associations and the reproduction heightens illusionistic effect by erasing paint texture and brushstroke.102

Greenberg’s account of the ‘illusionistic effect’ generated for the sake of ‘hallucinatory vividness’ enables us to better understand his rejection of Surrealism. Greenberg is of the opinion that Surrealist painting depends on the creation of ‘pictorial forms that will produce a strong illusion of its possible existence in the world of real appearances’.103 ‘The Surrealist image provides painting with new anecdotes to illustrate, just as current events supply new topics to the political cartoonist’, he notes, ‘but of itself it does not charge painting with a new subject matter.’104 In this regard, Surrealism’s reliance on representational figuration prevents the possibility of its inclusion in Greenberg’s narrative of the modernist drive towards aesthetic abstraction.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


In short: the persistence of figurative forms in Surrealist art simply didn’t and couldn’t work for Greenberg. Yet the representational dimension of Surrealist painting was only part of the problem, for Greenberg that is. ‘It is Surrealist subjectivity that [was] the problem’, according to Caroline A. Jones, ‘its artists paradoxically looking “outside” the canvas to limn the processes of their consciousness.’105 The subjective aspect of Surrealism thus runs counter to Greenberg’s privileged type of aesthetic formalism. Jones emphasizes exactly this, reminding us as she does of the fact that ‘the proper “subject” of art in Greenberg’s argument [was to] be the painting. Neither the painter nor his psychoanalyzed thought processes would suffice – the only “inside” Greenberg wanted was folded from the abstract surface of a detached and rational art’.106 Greenberg thereby had to seal off what Jones describes as ‘Surrealism’s instabilities and intentional instabilities’ in order to prevent them from impacting on – and troubling – the stability of his unified narrative of the historical emergence of abstract painting in the work of younger post-war American artists.107 He had, moreover, to expend a fair amount of critical energy doing this. In Jones’s words, ‘formalism had quite a job regulating Surrealism, given the style’s dominance in 1940s Manhattan.’108 Jones then details the manner in which Greenberg realized that his modernist master-narrative ‘could be produced only by making abject that which resisted unification, even as that resistant other (Surrealism) [was] maintained as such to certify the ongoing need for formalism’s unifying regime’.109 Jones speculates that the drive towards formalist unity can be used to explain Greenberg’s routine dismissals of Surrealist aesthetic praxis. She argues that even the ‘demise of Surrealism as an active style by the late 1940s would not diminish Greenberg’s need to produce its marginal energies in order to regulate them, again and again’.110 On first glance, this appears to be what we find in Greenberg’s later essays. Consider ‘Abstract and Representational’ (1954). He begins by conceding that a discernible, ‘recognizable image will add anecdotal, historical, psychological, or topographical meaning. But to fuse this into aesthetic meaning is something else; that a painting gives us things to recognize and identify in addition to complex of colors and shapes does not mean invariably that it gives us more art’.111 Greenberg is, in characteristic fashion, harking on the limitations of figural representationality in this


Charles Henri Ford

passage. Notice also how he makes no mention of Surrealism here. Something similar happens in Greenberg’s later account of ‘“American Type” Painting’ (1955). This important essay speaks directly to the emergence of the Abstract Expressionist aesthetic. All things considered, it seems reasonable to expect, given what we have already established, something approaching a discussion of the relationship between Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Yet, a few isolated remarks about ‘Surrealist overtones’ having been ‘in the air’ in New York during the 1940s aside,112 no such thing is forthcoming. Bearing omissions such as these in mind, we can indeed confirm Jones’s analysis: Greenberg did indeed have to expend a significant deal of time and effort in his attempt to keep Surrealism down. As one might well expect, such a stance had clear implications for Ford and his journal. Reviewing the early issues of Ford’s recently established magazine in 1940, Greenberg proffered the following bristling critique: View, of which three numbers have already appeared, is a tabloid-sized ‘poets’ paper’ put out by a group of American surrealists in New York. From it we gather that the surrealists are unwilling to say goodbye to anything. And that the American species identifies literature and art with its social life, and that this social life is complicated and satisfying. The gossip is good if you know the names; if you know the people I imagine it might get to be a little too much.113

We can clearly see that, from Greenberg’s perspective, the displaced European Surrealists – ‘unwilling’ as they were ‘to say goodbye to anything’  – were (already) operating in an outmoded aesthetic fashion. And as for the American ‘species’ of Surrealist? If anything, they come off even worse than their European counterparts, seemingly concerned as they are with the exchange of ‘names’ and the superficial pleasures afforded by idle chatter. Reading this withering account of View, one is left with the impression that the critic is trying to nip things in the bud here; that is, before someone lets things get too far out of hand. To put it another way, it seems as if Greenberg is doing his level best in this article to steer his readers away from the surrealistically inclined likes of Ford. By and large, moreover, given View’s omission in most histories of the period, Greenberg seems to have succeeded in relegating Ford and his work to the margins of post-war avant-gardism.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


6 An equivalent situation arises when we strive to situate Ford in relation to the New Critics. Led by John Crowe Ransom, the staunchly formalist New Critics came to cultural prominence in the early 1940s and dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Reacting against what they perceived as the unsatisfactorily impressionistic nature of contemporary academic criticism, and influenced by T. S. Eliot’s firstgeneration modernist notion of the objective correlative, the New Critics developed a formally rigorous, depersonalized system of literary theory that eschewed historical, cultural, and biographically informed interpretations of any given poetic text. We see this in John Crowe Ransom’s seminal account of The New Criticism (1941). Ransom here contends that pre-existing formal demands impact on the act of poetic creation. He specifically maintains that there are two key components that determine the success of a poem, and as such, its status as a worthwhile object of critical study. This first component concerns the issue of metrics. Ransom comments that ‘The poets of our time have been insensitive to metrical niceties as the poets of no earlier period have been; and, for I think this follows, insensitive to the poetic function of the meters’.114 Ransom strives to rectify this state of affairs. In order to do so, however, he also needs to address the notion of argumentation. According to Ransom, ‘the composition of a poem is an operation in which the argument fights to displace the meter, and the meter fights to displace the argument.’115 Thus, in Ransom’s reckoning, it is the productive tension between metre and argument that ensures the success of a poem, and, in turn, the poet who wrote it. I want now to demonstrate the ways in which Ford’s conceptualization of poetic composition can be said to differ significantly from the conflict-driven model championed by Ransom. Consider, by way of brief introduction, the contents of the following passage: Poems that might be written anywhere: in a prison or on board a troopship: having not necessarily anything to do with where one is. And most importantly: musically organized – no regular metre – and no attempt at ‘intelligibility’ either, or didacticism or philosophy, or showing one’s own vain ‘intelligence’ – but letting the unconscious take over … to explore


Charles Henri Ford

those Jungian depths with a more ‘free’ somnambulism: ‘Magnetiseur et somnambule’, Baudelaire’s definition of the poet: he was so right – that’s the combination of qualities he admired in Poe. The ‘somnambule’ aspect: the image; the magnetiseur controls the musical form: the combination produces the magic of the poem.116

This passage, which is taken from Ford’s unpublished ‘A Record of Myself’ (1950), revisits, as we can see, ideas and phrases contained in the earlier Imaginationist Manifesto. There is, however, one major point of difference between the two documents. Whereas in the earlier text emphasis fell squarely on the issue of Surrealist aesthetics, Ford’s ‘Record’ is concerned primarily with notions of poetic technique and craft. Two things stand out in particular here. The first concerns Ford’s understanding of poetic metrical patterning – an understanding which, in a manner that might come as a surprise to readers of the chainpoem venture discussed in the previous chapter, has now come to bear a striking resemblance to the high modernist model of poetic composition promoted by Ezra Pound all the way back in 1913. On a related, if slightly different note, the second point of interest contained in this passage pertains to the idea of poetic intelligibility. There is little doubt that the Charles Henri Ford of 1950 had absolutely no desire whatsoever to pander to the whims of a literary audience, real or imagined. This speaks to another remark contained elsewhere in the same unpublished document: Some new poems: outrageous, ironic, incomprehensible, surrealist, comic, confusing, violent – go to extremes never reached before (in my work). Enough of compromise (with communicability – if I read again soon that the artist’s job is to ‘communicate’ I’ll vomit) and meeting people halfway – if they’re too lazy or stupid to come all the way, let them stay where they are.  … Tap new sources of inspiration – both from the unconscious and in my conscious purpose of going to emotional and intellectual extremes.117

This passage only makes proper sense when read in relation to the New Critical models of textual analysis that rose to prominence in North American literary and academic circles in the decade preceding its composition. Such a comparison is not as fanciful as it might appear at first glance. Suffice to say, these two very different Southerners had wildly differing opinions

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


as regards poetic quality and merit. Ransom told Ford so in a letter dated 25  March 1939: I think you have a lot of stuff, and that your strategy is bad, your technique is not developed, if it is true you feel it is impossible to be consecutive and distinguished too. You are the logical end to which modern tendencies come. I am sure of that. I am for the modern tendencies and feel badly when they come to their dead end.118

Ransom is writing in an editorial capacity here. Ford had sent some poems to The Kenyon Review, in the hope that Ransom might publish them. We might well query Ford’s decision to send examples of his surrealistically inflected free verse to this particular figure. After all, we are talking here of a writer whose critique of Ford’s poetic ‘technique’ can be traced all the way back to Laura Riding and Robert Graves’s equally disparaging remarks about modernism’s purportedly debilitating fascination with notions of ‘sheer newness’.119 In a sense, this should come as no surprise. Riding and Graves single out their close friend John Crowe Ransom for especial praise in their 1927 Survey of Modernist Poetry. While they are at least willing – albeit begrudgingly – to defend the experiments of select modernists such as E. E. Cummings, they are clearly more comfortable with writers like Ransom, who, without being sensationalist has, in their estimation, ‘a colloquial dignity and grace which it is possible to call Southern and a quality in his poetry that is definitely aristocratic’.120 Such an assessment needs to be kept in mind when we turn our attention to another of the letters that Ransom sent to Ford. This one was penned on 1  December 1939. Ransom is once again discussing matters of a poetic nature. When it comes to poetry, this aristocratic and gentlemanly Southern Fugitive covets a ‘certain mellowness like the homogenous taste of a wine; I am repelled by rawness, or what I have called violence; and I have the pious hope that the mellowness doesn’t make impossible the strength, the power’.121 Sadly, there is no record of what Ford made of this most characteristically ‘pious’ of statements. There is, however, a record of what Ford made of the literary magazine Ransom founded while working in the English faculty at Kenyon College. As conveyed to Parker Tyler, The Kenyon Review, in Ford’s fittingly pungent formulation, ‘stinks of Teacher’s Tone; if JCRansom hadnt sent back all my poems I’d cancel


Charles Henri Ford

my subscription. I’ve never seen such a mess of obscene snobbish academic trepidation: all wrong, all antiquated, all boring. Even Williams’ article on Lorca seemed to fit irritatingly in. HAS FRANCE LIVED IN VAIN?’122 It seems fair, reading this, to say that Ransom’s rejection stung Ford somewhat. It also appears to have stuck with him for a fair while. We know this because the portions of Ford’s ‘Record’ that concern poetics can to a large degree be read as thinly veiled ripostes to the author of The New Criticism. Ford’s conceptualization of poetic composition differs significantly from Ransom’s conflict-driven model. He spurns the notion of the finely wrought poetic balance – or ‘compromise’ – between metre and argumentation favoured by Ransom. Ford argues instead that ‘form invents new “rules” – or better, [that] the rules are not invented in advance but seem to be created as the poem forms itself. In this sense “rules” are not really rules but rather are self-created laws – created from – perhaps even identical with – the sense of form’.123 Ford’s organic conception of self-created form in this sense proposes an alternative to New Criticism’s impersonal poetics of paradox. Such a conception of self-created form could not in fact be further from Ransom’s idea of how poems are made. Indeed, elsewhere Ford emphatically articulates his position: ‘Form will merely be the construction – very near to style but not identical. Style is the manner in which the poetry is put: much closer to the poet’s personality than the mere accidental and impersonal thing called form.’124 As we can see, Ford is striving here to effectively invert the ‘impersonal’ formalist stance of Ransom’s New Criticism. Further to this, it also becomes apparent that Ford’s rejection of Ransom’s brand of New Criticism is not merely confined to differing opinions concerning poetic balance and conceptual compromise. Ridiculing the idea of achieving impersonality in the construction – or consideration – of literary texts, Ford emphasizes his aspiration ‘to make an object that has complex but real effect when it comes in contact with a sensitive being – i.e., a being sensitive to poetry’.125 In contrast to the detached formalism privileged by Ransom, Ford’s poetic aspiration depends upon provoking an emotional response in a suitably receptive reader. In this sense, Ford’s approach can be differentiated from that of the culturally dominant New Critics. In his interpretation, the poem is not

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


an autonomous, self-contained and sealed text; instead it is a porous aesthetic object that actively encourages the engagement of its audience. This is something that comes to the fore in Ford’s Ransom-baiting report, which was almost certainly written with a specific sort of literary audience in mind. Comprised of numerous segments – including a fragment entitled ‘Fortunately For You, Young Poet’ – Ford’s revealingly titled ‘A Course on Poetry’ was, as it happens, intended for young writers ‘living halfway between achievement and expectation’.126 Beyond simply offering practical advice, Ford was – some three years later – to play host to a number of important younger American poets in a volume known as the Little Anthology of the Poem in Prose. Appearing in the 1953 edition of James Laughlin’s yearly New Directions annual, Ford’s Prose Poem anthology was initially conceived as a collection of, in his words, ‘texts sacred and secular, ancient and modern’.127 Accordingly, in this historically diverse anthology, not only do the writings of Shakespeare and Franz Schubert sit side by side, they do so alongside the ‘Two Meditations’ of the firstgeneration New York School poet James Schuyler. In a similar fashion, Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Psalm’ sits in close proximity to the ‘Proverbs’ of Paul Goodman, with ‘The Folding Up’ of the prophet Mohammed sandwiched in-between. In the context of the present discussion, this anthology is important for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it can be read as yet another explicit rebuke to the concerns of New Criticism. Ford’s anthology deliberately shifts the focus away from considerations of poetic form. As Parker Tyler notes in the anthology’s introductory preface, Ford paid scant regard to notions of form when selecting texts for inclusion. Tyler tells us that Ford considered the collection an ‘unswerving guide to the possibilities of revaluing the poetic act. Viewing timeliness so keenly, he felt it a radical act to wield editorial option over pages devoid of all but casual (and unintended) rhymes’.128 Tyler’s words are useful as they more clearly bring into focus the fact that the editorial impulses underpinning Ford’s anthology of ‘casual’ and ‘unintended rhymes’ had absolutely nothing in common with the technical poetic concerns of critics such as Ransom. Ultimately, however, this seems to have worked against Ford in this specific instance; the Prose Poem anthology failed to make all that much of a mark at the time of its original publication. The lack of attention afforded to the Prose Poem venture must have irked Ford, desiring as he was


Charles Henri Ford

of critical affirmation during the early 1950s. It seems that our subject had by now grown acutely weary of the neglected position he had long occupied on the cultural sidelines. This is the impression we get when reading through Ford’s journals of the 1950s. The following remark, which is taken from a journal entry of November 1951, reads as emblematic: ‘Fashions in poetry will change – my poetry will be recognized, my name will be exalted. And so at this point in my history I must not betray my heritage to be. The words, a flesh that lives on, as spirit, after we are gone.’129 And yet, while he could not have known so at the time, the critical tide was indeed beginning slowly to turn Ford’s way. The Prose Poem anthology proved pertinent in this regard. Featuring emerging younger American writers such as Ginsberg, Schuyler, John Ashbery, and Philip Lamantia, Ford’s collection read as a roll call of those who would ultimately come to define The New American Poetry (as collated famously by Donald Allen in 1960). Indeed, a number of the poets featured in Allen’s seminal collection later came to acknowledge the important role that Ford played in their careers. For instance, the New York School poet Kenneth Koch went as far as to attribute his understanding of Surrealism to Ford’s View: ‘I think I started writing poems I liked more when I was seventeen or eighteen. I wrote a poem when I was just eighteen, maybe on my birthday, … and it was influenced by French surrealism in so far as I understood it. I understood it mainly from a surrealist magazine called View.’130 Nor was this the only time Koch singled Ford out for praise. Now held at the Harry Ransom Center, Ford’s personal library contains a number of books by and about the New York School of poetry. Each volume contains a warm, handwritten dedication to Ford. The 1977 edition of Koch’s The Publications held is one such volume, featuring as it does an inscription to the man ‘who inspired my poetry at its start’. We find something similar when we turn our attention to Ford’s copy of The Poets of the New York School. Bringing together the work of major poets such as Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and Joe Brainard (all of whom left kind words for Ford), this book, which appeared in 1969, was edited and introduced by one of View’s former managing editors, John Bernard Myers.131 In his prefatory remarks, Myers strives to explain what had happened when the surrealists arrived in America and in what ways American painting and sculpture had been given an opportunity to free itself from provincialism and academicism. The official Surrealist

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


movement did not take root in [the United States] but something of greater significance came out of it. I did not realize at the time the full extent to which the poets, in their turn, were imbibing the same strong draughts of inspiration from the American painters. ‘Unofficial’ poetry became possible. In this way the bridge from André Breton reached over to them.132

Detailing as it does the emergence of ‘unofficial’ modes of surrealistically informed literary practice in post-1945 America, the story that Myers tells here will surely be familiar to readers of this chapter. It should also come as no surprise to find Myers reminiscing about the important ‘bridging’ role that View assumed when it came to the dissemination of Surrealist ideas on the shores of the United States. What does surprise, however, is the fact that nowhere at all in this extended introduction does Myer mention the editor of View by name. At first glance, history in this sense thus seems once more to be repeating itself. Ford seems to have slipped through the critical and cultural gaps yet again. Or perhaps not. Koch, for one, was quick to acknowledge the vital role that Ford played in the development of post-war American poetry. His inscription to Myers’ edited collection is revealing in this respect, dedicated as it pointedly is ‘to one whom should have been in the preface’. Nor was this to prove an isolated incident. Other, slightly younger New York-based poets were similarly quick to recognize Ford’s achievements of the 1940s: About reading at Le Metro, how about the first Wednesday in June? It’s free admission, and contributions, you wouldn’t make more than maybe twenty‐five dollars (or less), but there are a lot of us who sure would like to hear you read. Your poetry and your old magazine, VIEW, paved the way for so much of what many younger poets feel is really happening now, when so many other poets were being so boring and so ordinary.133

These effusive lines are taken from a letter written by the second-generation New York School poet Ted Berrigan on 26 April 1965. I want now to bring this discussion to a close by suggesting that we keep Berrigan’s remarks about Ford having ‘paved the way for so much of what so many younger poets feel is really happening now’ at the forefront of our minds, as we turn our attention to the decade when pretty much everything and everyone artistically inclined in North America – including our primary subject, who inflated in a way that proved anathema to stolid cultural jeremiahs such as the aforementioned Greenberg and Ransom – went POP!

Charles Henri Ford


Notes   1 Quoted in Catrina Neiman, ‘Introduction: View Magazine: Transatlantic Pact’, in View: Parade of the Avant-Garde 1940–1947, ed. Charles Henri Ford (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1991), xiii.   2 Consider afresh the criticism levelled at Blues by Ford’s one-time contributing editor, Joseph Vogel: ‘Blues for instance’, Vogel posits, ‘has persistently avoided life and human beings. The work in it has been metaphysical, treating with petty emotions, describing souls of lousy poets.’ Joseph Vogel, ‘Literary Graveyards’, New Masses (October 1929): 30. Historical context is again important when attempting to better understand Vogel’s polemical attack on Blues. Vogel’s piece was published in the same month as the Wall Street Crash. Appearing in Mike Gold’s prominent leftist periodical The New Masses, Vogel’s polemic is unsurprisingly flush with partisan rhetoric. What Vogel’s attack lacks in nuance, it makes up in sheer vociferousness. As well as decrying the apparent absence of socially conscious and politically committed writing in the pages of Blues, Vogel also suggests that Ford’s experimental little magazine is hopelessly out of touch with the various social, political, and economic concerns of the age.   3 In 1980 Ford told Clive Philpot and Lynne Tillman that View was initially formed in order to provide an outlet for the European intelligentsia: ‘Well, the impulse was because in 1940 many of the surrealists that I’d known in Paris were refugees in NY and had no organ, because Minotaur, their big thing, in Paris had stopped so I began.’ Quoted in Clive Philpot and Lynne Tillman, ‘An Interview with Charles Henri Ford: When Art and Literature Come Together’, Franklin Furnace Flue 1, no. 2 (1980): 1.   4 Jolas accepted Ford’s offer of a place on the editorial board of Blues.   5 Quoted in Bruce Wolmer, ‘Charles Henri Ford’, BOMB 18 (Winter 1987). Online Edition: (accessed 2 October 2013).   6 Ford argued that his introductory encounter with the work of the Surrealists ‘electrified [his] output’. Quoted in Kitaori, ‘Charles Henri Ford’.   7 Charles Henri Ford, The Overturned Lake (Cincinnati: The Little Man Press, 1941), 51.   8 Jennifer Mundy, ‘Letters of Desire’, in Surrealism: Desire Unbound, ed. Jennifer Mundy (London: Tate Publishing, 2001), 4.  9 Mundy, ‘Letters of Desire’, 5. 10 André Breton, Mad Love (Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, [1937] 1987), 77.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


11 Breton, Mad Love, 77. 12 André Breton, Communicating Vessels (Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, [1932] 1990), 146. 13 Breton, Communicating Vessels, 146. 14 Equally, we need to proceed with a certain degree of caution when comparing Ford’s ‘Comedy of Belief’ and Breton’s extended theoretical treatise. Communicating Vessels represents one of Breton’s most detailed, painstaking, and often contradictory attempts at reconciling Marxist notions of historical materialism and Freudian theories of the unconscious. Suffice to say, there is nothing in Ford’s playful poem that even comes close to matching, or approximating, the sheer intellectual scope and complexity of Breton’s exacting Communicating Vessels. In Margaret Cohen’s estimation, Communicating Vessels ‘constitutes a linchpin in [Breton’s] defense of surrealist praxis against the French Communist Party’. In it, ‘Breton turns the psychoanalytic notion of the dream against the version of the material/ideal opposition underwriting the French Communist Party’s refusal to admit that surrealist imaginative activity might have practical social consequence.’ As Cohen notes, Breton is, in this particular instance, reacting against ‘the separation that vulgar Marxism draws between material praxis, teleological activities focusing on the realm of facts and the politico-economic sphere, and surrealism’s “ideal” dwelling in the land of aesthetics, subjectivity, desire, [and] dream’. Margaret Cohen, Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution (Berkeley: California University Press, 1993), 124. 15 At the same time, it is important to note that not all the Surrealists agreed with the prejudicial stance taken by their leader. Amy Lyford reminds us that ‘Louis Aragon, unlike Breton, assumed the existence of a plurality of masculinities that were neither normal nor abnormal. He was unable to support Breton’s idea of a “normal” man, and in so doing, raised a critical point about the methodology of the Recherches. The group’s investigation of male sexuality was not monolithic’. ‘Aragon’, Lyford continues, ‘refrained from passing judgment throughout the Recherches, apparently trying to be as clinical and analytic as possible to encourage frank, wide-ranging discussion.’ Amy Lyford, Surrealist Masculinities: Gender Anxiety and the Aesthetics of Post-World War I Reconstruction in France (Berkeley: California University Press, 2007), 146. 16 Quoted in José Pierre (ed.), Investigating Sex: Surrealist Discussions, 1928-1932 (London: Verso, 1992), 5. 17 Wolmer, ‘Charles Henri Ford’. Original emphasis.

Charles Henri Ford


18 Gavin Butt, Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948-1963 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 1. 19 Butt, Between You and Me, 13. 20 This surge in popularity accounts in part for the sorts of post-war dialogues with Surrealism that we find in the work of many New York and San Francisco-based writers and artists. However, we would do well to remember that, in the words of Joanna Pawlik, ‘American writers’ dialogues with Surrealism were not usually with the “First Manifesto” of 1924, or solely about irrationality, fragmentation, spontaneity, or romanticism, all of which are common references on the “narrow compass” the American literary studies has used to orientate its approach to Surrealism. The dialogues were instead more frequently conducted between the many mediated versions of Surrealism in circulation, a consequence of the movement’s long history and permeation of transnational literary, artistic and intellectual cultures.’ Joanna Pawlik, ‘Surrealism, Beat Literature and San Francisco’, Literature Compass 10, no. 2 (2013): 106–7. 21 Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983), 73. 22 Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, 73. 23 Ibid., 62. 24 Ibid., 63. 25 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 3 December 1931, container 8, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 26 On 8 August 1936, Ford told Tyler that he had just finished writing ‘a gossipfrom-abroad letter to Lew Ney for his Hobo Number in case its not off the press signed anonymously HOBO-PEEP but what you don’t already know in it maybe wont hurt you’. Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 8 August 1936, container 8, folder 3, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 27 Charles Henri Ford, ‘Gossip from Abroad’ [1936], series 1, box, 2, folder 4, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1. 28 Ford, ‘Gossip from Abroad’, 1–2. 29 Ibid., 2–3. 30 Near the beginning of his pseudo-letter, Ford notes that as ‘this is a gossip foray, your Hobo Correspondent will not attempt to give any critical evaluation’. Ibid., 1. 31 Dickran Tashjian, A Boatload of Madmen: Surrealism and the American Avant­ Garde 1920-1950 (London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 2001), 157.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


32 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 5 April 1939, container 8, folder 3, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 33 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 5 April 1939, HRC. 34 Clifford Browder notes that ‘Breton’s own political views found expression in the activities of the newly formed national committee of the F.I.A.R.I., on which he served with other representatives of the non-Stalinist Left. Their monthly bulletin Clé preached both revolution and the independence of art, and continued to demand complete freedom of expression in the face of the worsening international situation. But internal dissensions troubled the group, so that Clé ceased publication after only two issues, and the whole project miscarried’. Clifford Browder, André Breton, Arbiter of Surrealism (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1967), 38. 35 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 5 April 1939, HRC. 36 Tashjian, A Boatload of Madmen, 158. 37 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler [n.d.], container 8, folder 1, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 38 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler [n.d.], HRC. 39 Despite his reservations about ‘Miss’ Breton, Ford was perfectly willing to take Surrealism seriously. He certainly had no problem when it came time to defend the Breton-led movement in print. We see this in a letter that he co-authored with Parker Tyler. Appearing in the January–February edition of Partisan Review, Ford and Tyler assert in their letter: ‘Surrealism is not defined by a parlor game, a set of rules, or a psychotic type. Surrealism exploits these things. Surrealism is a technique for sanctifying the unsanctified; a technique for everything of which [Paul] Eluard is capable, as he would be the first to admit.’ Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, ‘Surrealist Protest’, Partisan Review 7, no. 1 (1940): 77–8. 40 Ford seems to have discussed Breton’s magazine with his younger sister, the Hollywood actress Ruth Ford: ‘VVV came. Its showy isn’t it? Your poem is wonderful. The best thing in it. I liked [Leonora] Carrington’s story, but I like all her stories. I think the photo on page 8 extraordinary. The boy on page 35 is a beauty. Looks something like Shelley [Scott]. You could tell Niko’s [Nicolas Calas’s] review of View hurt him. Of course all of your contributors are in it. Can’t they discover anyone by themselves? O I haven’t read it all yet, and I can’t read the French, but I felt the effort of the whole thing. Give me VIEW.’ Ruth Ford to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 2, box 9, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, 41 Tashjian, A Boatload of Madmen, 211.

Charles Henri Ford


42 Quoted in Asako Kitaori, ‘Charles Henri Ford: Catalyst Among Poets’, Rain Taxi Review of Books (Spring 2000). 43 Henry Miller, ‘Open Letter to Surrealists Everywhere’, The Cosmological Eye (London: PL Editions, 1945), 184. 44 Miller, ‘Open Letter’ 174. 45 Ibid. 46 Ibid., 177. 47 Ibid., 189. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid., 190. 50 Ibid. 51 Ibid. 52 Ibid. 53 In a small sense, the title that Ford affixes to these notes can be said to anticipate Frank Kermode’s later use of the ‘neo-modernist’ label. In 1968, Kermode argued that it might be possible to make a productive, if slightly ‘rough distinction between two phases of modernism, and call them paleo- and neomodernism; they are equally devoted to the theme of crisis, equally apocalyptic; but although they have this and other things in common, they have differences which might, with some research, be defined, and found not to be of a degree that prevents our calling both “modernist”’. Frank Kermode, Continuities (New York: Random House, 1968), 8. 54 Charles Henri Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, [n.d.], series 4, box 4, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, n.pag. 55 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. 56 There is no way to establish precisely when Ford sat down to compose his thoughts about modernism and Surrealism. However, I believe that Ford wrote his ‘Notes on Neo Modernism’ in the first half of the 1940s. My reasoning is twofold. First, Ford’s ‘Notes’ include a number of quotes from the primary texts of Surrealism. This, I posit, is further evidence of Ford having, as previously mentioned, brushed up on his Surrealism after discussing art, politics, and sexuality with Breton in Paris in late 1939. Further to this, Ford’s handwritten notes also contain a number of references to Charles Baudelaire. Ford’s enthusiasm for Baudelaire was at its strongest in the early 1940s. During this period, Ford also edited a collection of translations: The Mirror of Baudelaire (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1942). His own ‘Ballad for Baudelaire’ was

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


included in this collection. Ford thought very highly of this particular poem, which he subsequently came to a view in terms of closure, as something of a personal milestone. Given that Ford’s interest in Surrealism was also at its peak during this period, I surmise that Ford’s ‘Notes’ would have been written somewhere between 1940 and 1943. 57 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. 58 On a related note, we might well argue that Ford also seeks to deviate away from the various political strictures associated with Bretonian Surrealism. It seems that art always came first for Charles Henri Ford. This is something that Tashjian discusses in his account of Surrealism in the United States. According to Tashjian, Breton’s insistence that Surrealism and Marxism could function productively in a dialectical relationship would have meant relatively little to Ford. Indeed, despite occasionally expressing a vague interest in revolutionary politics and historical materialism during the 1930s, it seems that ‘any avantgarde position on the left that did not elevate Marxism above art would have [had] some appeal to Ford’. Tashjian, A Boatload of Madmen, 165. Ford rarely troubled himself with overtly political matters – revolutionary or otherwise – in his poetry. Sometimes, as in his early poem ‘A Curse on the War Machine’, Ford might obliquely express his displeasure at the prospect of (political) violence. Very occasionally, as in his early long poem ‘The Garden of Disorder’, Ford will refer fleetingly to famous political figures, such as the architect of the 1917 October Revolution: ‘Lenin has withdrawn to a dialectic paradise/and counts with sociological eyes/the biffs of the nightsticks, the devil’s police’. Charles Henri Ford, Out of the Labyrinth: Selected Poems (San Francisco: City Light Books, 1991), 5. 59 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. 60 Ford most likely had Breton’s first ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’ (1924) in mind when he chose this name. Recall here the manner in which Breton spoke in his first manifesto of how ‘the imagination is perhaps on the point of reasserting itself, of reclaiming its rights’. André Breton, Manifestos of Surrealism (Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, [1924], 1972), 10. 61 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. 62 Ibid., n.pag. 63 Ibid. 64 In his foundational instructional account of literary automatism, Breton implores the aspiring Surrealist artist to ‘put yourself in as passive or as receptive, a state of mind as you can. Forget about your genius, your talent, and the talents of

Charles Henri Ford


everyone else. Keep reminding yourself that literature is one of the saddest roads that leads to everything’. Breton, Manifestos of Surrealism, 28. 65 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. 66 Of course, Ford was by no means the only person to take issue with the perceived passivity of Surrealist automatism. The prominent Surrealist renegade Salvador Dalí was, like the dissenting Ford, unsatisfied with automatism. Indeed, as Mary Ann Caws has shown, his eventual theorization of a paranoiac critical method ‘was to undermine the concept of Surrealist automatism, which seemed to Dalí far too passive’. Mary Ann Caws, Salvador Dalí (London: Reaktion Books, 2008), 74. 67 In this respect, Ford’s desire to rework Surrealism anticipates John Ashbery’s assertion that ‘real freedom would be to use this method [literary automatism] where it could be of service and to correct it with the conscious mind where indicated’. John Ashbery, Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles, 1957-1987 (New York: Knopf, 1989), 5–6. When it comes to the issue of artistic application, it should be kept in mind that Ford thought ‘shocking images are not enough – just as they haven’t been enough in surrealist painting – it’s the art that counts. Take a lesson from the history of surrealism’. Charles Henri Ford, ‘A Record of Myself’ (1950), series 1, box 5, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, 80. 68 Breton, Communicating Vessels, 139. 69 Mary Ann Caws, ‘Linkings and Reflections: André Breton and his Communicating Vessels’, Dada/Surrealism 17, no. 1 (1988): 91. 70 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. Once again, Ford can be said to have anticipated John Ashbery’s later comments about the application of Surrealist literary methods and personal autonomy. 71 Neiman, ‘Introduction: View Magazine: Transatlantic Pact’, xvi. Ford’s desire to popularize Surrealism also led to an implicit alignment with the agenda of Breton’s aesthetic bête noire: Dalí. For better or worse, Dalí played a vital role when it came to increasing the visibility of Surrealism in the United States during the late 1930s. An indefatigable self‐promoter, Dalí’s many American commercial commissions resulted in him being variously described as a profiteer, a popularizer, and a dilutor of what I have been calling ‘orthodox’ Surrealism. 72 Stamatina Dimakopoulou, ‘Europe in America: Remapping Broken Cultural Lines: View (1940–7) and VVV (1942)’, in The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, Volume II: North America 1894-1960, ed. Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 739.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


73 Dimakopoulou, ‘Europe in America’, 739. 74 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. 75 Quoted in Wolmer, ‘Charles Henri Ford’. 76 Nicolas Calas’s ‘Interview with André Breton’ appeared on the front cover of the October-November 1941 Surrealist issue of View (nos. 7–8). 77 André Breton, ‘The Point of View: Testimony 45’, View 5, no. 1 (1945): 5. 78 Breton, ‘The Point of View’, 5. 79 William Carlos Williams, ‘The Genius of France’, in View: Parade of the AvantGarde 1940-1947, ed. Charles Henri Ford (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1991), 239. 80 Williams, ‘The Genius of France’, 240. 81 Ford, ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’, n.pag. 82 Ford was absolutely insistent that Duchamp’s design appear on the cover of Breton’s book. He told Tyler: ‘It doesn’t matter too much about the backbone on the Breton book, just so it’s on the backbone of the jacket. After all, the book isn’t complete without the jacket and its not supposed to be taken off.’ Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 9 August 1946, container 8, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 83 No mention of Ford is made in, for example, Maurice Nadeau’s seminal The History of Surrealism (1968). 84 Franklin Rosemont and Penelope Rosemont, ‘Situation of Surrealism in the U.S.’ (1966), in The Forecast is Hot! Tracts & Other Collective Declarations of the Surrealist Movement in the United States: 1966-1976, ed. Franklin Rosemont, Penelope Rosemont and Paul Garon (Chicago: Black Swan Press, 1997), 7. 85 Franklin Rosemont, André Breton and the First Principles of Surrealism (London: Pluto Press, 1978), 120. 86 Ford, The Overturned Lake, 13. 87 Martica Sawin, Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 196. 88 Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art, 111. 89 Ibid., 112. 90 Ibid. 91 Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 1: Perceptions and Judgments, 1939-1944 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1986), 8. Original emphasis. 92 Greenberg, Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 1, 8–9. 93 Ibid., 9.

Charles Henri Ford

142  94 Ibid.   95 Ibid., 34.

  96 Greenberg discusses the issue of avant-garde genealogy in his retrospective ‘Modernist Painting’ (1960): ‘Manet’s became the first Modernist pictures by virtue of the frankness with which they declared the flat surfaces on which they were painted. The Impressionists, in Manet’s wake abjured underpainting and glazes, to leave the eye under no doubt as to the fact that the colors they used were made of paint that came from tubes or pots. Cézanne sacrificed verisimilitude, or correctness, in order to fit his drawing and design more explicitly to the rectangular shape of the canvas. It was the stressing of the ineluctable flatness of the surface that remained, however, more fundamental than anything else to the processes by which pictorial art criticized and defined itself under Modernism.’ Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957-1969 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993), 86–7.  97 Greenberg, Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 1, 35.  98 Ibid.  99 Ibid. 100 Ibid. 101 Nor is there sufficient space with which to discuss the differences between Greenberg’s account of Abstract Expressionism and that of a certain former Blues and View contributor: Harold Rosenberg. In ‘The American Action Painters’ (1952), Rosenberg asserted that after a certain historical point the ‘canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act – rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze or “express” an object, actual of imagined. What was to go on to the canvas was not a picture but an event. The painter no longer approached his easel with an image in his mind; he went up to it with material in his hand to do something to that other piece of material in front of him. The image would be the result of this encounter’. Harold Rosenberg, ‘The American Action Painters’, Art News (December 1952): 22. Suffice to say, Greenberg had no truck with this incredibly influential, existentially inclined reading of Abstract Expressionism. 102 Ibid., 229. 103 Ibid., 228. 104 Ibid., 230. 105 Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005), 178. Original emphasis.

Building Up and Breaking Down: Surrealism, New York, New Criticism


106 Jones, Eyesight Alone, 179. Original emphasis. 107 Ibid., 67. Original emphasis. 108 Ibid., 67–8. 109 Ibid., 69. Original emphasis. 110 Ibid. 111 Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 3: Affirmations and Refusals, 1950-1956 (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993), 187. 112 Greenberg, Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 3, 229. 113 Greenberg, Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 1, 42–3. 114 John Crowe Ransom, The New Criticism (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1941), 254. 115 Ransom, The New Criticism, 295. 116 Ford, ‘A Record of Myself’, 94–5. 117 Ibid., 74. 118 John Crowe Ransom to Charles Henri Ford, 29 March 1939, series 2, box, 14, folder 5, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 119 Riding and Graves: ‘In the period just passing no new era was begun. A climax was merely reached in criticism by a combination of sophistication and a desire for a new enlightened primitiveness. Wherever attempts at sheer newness in poetry were made they merely ended in dead movements.’ Riding and Graves, A Survey of Modernist Poetry, 132. 120 Ibid., 49. 121 John Crowe Ransom to Charles Henri Ford, 1 December 1939, series 2, box, 14, folder 5, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 122 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 5 April 1939, container 8, folder 3, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 123 Ford, ‘A Record of Myself’, 139. 124 Ibid., 140. Ford made much the same point in a letter to Parker Tyler on 24 September 1951. ‘You can be disunified as you like’, Ford argues, ‘insofar as “form” goes, and if you have an ear for the divine you’ll write divinely. Poetry is: content (what you have to say), rhythm, and sound. Nothing else. And if this content is symbolical, undescriptive, enigmatic, unprosaic, springing from the unconscious – then the poetry is the kind I want to write.’ Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 24 September 1951, container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. On a related note, elsewhere Ford also writes: ‘A question of composition. Musical form

Charles Henri Ford


(for overall effect) to be organized as one goes along? A line at a time for real dredging of the unconscious. (No set plan of communication.) The fun of being a poet is that one is always a new and different poet from the one who wrote not so long ago.’ Ford, ‘A Record of Myself’, 117. 125 Ibid., 97. 126 Ibid., 139. 127 Charles Henri Ford, ‘The Poem in Prose’ [n.d.], series 1, box 4, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 128 Parker Tyler, ‘Preface’ [‘A Little Anthology of the Poem in Prose’], in New Directions XIV, ed. James Laughlin (London: Peter Owen, 1953), 330. 129 Ford, Water From a Bucket, 126–7. 130 Quoted in David Kennedy, ‘An Interview with Kenneth Koch, 5 August 1993’: (accessed 4 October 2014). 131 Myers worked on the magazine between 1944 and 1947. 132 John Barnard Myers, ‘The Poets of the New York School’, in The Poets of the New York School, ed. John Barnard Myers (Philadelphia: The Graduate School of Fine Arts, Pennsylvania University Press, 1969), 9–10. 133 Ted Berrigan to Charles Henri Ford, 26 April 1965, series 2, box, 12, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.


Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place 1 Gerard Malanga wrote to Charles Henri Ford on 13 December 1963. Here’s a flavour of what this emerging poet, photographer, and Exploding Plastic Inevitable member had to say: Ezra Pound is coming back to the States. Andy has hit The New American Cinema scene; is having a still from one of his movies on the next cover of FILM CULTURE, is making a short new film every week to be shown at the Gramercy Arts Theatre. You launched him and now he’s upset the entire scene with his pranks.1

The ‘Andy’ referred to here is, of course, the one and only Andy Warhol. Malanga’s exuberant letter is useful as it gestures towards the role that Ford played in ‘launching’ Warhol’s career as an experimental filmmaker. Ford and Warhol met in New York in the early 1960s.2 Warhol describes how he first ‘met the surrealist poet Charles Henri Ford at a party that his sister Ruth Ford, the actress, who was married to Zachary Scott, gave at her apartment in the Dakota on Central Park West and 72nd Street and Charles Henri and I began going around together to some of the underground movie screenings’.3 Warhol also recounts how Ford took him ‘to a party that Marie Menken and her husband Willard Mass, underground filmmakers and poets, gave at their place in Brooklyn Heights at the foot of Montague Street’.4 Warhol’s recollections chime with the version of events Ford subsequently presented to the photographer Allen Frame: Well, I’m the one who took Warhol to the underground films, to see Jack Smith, etc. I gave Andy his first exposure to ‘underground film’. He


Charles Henri Ford

immediately got turned on. He said, ‘What kind of camera should I buy?’ And I said, ‘Let’s go to Willoughby’s.’ So I told him what kind of camera to get. He took it back to his place and put film in it and started waving it around the room. That was his first film. He went on from there. I did a diary and took stills of a Marcel Carne film, ‘Terrain Vague’. I was on the set for thirteen weeks, taking photos and writing. I have all these stills.5

This response foregrounds the simple – yet significant – fact that Ford did indeed play a part in Warhol’s development as an artist. Ford’s passing reference to ‘underground film’ is pertinent in this regard. ‘To understand Underground Film’, Parker Tyler writes, ‘we must realize that it is an expression which, after 1960, gained much impetus as a group idea. It was part of the universal youth movement, and like a progressive school for modern children if felt (and feels) that nothing among outgoing emotions should be suppressed.’6 Underground film is thus, in Tyler’s estimation ‘the democratic ideal of free expression slanted specifically toward the indeterminately young and thus toward the relatively inexperienced and unproven’.7 There is, however, slightly more to matters than Tyler lets on. Jim Hoberman addresses precisely this point in his introduction to the 1995 edition of Tyler’s seminal Underground Film, which was published originally in 1969. He reminds us that this mode of film-making ‘was distinguishable from earlier modes of experimental cinema by its mixture of willful primitivism, taboo-breaking sexual explicitness – both hetero- and homosexual – and obsessive ambivalence regarding American popular culture’.8 Speaking to issues both provocative and popular as the movement did, it should come as no surprise to find that Ford was so interested in underground film. Truth be told though, this is not the primary reason why I quote at such length from Ford’s interview with Frame. Rather, this passage resonates with a number of the issues we will encounter when charting Ford’s artistic trajectory over the course of the 1960s. To this end, let us take a fresh look at Ford’s recollections, specifically those that follow his rather pithy assessment of Warhol’s meteoric rise to film-making prominence. Discussing the relationship between American experimental cinema and avant-garde poetry, the cultural critic Daniel Kane foregrounds the fact that, ‘beginning around 1964, Warhol would – after taking the art world by storm, as they say – go on to take the underground film world by storm’.9 Hence Ford’s rather perfunctory, verging on offhand: ‘He went on from there.’ Bearing this in mind, consider how Ford – with

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


his occasional aspirations of a cinematic persuasion – moves to situate Warhol’s achievements in relation to his own: ‘I did a diary and took stills of a Marcel Carne film, “Terrain Vague.” I was on the set for thirteen weeks, taking photos and writing. I have all these stills.’10 An air of bathos clings to this statement. It all hinges on Ford’s comment about time spent working on the set of Terrain Vague. At first glance, it appears as if Ford is suggesting that he joined Carne and company in France not long after he pointed Warhol in the direction of the right camera. But this simply cannot be. Terrain Vague was, as the historical record shows, released in 1960. This was a fair while before Ford took Warhol to Willoughby’s. Our understanding of Ford’s remark changes when we recall this. It appears that Ford is trying here to deflect his interlocutor’s attention away from the subject of Warhol’s first forays into film-making. A passing comment that registered initially as almost totally innocuous, if it registered at all, now strikes us as curiously wary, defensive even. Why might Ford want to deflect critical attention away from his friend? If anything, Warhol’s rise to cultural prominence should have been a source of quiet pride for Ford. After all, as Malanga intimated, Ford, in a certain sense, ‘launched’ Warhol.11 What, moreover, are we to make of Ford’s defensiveness? Such questions speak to the larger concerns of this chapter. I want in particular to suggest that the answers to these questions have much to tell us about the seismic upheavals in the cultural landscape that took place during the 1960s. To begin with, I describe the various ways in which Ford sought to keep himself occupied in the decade that immediately preceded the 1960s. Moving forward chronologically, I then demonstrate how Ford’s dealings with Warhol reveal his occasionally anxious awareness of shifting trends in American aesthetic production: trends that signified an incremental move away from modernism into the historical realm of the more properly postmodern. Having thus discussed Ford’s initial visual responses to Pop, I then debate the critical significance of Ford’s major work of the 1960s, the tellingly entitled Spare Parts (1966). In this section, I consider how the unique Spare Parts acts as a critical poetic document and as a self-reflexive account of Ford’s status in the contemporary cultural sphere, and I discuss what this has to tell us about the artist’s understanding of aesthetics during this transitional period in his life and career. After that, I turn my critical attention to Ford’s other substantive poetic work of the 1960s: Silver Flower Coo (1968). In many senses


Charles Henri Ford

a companion piece to the earlier Spare Parts, Silver Flower Coo documents Ford’s increasing ambivalence to the culturally prominent Pop, alongside his growing awareness that he does not fit easily into contemporary aesthetic circles or categories. In short, I argue that in the 1960s Ford at times appears to be on the verge of withdrawing into a world of near-nostalgic reminiscence. Strongly evident in Silver Flower Coo, this nostalgic bent stands in contrast to the aforementioned Spare Parts, in which Ford seeks, as we will see, to play a role approximating that of an aesthetic matchmaker between ostensibly antithetical modes of representation.

2 The 1950s weren’t all that kind to Charles Henri Ford. This, admittedly, seems like a slightly strange claim to make. It appears, upon first inspection, as if everything was finally going Ford’s way. He spent much of the 1950s journeying through Europe with his partner, the noted Russian painter Pavel Tchelitchew. Inspired in large part by his artist-lover, Ford now began to draw and paint. He also sought to familiarize himself with the craft and art of photography while in Europe. Ford’s interest in these areas bore eventual fruit. A public exhibition of his photographs – ‘Thirty Images from Italy’ – was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1955. A year later, Ford exhibited a collection of his line drawings and paintings at the Galerie Marforen in Paris; Jean Cocteau authored a preface for the exhibition catalogue. So far, so good. Not long afterwards, however, personal tragedy struck when Tchelitchew had a heart attack and died on 31 July 1957 in Rome. A sudden end to twenty-three years of partnership, this was certainly traumatic for Ford, and the profound loss prompted him to take stock of his artistic achievements. Ford’s journals are useful for understanding his experience of the 1950s. As we have already established, Ford was, among other things, a remarkably keen and accomplished diarist. Portions of Ford’s journals were published in 2001. Featuring an introduction by the writer and critic Lynne Tillman, the published volume bore the title Water from a Bucket: A Diary, 1948-1957. ‘Not coincidentally’, Tillman writes, ‘Ford begins his diary a year after he stops View and ends it shortly after the death of Tchelitchew.’12 As for the rationale

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


underpinning this highly personal project? ‘Ford’s diary was written to examine himself and others’, Tillman continues, ‘and in a way, its self-consciousness is its raison d’être. Preciousness is stripped from its self-consciousness by Ford’s unflinching self-criticism – he’s regularly concerned with his character as well as [Tchelitchew’s].’13 In equal measure, however, as Tillman rightly points out, Ford is just as concerned with questions of aesthetics in his diary.14 Come to think of it, perhaps ‘concerned’ isn’t quite the right word to use when discussing Ford’s preoccupation with aesthetics – and the related topic of his own critical standing in the wider cultural field – in Water from a Bucket. If the latter part of the following entry is anything to go by, ‘anxious’ might, at least on certain occasions, be a slightly better fit: ‘Never marry’, Pavlik [Tchelitchew] tells me, ‘or you’ll be bound to the earth for thousands of years more’. He says he wants to be loved by someone and pounces on Bergson’s view of ‘laughter’ as being devoid of ‘emotion’ as characteristic of me: he says I laugh at everything. I asked Parker (in a letter) if he thought posthumous fame is any fun and he replied that it might be to posterity.15

Observe how quickly carefree laughter gives way to anxiety about going unrecognized in one’s own lifetime here. Ford is referring specifically in this entry to a letter he wrote to Parker Tyler on 19 April 1951. The sense we get when reading through the many letters Ford sent to Tyler during the 1950s is one of uncharacteristic confusion and uncertainty on the former’s part, especially when it comes to matters of an aesthetic persuasion. Judging by the letter he wrote to Tyler on 17 November 1951, Ford seems to have been particularly sensitive about the prospect of expiring before receiving what he perceived as his proper critical due. ‘I admit that my poetry is a time-bomb’, Ford writes, ‘as far as audience disturbance on a grand scale is concerned. I do take some joy in knowing that one-day my name will be exalted; let those of contemporary fame rejoice, too. Your citing [of] Pound and Williams is not exciting – Pound leaves me cold and Williams, I say, is [like] that Chinese emperor – he’s unclothed (with greatness).’16 But the prospect of such ‘joy’ doesn’t seem to have been enough. Ford describes to Tyler on 7 May 1952 how he now feels absolutely ‘no urge to write anything – not even a diary. Not even a diary. Not even Great Examples in literature inspire


Charles Henri Ford

me to emulation. What is it? A running up of Knowledge, or a running down of the libidinal creative fluid?’17 Soon after posing these rhetorical questions, Ford’s letter tips from orgiastic comedown into outright despondency: At the same time I WANT to do something, create something. But imaginative literature, aside from the prose poem, bores me. Perhaps a movie camera will be the answer… . Co-incidence that you shd mention suicide in your last letter… . God or Suicide, I told Pavlik, might be a title for something… . And I’ve thought of how I shd be capable of suicide, if the time came when life had no more novelty. It would be novel to have a son. Or to have lots of money. Or fame through poetry or plays – or anything. The unbearable thing, I guess you’ve tasted it, is to go on being as you are when you’re dissatisfied.18

Frustrated and bored, Ford comes across as profoundly ‘dissatisfied’ in this peculiarly overwrought letter. He also appears uncharacteristically indecisive. This seems to have been a large part of Ford’s problem in the 1950s. He simply couldn’t bring himself to commit to any particular artistic programme.19 He also struggled to conceive of even bringing projects to completion. We get a sense of this in a letter Ford wrote to Tyler while based in Rome: ‘Ideas erupt here as the dead volcano must have ONCE (the Monte Cavo which I see from my room) – when will I ever finish any – or, what is even more remote, see them produced in book form?’20 Yet, at other times, it seems that the ‘ideas’ simply refused to reveal themselves in the first place. Indeed, as Ford put it to Tyler on 26 January 1953: ‘I don’t write poetry anymore because I can’t imagine any poetry other than what I’ve already written.’21 How, we might ask, did it come to this? There is, I think, a clue contained in a slightly earlier letter that Ford sent to Tyler on 13 December 1952. This is how it begins: I’m fascinated now with the short story as my ART FORM; but a special kind of short story – in the tradition of Hoffman, Poe, Gautier, Gérard de Nerval. All poets and storytellers. The theatre wasn’t my ‘it’; this is. The movie camera? Writing and painting will always be superior to the photograph, because of the metamorphosis, the alchemy. No matter how marvellous a photo (such as one by Cartier Bresson), it was there; the transmutation through word or paint is the superior art. I shall get a Leica, first, in any case.22

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


Notice how Ford’s letter in turn makes mention of poets and storytellers, cinematic and photographic apparatuses, written words and visual artefacts. Then consider the way in which the letter concludes: ‘I wonder if I shall ever want to live in America again? The way I feel now, nothing short of war or revolution would chase me away [from Europe].’23 Ford couldn’t be much clearer here; he appears to have turned his back on the country of his birth. Ford’s animosity towards America seems to have been building for a number of years. Consider the following diary entry of May 1949. This entry, which was written not long before Ford left for Europe, concerns a conversation between the New York City Ballet impresario Lincoln Kirstein and Tchelitchew. Ford selected it for inclusion in Water from a Bucket: ‘Brooksie [Jackson] told [Tchelitchew] that Tanquil Le Clercq will be with us on the De Grasse. Lincoln told him, “You and Charlie hide yourselves because you do not surround yourselves with the right milieu.” There is no right milieu in America. P.: “Perhaps the academic world?” No!’24 Ford’s reaction is both, as we can see, emphatic and unequivocal: ‘There is no right milieu in America.’25 As to whether there might be a ‘right milieu’ to be found somewhere in Europe? Ford doesn’t express an opinion. In any case, the change seemed to do him some good, at least for a little while. As he put it in a journal entry of September 1949: ‘I told him [Tchelitchew] one reason I’m enjoying Europe so much is that I feel I’ve escaped from the prison of America, where I was confined ten years. Europe, America – poetry, prose.’26 Ford’s stretch in the stifling confines of the ‘prison of America’ covers the period between 1939 and 1949. The inescapable sense we get from the journal entry above is that Ford’s dissatisfaction with all things ‘America’ at the turn of the 1950s is somehow linked in his mind with View, which ran – as we already know – between 1940 and 1947. Compare and contrast the following two exhibits. The first assumes the form of a letter that Ford sent to Tyler on 13 September 1940: ‘I’m glad View is talked about as being a “clique” organ – that’s its purpose! Eclectic organs never make an impression. All important movements have been cliques from the Sitwells, to the Surrealists to Audennew verse to the [New] Apocalyptics. View [will] be representative of a view (more or less integrated) or nothing.’27 Fast-forward a full seven years to our second exhibit. Here is an extract of a letter that Ford sent to Edith Sitwell on 5 November 1947: ‘How happy I shall be to get back to my poetry and plays – I am appalled when I think how long I’ve been bothered with the magazine.’28 Hopeful enthusiasm has, as we can see, given way to an admixture


Charles Henri Ford

of exhaustion and dismay. It is not difficult to understand why. The cultural ground underneath Ford’s feet had shifted dramatically. The primarily figural, aesthetically ‘integrated’ avant-garde ‘cliques’ promoted in the pages of View were now treated as outmoded and perceived as ideologically suspect by a number of leading critics and philosophers, certain of whom had previously appeared in Ford’s magazine.29 To make matters even worse, Abstract Expressionism’s cultural star was well and truly in the critical ascendency. America was verily abuzz with talk of the work of artists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko.30 By the time the 1950s rolled around the artistic tide in the United States had firmly turned. Ford was none too happy about this. Throughout the 1950s, Ford railed against what he considered the aesthetic deficiencies of the figures grouped together under the Abstract Expressionist banner. The New Yorkbased Tyler bore the brunt of Ford’s ire.31 Consider the letter he sent from Rome on 14 December 1955: ‘Don’t tell me you’re an admirer of De Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Those People remind me of certain serio-deluded Drunks giving a street performance with a Crowd applauding from cafe tables (but the applause is au fond embarrassed and they’re laughing on the other sides of their faces).’32 One might think that our American exile couldn’t get much more emphatic. But that would be wrong. Ford was in fact only just getting started: Have you run across a young painter named Robert D’Arista? I saw a reproduction of a painting of his (in the Pittsburgh Carnegie catalog) which I thought Stood Out (a table with bottles, etc., treated in abstract flat patterns). Not that Representational paintings always stand out in the company of the School of Emptiness (my name for the mass of abstractionists). All one has to do is go to the current Rome Quadrinalle to be more appalled at the Concretes than at the Non-Objectives (only good paintings among hundreds: two early Chiricos from the Mus. of Mod. Art, NY). Enough of blabbing about Art; but we all love to air our opinions.33

Yet it turns out that Ford was far from done airing his opinions about the ‘School of Emptiness’ and the attendant dangers of ‘mass’ abstractionism. This becomes clear when we turn our attention to a letter Ford addressed to Tyler on 25 November 1958: Total abstraction, without a trace of human or animal suggestion, bores me – I find it merely decorative, and I prefer Plain walls and kitchen floors

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


(all the Motherwell and Pollock stuff I’d throw out, for example). Same goes for Mark Tobey. (I’ve Always admired Abstractionist Calder however.) In the end, everything is a question of personality; work & men are one. I’ve found this to be true with all the artists & writers I’ve known, beginning with Pavlik, going on to Dali & Berard, and not forgetting Djuna Barnes, E.E. Cummings & Parker Tyler. Bores are bores, in real life OR in their Art Efforts. Don’t you agree? (Beat Generation prob. no excep.)34

Much might be made, reading this, of the manner in which Ford’s remarks about the ‘question of personality’ resonate when considered in relation to the preceding chapter’s discussion of poetic form and style. Changing tack somewhat, we should indeed be suspicious here that Ford is looking back into the past – and just a little too fondly at that. Without wishing to get too far ahead of ourselves, I mention this now as the issue of nostalgia is something that will come to the fore when we discuss Ford’s poetic output of the late 1960s. For the time being, however, notice how Ford continues to hark here on the topic of his aesthetic bête noire: ‘total’ non-representationality. Ford’s attack on deficient ‘decorative’ abstraction carries over into the subsequent calendar year. On 6 July 1958 we find Ford demanding that Tyler now bring him: ‘One Person who can draw. Jackson Pollock couldn’t. (What you call Pollock’s “several figure phases” were pathetic.) Anyway, IT IS MORE EASY TO RECOGNIZE RESEMBLANCES THAN ORIGINALITY.’35 Judging by the contents of another letter to Tyler, this one written on 31 March 1959, the notion of ‘originality’ – or ostensible lack thereof – seems to have been at the heart of the aesthetic matter for Ford: The so-called N.Y. School does the Minimum with the Minimum – or else, slinging all pots and troweling it up or down, the Minimum with the Maximum (of effort). A quintessence will always be poetry, fear it who will. All that ’welding, carving, punching, swinging and TAKING UP SPACE’ as you put it … – the pathetic thing is they Still have nothing to Say – either before, during or after. And Who Does have anything to say? No one but a poet – the others shd Keep: Quiet, PLEASE.36

Ford appears to have worn himself out with this particularly ill-tempered outburst: this is the last time he will deign to refer to the ‘New York School’ by name, at least in his correspondence with Tyler.37 The sense we get is that Ford had grown weary of attacking the perceived shortcomings of others. Taking a


Charles Henri Ford

more proactive stance, he now moved to bring himself up to speed with the various countercultural scenes that had begun to flourish on the other side of the Atlantic. We see this in a letter he sent to Tyler from the Old World on 7 July 1960: I have no desire to lead the chic life – I’ve done all that. I got so used to the simplicity and poverty – which doesn’t matter – of the Athenians, I’m revolted by the bourgeois aspect of Rome –, all these women dressed up, etc. I’ve worn a tie once since getting back. Haven’t felt this Bohemian since Young & Evil days, I think the cycle has revolved. I’m back where I started – or almost. So tell me if anything is available around Beatdom.38

The significance of this communiqué is its dawning self-awareness. Ford has realized, finally, that he has come full circle, arriving right back where he had started, or remarkably close to it. But this need not be read in the negative. Indeed, it is at precisely this moment that Ford finds himself actively willing the bare and bracing possibility of a fresh start. And though he doesn’t specify where such a fresh start might be garnered, what he does know concretely and with certainty is that it wasn’t going to happen for him in Europe. And so, in the wake of this epiphany, Ford would retrain his ambition on the country he had previously described as a penitentiary: America.

3 The timing of Charles Henri Ford’s return to the United States proved fortuitous in the extreme. In putting forward ‘The Case for Abstract Art’ (1959), Clement Greenberg had cause to argue ‘that representational painting is like literature, in that it tends to involve us in the interested as well as the disinterested by presenting us with the images of things that are inconceivable outside time and action’.39 According to Greenberg, this was as true for portraits as it was for paintings of trees and flowers. As we established in the previous chapter, for Greenberg the truly successful work of modern art is one that ‘does not exhibit the illusion or semblance of things we are already familiar with in real life; it gives us no imaginary space through which to walk with the mind’s eye; no imaginary objects to desire or not to desire; no imaginary people to like or dislike’.40 All things considered, Greenberg prefers canvases comprised solely of ‘shapes and colors. These may or may not remind us of real things;

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


but if they do, they usually do so incidentally or accidentally – on our own responsibility as it were; and the genuine enjoyment of an abstract picture does not ordinarily depend on such resemblances’.41 Under these circumstances, Greenberg must have been horrified by the emerging trends in contemporary art in the early 1960s. Admittedly, on the surface of things everything would have seemed more or less normal – at least to the casual observer. To all intents and purposes, the movement Greenberg had spent so long championing in print appeared to have gone global at the start of the 1960s. No doubt he would have been cheered to hear of the ‘Exhibition of British Abstract Painting’ held at London’s Royal Society of British Artists Galleries in September 1960. Abstraction Expressionism all the while continued to flourish on the other side of the Atlantic. Large-scale exhibitions of Greenberg-vetted, nonrepresentational painting were held at major New York galleries such as The Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1961.42 Yet a decisive cultural change was most definitely on the cards. In May 1961, an early version of Claes Oldenburg’s ‘The Store’ installation opened at the ‘Environments, Situations, Spaces’ exhibition held at the New York-based Martha Jackson Gallery. In many senses indicative of what was soon to come, Oldenburg’s proto-Pop project arose in part out of a sense of dissatisfaction with certain aspects of contemporary American art. In a collection of written fragments first published together in 1967, Oldenburg describes how ‘lately I have begun to understand action painting that old thing in a new vital and peculiar sense – as corny as the scratches on a NY wall and by parodying its corn I have (miracle) come back to its authenticity!’43 ‘I feel as if Pollock is sitting on my shoulder’, Oldenburg adds, ‘or rather crouching in my pants!’44 The conceptual aim behind ‘The Store’ was to pose a number of serious questions about the relationship between art, commerce, and the mass-manufactured object. ‘Perhaps this can’t be done,’ Oldenburg concedes, but why should I even want to create ‘art’ – that’s the notion I’ve got to get rid of. Assuming that I wanted to create some thing what would that thing be? Just a thing, an object. Art would not enter into it. I make a charged object (‘living’). An ‘artistic’ appearance or content is derived from the object’s reference, not from the object itself or me. These things are displayed in galleries, but that is not the place for them. A store would be better (Store – place full of objects). Museum in b[ourgeois]. concept equals store in mine.45


Charles Henri Ford

Barbara Haskell notes that the original version of Oldenburg’s ‘place full of objects’ assumed ‘the form of brightly painted plaster reliefs of everyday commodities – shoes, foodstuffs, fragments of advertising signs’.46 Reading this, one wonders what Greenberg – averse as he was to any sort of art that sought to capture an ‘illusion or semblance of things we are already familiar with in real life’ – might have made of such a display, replete as it was with replicas of instantly recognizable consumer objects and household items. I very much doubt that he would have approved. To his credit though, while he doesn’t refer to Oldenburg’s ‘Store’ in his essays of the 1960s, this one-time critic of Ford’s View did still grasp the fact that a profound and unstoppable cultural change was by now underway in North America. We start to get a sense of this in ‘The “Crisis” of Abstract Art’ (1964). Greenberg takes aim at artists and critics alike in this revealingly entitled essay. ‘Why art writing happens to be as bad as it is can only be speculated on,’ he argues, ‘and I don’t want to do any speculating here.’47 To this, Greenberg adds: ‘What concerns me much more at this moment is the art itself. The worst aspect of the present foolishness of art criticism in taking new art for non-art is that so much bad art gets shielded thereby from appropriate value judgments.’48 As a result, in Greenberg’s reckoning, ‘a lot of banal art which ought to be called that gets garlanded instead with phrases about the pure act, action, the absolute, prayer, rites, the subconscious, gestures, and so on’.49 So as to be absolutely clear, Greenberg is writing here about what he perceives to be the unmerited critical praise afforded much of the art produced during the second-wave of Abstract Expressionism – both in Europe and the United States. He continues: ‘Amid this palaver the degeneration of Informel and Abstract Expressionist art at the hands of the practitioners of the second generation has gone unnoticed. Some of the emptiest art ever created has been treated with the blindest respect.’50 These are strong words – coming as they do from the foremost champion of the New York School. Having said that, we would do well to remember that Greenberg still had high hopes for the immediate future of abstract art, which he now began to rather surprisingly couch in terms of ‘its painterliness, and its painterliness limits it in the way any other defining characteristic would. It limits it particularly with regard to color, the purity and intensity of which are more or less abated by the light and dark accents that are inseparable from painterly handling’.51 In direct contrast

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


to the ‘empty’ and ‘banal’ sorts of non-figurative art criticized elsewhere in Greenberg’s essay, ‘this newer abstract painting suggests possibilities of color for which there are no precedents in Western tradition. An unexplored realm of picture-making is being opened up – in a quarter where young apes cannot follow – that promises to be large enough to accommodate at least one more generation of major painters.’52 However, history tells us that the anonymous ‘young apes’ of this passage had little interest in following Greenberg’s lead. Nor, as will become clear, did mature primates such as Charles Henri Ford. In any case, it didn’t really matter. By now, to borrow a phrase coined by the art historian Arthur C. Danto, ‘the age of Warhol’ had arrived.53

4 ‘Art before Andy was radically different from the art that came after him’, Danto writes, ‘and through him.’54 Danto also notes that Warhol ‘wanted to become very famous very quickly, and nothing could achieve that for him that did not attract media attention. He was a Pop artist before the meaning of the term was stabilized, but Pop in 1962 was what caused people to talk’.55 And talk they most certainly did. In large part this was because Warhol’s early work, in Danto’s estimation, ‘raised the question of what was art in a way that could not be resisted’.56 Danto is referring specifically to the work that Warhol exhibited at Irving Blum’s Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles in July 1962.57 This was the first time that Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans portraits had appeared in a public setting. The reason they caused such a stir was that the common conception of art was, to borrow from Danto once more, ‘of something spiritually rich that belonged in gold frames and that hung on museum walls, or in the mansions of the wealthy’.58 Admittedly, the sort of people who continued to cleave to such a conventional view probably hadn’t seen Oldenburg’s ‘Store’ installation of the previous year. But Warhol clearly had. This brings to mind something mentioned earlier. I am thinking here of Oldenburg’s notion of the ‘living’ or ‘charged’ object. Walter Benjamin famously suggests in the late 1930s that our understanding of artistic authenticity, of the unique aura appended to works of art, undergoes a profound transformation in what he designates as the era of technological reproducibility. Benjamin


Charles Henri Ford

reminds us of the fact that, in theory at least, ‘the work of art has always has always been reproducible. Objects made by humans could always be copied by humans. Replicas were made by pupils in practising for their craft, by masters in disseminating their works, and, finally, by third parties in pursuit of profit’.59 Yet these sorts of artistic practices were, for Benjamin, of a rather intermittent historical nature. Things don’t really change, in Benjamin’s analysis, until the emergence in the nineteenth century of technology-based art forms such as photography and cinema. With the advent of these filmic technologies, the very notion of auratic, handcrafted art is called into question. ‘For the first time’, Benjamin writes, ‘photography freed the hand from the most important artistic tasks in the process of pictorial reproduction – tasks that now devolved solely upon the eye looking into a lens. And since the eye perceives more swiftly than the hand can draw, the process of pictorial reproduction was enormously accelerated, so that it could now keep pace with speech.’60 As is well known, such processes of reproduction had a number of profound implications for the notion of artistic authenticity, which had up until this point been bound to concepts of uniqueness and permanence (and which might also be said to resonate when considered alongside the previously discussed hypothesis of the modernist imprimatur). From Benjamin’s perspective, ‘what withers in the age of the technological reproducibility of the work of art is the latter’s aura’.61 But this is not all. The significance of this process of acceleration, in Benjamin’s eyes, ‘extends far beyond the realm of art. It might be stated as a general formula that the technology of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the sphere of tradition’.62 Benjamin in this sense adds a crucial layer of critical nuance to our understanding of tradition, which, in turn, leads him back to questions of an aesthetic and historical persuasion. ‘Originally’, Benjamin posits ‘the embeddedness of an artwork in the context of tradition found expression in a cult. As we know that the earliest art works originated in the service of rituals – first magical, then religious kind. In other words: the unique value of the “authentic” work of art has its basis in ritual, the source of its original use value.’63 Benjamin’s groundbreaking account of the fate of auratic art in the era of technological reproducibility provides us with a useful theoretical means with which we might begin to approach some of the unresolved – and potentially unresolvable – ambiguities arising from the talk of ‘living’ and

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


‘charged’ objects contained in Oldenburg’s account of ‘The Store’ project. Like Benjamin, Oldenburg grasps the fact that a radical shift has occurred in the realm of artistic production. This is why Oldenburg has seemingly so little time for conventional approaches to and interpretations of art. Lest we forget, these are the sorts of things that one needs, in Oldenburg’s reckoning, ‘to get rid of ’. Oldenburg also seeks to break away from traditionalist conceptions of artistic authenticity. He has precious little in the way of time for what he perceives as outmoded models of auratic production. ‘An “artistic” appearance or content is derived from the object’s reference’, Oldenburg insists, ‘not from the object itself or me.’64 To put this in slightly different words, the value (if it can indeed be called that) of an artistic object or ‘thing’ is not, in Oldenburg’s final account, dependent on an antiquated idea of creative handicraft. Instead, an external frame of ‘reference’ determines the worth of an object. That is, the worth of an (art) object is determined solely by its relative position within a larger system of economic exchange that has absolutely nothing to do with any sort of intrinsic value that might have once affixed to the thing itself. Warhol perhaps puts it best: ‘Pop comes from the outside.’65 Warhol’s well-documented interest in all things ‘outside’ has long fascinated literary critics, none more so than Fredric Jameson. We see this in Jameson’s diagrammatic account of the cultural logic of late capitalism. Jameson famously contrasts Van Gogh’s Pair of Boots (1887) and Warhol’s silk-screened Diamond Dust Shoes (1980) when discussing certain formal differences between modernist and postmodernist aesthetics, and from these two artworks he unfolds the entirety of a historical absolute. He reasons that perhaps the ‘most evident’ characteristic of art produced in the latter period is ‘the emergence of a new kind of flatness or depthlessness, a new kind of superficiality in the most literal sense, perhaps the supreme formal feature of all the postmodernisms to which we will have occasion to return in a number of other contexts’.66 For Jameson, the superficially flat, depthless, and mirrorlike qualities of Warhol’s artworks epitomize the postmodern drift of cultural production in the second-half of the twentieth century. He asserts forcefully that Warholian Pop is concerned with the surface of things and nothing more. This typically postmodern focus on surface detail can also be opposed to, say, epistemological and hermeneutic ‘depth’ models associated with earlier modes of modernism. In Jameson’s bravura reading, artists such as Warhol


Charles Henri Ford

are implicated in a wider project ‘of criticizing and discrediting this very hermeneutic model of the inside and outside and of stigmatizing such models as ideological and metaphysical’.67 This makes a great deal of sense, especially when read in relation to what we have already established about Warhol’s selfprofessed fascination with externality. ‘Indeed’, Jameson posits, ‘there is a kind of return of the repressed in Diamond Dust Shoes, a strange, compensatory, decorative exhilaration, explicitly designated by the title itself, which is, of course, the glitter of gold dust, the spangling of gilt sand that seals the surface of the painting and yet continues to glint at us.’68 I am particularly curious about the application of ‘the spangling of gilt sand’ that, according to Jameson, ‘continues to glint at us’. In a slightly roundabout fashion, Jameson is referring to the physical act of conferral with which Warhol, so to speak, seals the artistic deal when it comes to the subject of his Diamond Dust Shoes. The glinting ‘gilt sand’ that sparkles as if magically on the surface of this particular silk-screened canvas could only have been applied by hand – after the production of the print itself. How are we to interpret such an act of conferral? What we have here is, surely, a redoubling of sorts. Bound as his aesthetic was to the referenceestablishing logic of the commodity-driven art market, it makes perfect sense that Warhol would choose to coat his canvas with the dust of this most precious of metals. Jameson knows this, of course. There is, however, another way to interpret Warhol’s curiously loaded gesture of value conferral. People tend to forget that Warhol was a devout, practising Ruthenian Rite Catholic. Keeping this in mind, if we now look more closely at the painting the sense we get is that Warhol just might be archly – if parodically – highlighting the role that quasi-auratic ritualism can continue to play in the otherwise absolutely commodified realm of technological reproducibility. It is possible that this is an approximation of a quasi-religious process of aesthetic transubstantiation.69 Determined as Jameson is to pigeonhole Warhol as the affectless postmodern artist par excellence, this otherwise most mobile of critical thinkers simply cannot allow for the very real possibility that the good Catholic boy he is taking to task is in fact attempting to smuggle the remnants of auratic depth in through the back door of the late capitalist store. All of which is to say: things aren’t quite as simple as they might seem when it comes to distinguishing between high modern and postmodern models of cultural production. Charles Henri Ford was quick to grasp such

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


complexity when it came to this specific queer kindred spirit, this glittercrowned prince of postmodern Pop. Warhol was, in Ford’s somewhat more measured estimation, ‘another manifestation of the surrealists, and very close to Duchamp who was definitely a surrealist after being a dadaist’.70 Regardless of whether we choose to agree wholeheartedly with such a statement, it isn’t all that difficult to appreciate why Ford might want to forge this particular conceptual link. Having spent the best part of a decade stuck on the cultural sidelines listening to nothing but news about the advances of American abstractionists who, generally speaking, sought to distance themselves from surrealistically inflected aesthetic practices Ford held dear, our man from Mississippi was especially receptive to the work of ambitious young artists who had clearly no trouble acknowledging the worth of such things.71 Further to this, Ford would have been absolutely delighted to discover that, in the words of Cécile Whiting, Warhol’s persona challenged the artistic identity of a previous generation of Abstract Expressionists, who presented themselves as profoundly tortured, solitary, and private individuals. The negation of the private, individual self in both Warhol’s portraits and his own public persona not only subverted assumptions cherished in the 1950s about the self, but also, paradoxically, served as one means through which a new generation of consumers defined its identity in the swinging sixties.72

Our first point of interest here pertains not to Warhol, but rather to a certain number of the things we have already established about our man Ford. Do we not hear the faintest echo of Ford’s circular approach to the question of poetics in this particular account of Warhol’s creative identity, of the attempted ‘negation of the private, individual self ’ to be found in his work? We would, at the very least, do well to consider the possibility. If nothing else, it might be offered up as a potential reason as to why Ford responded so positively to Warhol’s work. In any case, the second point of interest contained in this passage speaks more directly to Warhol. Specifically, it speaks to the issue of Warhol’s public persona. In the minds of many, Warhol’s artistic persona was linked to the New York-based studio space that became better known as the Factory.73 Famously permissive, the ‘piss-glamorous’ social scene associated with the Factory became an emblem for much of that which deviated from the


Charles Henri Ford

societal norm during the 1960s.74 It is, however, important to note that entry into the communal fringe space of the Factory came for something of a price for the young, the beautiful, and the lost. ‘At the center of it all was Warhol’, Danto writes, ‘himself anything but beautiful, whose personality was that of a workaholic, producing art, setting the direction, and using the misfits that found their way to the Factory as sources of inspiration in exchange for being allowed to watch them do what they wanted to do.’75 Entry into the permissive world of the Factory could thus only be gained by submitting to the force of Warhol’s passive – yet equally provocative – personality.76 Danto also gets it right when he writes of Warhol’s ability to set the ‘direction’ of activity undertaken in the Factory. Stephen Koch makes a similar point when discussing the manner in which Warhol proved unerringly capable of creating ‘a kind of space around himself, the way an object creates a space around itself, and, within that space, his every action seemed in some obscure way to signify’.77 Juan A. Suárez concurs with Koch on this subject. In his critical reckoning, Warhol’s ‘was a universe saturated with meaning and without gaps, residue, or gratuitousness: everything Warhol did had a place in the orbits of media circulation and market exchange, where it acquired its value, its meaning. This frenzy of signification, which allowed for no loss, turned Warhol into a near magical decoder or bestower of meaning’.78 There are, I think, two very different things worth emphasizing here. For one, this account of Warhol’s unique and enviable status as a ‘bestower of meaning’ resonates when considered in relation to our discussion of Diamond Dust Shoes.79 For another, it helps us better understand just what it was about Warhol as an artist that so impressed Ford. To begin, I want in particular to suggest that Ford appreciated the manner in which this arch bestower of signification had succeeded in creating a networked space – the physical fringe space of the Factory – capable of fostering the conditions in which collective and alternative non-normative sensibilities could circulate and flourish. In addition, I propose that Ford had a high opinion of the ease with which Warhol effortlessly managed both to expose and manipulate the conceptual mechanisms underpinning in the circulation of social and cultural capital, while simultaneously benefiting from the exposure afforded him by those same such systems of circulation and exchange. At the same time, however, I want also to suggest that Warhol’s seemingly instantaneous

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


success in the cultural field provoked what can only be described as an envious emotional reaction in Ford. That is to say, Ford, who had always wanted to be famous, was in some senses acutely jealous of Warhol. This comes to the fore in an interview John Wilcock conducted with Ford in 1971. In this interview, which was published in The Autography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, Ford acknowledges his friend’s ‘flair for picking out things that are bound to congeal in the future. Andy is a combination of flair, luck and publicity. Without one of those elements he wouldn’t exist’.80 Elsewhere in the same interview, Ford praises Warhol’s aesthetic receptiveness. He puts it to Wilcock like this: ‘Andy has always been a receiving station of one form or another.’81 But notice how Ford becomes noticeably cagier when the topic of Warhol’s influence is broached: ‘His influence hasn’t been that great. He takes influences much more than he influences.’82 It seems as if something has riled Ford. When read alongside some of the observations he subsequently proffered to Allen Frame, it certainly seems like Ford’s early love for all things Warholian and Pop was by no means unconditional: I remember sitting at one of Andy’s gatherings one day, and I wasn’t that amused by all these people coming in so I said to Gregory Markopoulos, ‘Do you think all these people are amusing?’ and he said, ‘Yes!’ And I said, ‘Well, I’m not amused.’ On amphetamines and talking like open faucets. Ondine non-stop. I was not turned on. Gerard Malanga said, ‘Go with the flow.’ Well, he went with the flow, but I just looked at it. I already had my seaside mansion and the flow went by.83

These remarks are, among other things, wryly amusing, patronizing, and revealing. They are also unintentionally ironic, coming as they do from a man who celebrated logorrheic chatter in Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms and bohemian excess in The Young and Evil. Ford’s frank admission that he ‘was not turned on’ by the ‘flow’ of the Factory is especially revealing. Coming from a forward-thinking figure who was always, in the words of Lynne Tillman, ‘insistent on what was new and what was happening’,84 these comments are remarkable. They also appear to be perfectly clear. I want, however, to suggest that these comments need to be taken with more than a mere pinch of salt. As we will now see, Ford was in fact ‘turned on’ by Pop to such a degree that his responses to the emergent aesthetic movement took on a decidedly Warholian sheen.


Charles Henri Ford

5 Upon returning to the United States in 1962, Charles Henri Ford strove to resituate himself in the cultural fabric of American aesthetic life. Ford also wanted to announce his presence and assert some degree of individual aesthetic authority in contemporary cultural circles. His first major undertaking of the decade was an exhibition held in 1965 at the New York-based Cordier Ekstrom Gallery. Ford evidently thought highly of the work he produced for this exhibition. He made that much clear to the art gallery owner Parmenia Ekstrom on 10 February 1965. ‘I worked for over a year on the creation of these poster poems’, Ford insists, ‘and they should climax many years of thought and creativity.’85 The ‘poster poem’ project was informed in equal measure by the Mississippian’s interest in the infinite possibilities afforded by the written word and the mechanical processes of photographic reproduction. Ford would begin by selecting a photograph of a ‘public or private’ personality or celebrity, such as W. H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg, or Jayne Mansfield.86 Ford would then carefully fashion poems out of blocks of written text culled from newspapers and magazines. These poster – or ‘paste-up’ – poems would then be positioned on the surface of the photographic print, which would in turn be subjected to a silk-screening process.87 The resultant poster-poems – or ‘Fordographs’  – were brash, bold, brightly coloured, and above all else, delightfully lewd. In the words of their creator, the poster-poems sought to proffer a ribald and irreverent ‘Guide to the Grandeur of Vice’.88 We need only glance at the textual component of ‘Ginsberg Behind the Scenes’ to get a clear sense of this: All power to the unexpected Although Young Drunk Demons never sleep in a Telephone it’s vital for Everyman to get a jolt AMERICA Meet one of the world’s GIANT ‘QUEENS’89

Ford aims in these lines to gain – or ‘jolt’ – the attention of an unsuspecting and complacent American populous. We might well say that, much as he did in the pages of The Young of Evil, Ford seeks with this particular poster-poem to foreground notions of queerness. This is something, as we will soon see, that comes to the fore in the other of Ford’s major projects of the 1960s.

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


Before we get to these ventures, however, it behoves us to say a little bit more about the form of the poster-poems. Maria Fusco argues that the Fordographs should ‘be understood to be as much about the communication of information as about the information they communicate. Their scrappy surfaces appear perforated rather than consolidated by glued-on letters and words cut out from newspapers and magazines, in the style of presentation that is usually reserved for death threats and poison pen letters’.90 Building on Fusco’s lead, I want to emphasize the manner in which these luminescent posters ‘transport us as viewers/readers into the spreading power, the speed of turnover, [and] the divine dissolution of the cut-up technique, demonstrating that significance and beauty can be excised from even the most workaday printed matters’.91 To be sure, the Fordographs – awash as they are in the popular imagery and indebted to the countercultural parlance of the 1960s – were very much products of the Warholian Age. Indeed, the art critic Roberta Smith has gone as far as to suggest that Ford was most likely directly ‘operating under the influence of Andy Warhol’ when it came to this project, which she characterizes as a ‘particularly visual and outrageous form of concrete poetry’.92 Parker Tyler makes a similar, if somewhat more specific point in an unpublished manuscript most likely written at Ford’s prompting. Tyler’s ‘Charles Henri Ford: From Poet to Graphipoet’ heralded the arrival of his friend’s first book-length edition of poster-poems, Spare Parts (1966).93 ‘Around richly haunting, often haunted, photographic images (sometimes taken by his own camera)’, Tyler reasons, Ford has evoked the old magic of a poetry that was fresh with him and native to him. Obviously linked to the colloquialism of Cummings, he was more interested in preserving the chosen phrase almost unconverted, stark, in a naked sort of birth. Ford was writing pop-ballad poems when Allen Ginsberg – or, for that matter, Andy Warhol – was wondering what in the world to do with life and Bob Dylan was not yet.94

Notice how, on the one hand, Tyler moves in this passage to position Ford in relation to major post-war creative figures such as Dylan, Ginsberg, and Warhol. On the other, consider the manner in which Tyler specifically equates Ford’s desire to preserve ‘the chosen phrase almost unconverted’ with a canonical pre-war poetic favourite, Cummings. At the risk of sounding a touch reductive, what we have here is a useful account of the way in which Ford’s


Charles Henri Ford

output of the 1960s sits astride the historical divide between two ostensibly antithetical modes of cultural production, stretching between the modern and the postmodern. By the same token, Tyler also makes it clear that he is of the opinion that Ford does not blindly subscribe to the precepts of Pop. Couching his argument in terminology that will strike a chord with readers of Peter Bürger’s seminal Theory of the Avant-Garde (1974),95 Tyler insists that Ford’s ‘graphipoems are too refined to be more than clubbed roughly, by commentators, with the current fanciness of neo-Dada’.96 In this respect, we need to be careful when attempting to situate Ford’s poster-poem project in relation to similar works created around the same time, be they works created by artists associated with Neo-Dada such as Jasper Johns, John Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg – or pieces produced by post-war Pop artists and members of the Beat Generation. In Tyler’s estimation, Ford does not, like Kenneth Patchen, write a poem and illustrate or decorate it (or vice versa); nor, like Apollinaire and other poets of vers-figures, does he put his words in imitative shapes. The pasted-up, then imprinted, lines are plastic elements plastically fused with the dominant optical image of the photograph. More or less overall textures (sometimes an actual wallpaper pattern) are superimposed to knit together functionally, like brushstrokes, the scattered register of the verbal poem and the dense register of the optical poem: the original photographic element.97

‘By combining and recombining colors, literary images and optical images in a total visual ensemble’, Tyler continues, ‘Ford has arrived at an art to read, a poem to look at; whether the graphipoem is simply to be looked at, or also read, there is no violation of a wholly unified art.’98 In the end, then, it is up to the viewer/reader to decide how best to approach any given Fordograph. ‘Still’, Tyler adds, ‘the point is that if the graphipoem is left unread, one has arbitrarily discarded the main cachet.’99 One needs to, in Tyler’s reckoning, ‘shift from image to text and back to verify the frisson to be gained from the basic style of Ford’s counterpoint’.100 Tyler’s point needs to be borne in mind at all times when approaching Spare Parts. Karen L. Rood asserts that the first published edition of Ford’s posterpoems ‘was largely ignored by mainstream reviews. No one seemed sure what it was’.101 But it turns out that wasn’t entirely true. Consider Allen Ginsberg’s

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


contemporaneous account of Spare Parts. In a passage worth quoting at some length, this most prominent of countercultural icon describes diction so common it’s cut out of mass print, then shuffled on the table and recomposed according to Ford’s private significances. Spare Parts is genitals. Awareness of the implicit bias and camp of marketplace yatter emerges after decades of unconscious commerce. What’s further odd is the surreal charm of the phrasal juxtapositions; eccentric orthography of multitudinous type-fonts accentuates the charm: Ford is a practiced old connoisseur of XX Century ready-made speech. Everything from rosejoint to King Lear’s unforgettable cry.102

Invoking as it does the ‘ready-made speech’ act and the apparently campy ‘yatter’ of the stock-market floor, the depersonalized global system of industrial ‘commerce’ and the ‘practiced’ art of connoisseurship, the ‘phrasal’ pleasure afforded by the incongruous ‘surreal charm’ and the ‘unforgettable cry’ that rends the air in Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, there is certainly much that might be said about Ginsberg’s account of the interplay between the surreal, the commercial, and the sexual in the pages of Spare Parts. Perhaps he had the following passage from ‘Comic Strip’ in mind when it came time to gather his thoughts about Ford’s first printed collection of paste-up poems: Find Adventure Get rid of your CHERRY without cutting off light IF YOU HAVE AN INSTINCT FOR QUALITY … CORNING*WARE® Brightens a FUCK A useful feat is to let go WITH DRIVE!103

Printed on the left-hand side of the page, this passage, yoking together as it does sexual innuendo and a reference to popular brand of thermal shock resistant glass-ceramic kitchenware, is in keeping with the largely exuberant tonal quality on display in the rest of Spare Parts. But there is slightly more to the matter than this. There is, in the top right-hand corner of the opposite page, an image of a hand clutching what looks suspiciously like a can of Campbell’s soup. However, where one would logically expect to find the iconic Campbell logo, one discovers instead a serving of ‘EXTRA unconscious’ – and a fairly generous helping at that.


Charles Henri Ford

Be that as it may, I want first to hone in on the particular manner in which these diverse materials are, in Ginsberg’s formulation, ‘shuffled on the table and recomposed according to Ford’s private significances’. In one sense, the stress that Ginsberg places on the notion of ‘private’ significance chimes with what we previously established about Ford’s penchant for personality-driven poetics. In another sense, this emphasis on the private and the personal chimes with the aesthetic stance championed by another post-war artist involved in the creation of Spare Parts: Stan Brakhage. This prominent independent filmmaker designed the cover of Spare Parts. Given Brakhage’s lifelong interest in modernism, it is not at all difficult to deduce why he would have agreed to undertake such work in the first place.104 It is just as easy to see why the old Surrealist in Ford would have felt an affinity with this arch-romantic, selfproclaimed mystic,105 and firm believer in ‘the need to get something internal exteriorized’.106 Brakhage’s privileging of inner truth aligns him with the ‘depth models’ that Jameson associates with modernist cultural production. It also placed him at odds with Warhol, the man in question in Jameson’s aforementioned account of the logic of postmodern cultural production. In David E. James’s estimation, ‘the careers of Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol are the prototypical instances of the two opposite routes taken by the avant-garde in the 1960s’.107 James argues that Brakhage’s ‘entirely personal cinema … developed into the most ecstatic alternative to industrial narrative film style’.108 In complete contrast, Warhol quickly rejected the implications of the personal style of film-making privileged by Brakhage. ‘After directing a series of remarkable films critically interrogating the mass media’, James reminds us, Warhol ‘became a producer of feature films and eventually merchandised his celebrity as a brand name for productions conceived and directed by other people.’109 Suffice to say, Brakhage didn’t think all that much of Warhol’s approach to film-making. In the words of Annette Michelson, ‘Brakhage saw in Warhol’s work an elimination of subjectivity. Brakhage had insisted on a pre-eminence of subjectivity that required a radical assault upon the space of representation, upon the radical separation of signifier and signified.’110 Knowledgeable as he was about the American independent film scene of the 1960s, Ford would have been well aware of the conflicting aesthetic opinions and divergent career trajectories of both Brakhage and Warhol. Why, then,

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


would he choose to adorn his first volume of overtly Pop-inflected paste-up poems and repetitive patterns with a cover designed by an artist so staunchly opposed to the surface-bound visual pleasures propagated by Warhol? I want to suggest that Ford is striving here to establish new patterns of equivalence between what are two seemingly antithetical aesthetic approaches. Ford’s fondness for establishing points of aesthetic equivalence also carries over into the text of Spare Parts, replete as it with multiple references to postmodern ‘NEW/POP-TARTS’ and allusions to the sort of auratic ‘Magical Mystical Miracle’ more usually associated with modern cultural modes.111 But we also find moments of quiet reflection in the midst of Ford’s texts of rapidfire syntactical disjunction. These moments are important as they cast a selfreflexive light on Ford’s position in the contemporary cultural sphere. They also provide us with a better sense of Ford’s inquisitive attitude towards emergent aesthetic trends. We see this in the text that I take to be the focal point of Spare Parts. The tellingly entitled ‘Poems wanted NOW’ functions as a forum in which Ford debates the cultural significance of Warhol: Red the brain PRINCE OF Self-Homage among the police began with The aesthetics of MATTA al THE HINGE Gets a Lift from THE TASTE OF JUST-PICKED Japanese generators. How important is Andy? Everybody’s Taken ‘in’ What’s the wrong reason NO ONE EVER NOTICES groggy butterflies beneath the snow.112

Ford comes across as conflicted in this particularly disjunctive and ambiguous text. Consider the line suggesting that ‘Everybody’s Taken “in”’ by Warhol. On the one hand, this remark might be said to refer back to our earlier discussion of the broadly welcoming environment fostered in the physical fringe space more commonly known as the Factory. Read in such a way, Ford’s assertion


Charles Henri Ford

can be interpreted as a tribute to Warhol’s commitment to the cultivation of an inclusive, non-normative sense of collectivism. On the other hand, Ford might be said to be expressing doubts about Warhol’s apparently ubiquitous position in the contemporary cultural sphere, doing so via those ironizing scare quotes. That is to say, when read in a certain way, Ford seems in this poem to be casting aspersions on his young friend’s ability to pull the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting aesthetic public. But, in the end, Ford is far more interested in situating Warhol in relation to what can be described as a pre-existing nexus of avant-garde production. What we have in ‘Poems wanted NOW’ is an example of Ford’s desire to play conceptual cupid. This is where Tyler’s account of the ‘frisson’ generated by ‘counterpoint’ in Ford’s ‘total’ verbal and visual ‘ensemble’ moves to the fore. The charge produced in ‘Poems wanted NOW’ has much to do with establishing potential patterns of aesthetic association between distinctive modern and postmodern practitioners. The first indication of this comes with the mention of ‘The aesthetics of MATTA’ contained in the fourth line of the poem. Ford is, of course, referring here to the Surrealist painter Roberto Matta.113 This needs to be kept in mind as we turn our attention to the visual component of the poem. The composite image upon which the text of ‘Poems wanted NOW’ has been affixed gestures to the work of two of Matta’s avant-garde peers. On the left-hand side of the page, partially obscured by a silhouette of two indeterminate figures, we can see a photographic reproduction of a fingernail attached to a human toe. Directly across from this image, on the right-hand side, we find another photograph: this time of what appears to be a porcelain basin, or perhaps a ceramic washbowl. Looking at these two photographs, one cannot help but be struck by the pronounced similarities between Ford’s chosen images and ones that have long been associated with Georges Bataille and Marcel Duchamp. The left-hand image is an incontrovertible echo of the sort of ‘prehensile toe’ often displayed in the pages of Documents (1929–30). In the image on the right, there is an undeniable allusion to Duchamp’s notorious urinal. Orchestrating what might be described as an avant-garde ménage-atrois, Ford, in a roundabout fashion, demonstrates his flair as matchmaker, as the party planner extraordinaire. In this integrated image-text, Duchampian conceptuality thus mingles with the visceral base materialism of Bataille; in turn Bataille (the renegade Surrealist) sidles up to Matta (the Breton-approved,

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


orthodox Surrealist).114 Completing the triangle, Duchamp’s anti-retinal aesthetic practice is forced into conversation with the painterly, retinal imagery privileged by Matta. Having thus forged an alliance between these uneasy bedfellows, our sociable host goes on to introduce his Duchamp-inspired friend – the budding conceptual artist he regarded as ‘another manifestation of the surrealists’ – into the aesthetic mix. In so doing, Ford gently reminds us of his firmly held belief that that there is a clear point of aesthetic continuity linking these seemingly disparate figures, a shared avant-garde heritage that some might fail to grasp, or choose to overlook – obscured as they are under a thick layer of frosted water vapour. That being said, it occasionally seems as if Ford isn’t entirely sure what to make of all this – of existing in a cultural realm where, as he puts it elsewhere in the volume, ‘Enchantment’ is now most definitely up ‘for sale’.115 He is clearly aware of the fact that ‘word power!’ has become inextricably linked to the global circulation of capital and systems of economic exchange where, in his formulation, ‘partners depend on a bad case/Of top performance and the international rates are so reasonable, too’.116 Further to this, as the very title of his collection of ‘poster-poems’ suggests, Ford is acutely aware of the fact that he is himself implicated in the workings of a cultural and historical realm defined by industrial and international processes of technological reproducibility. This comes to the fore nowhere more prominently than in the manner that Ford quite deliberately and dramatically toys with notions of authorial self-presentation in Spare Parts. Many decades before, fed up with people asking him if he was in fact related to his industrialist namesake Henry Ford, Charles changed the spelling of his middle name from Henry to Henri. Knowing this, it comes as something of a surprise to find the famous Ford company logo prominently displayed on the cover-spine of Spare Parts. All the more, given that it occupies the very space where we would expect to find the author’s name. Why, then, would Ford now choose, after so many years, to align himself to this particular captain of American industry, why choose to foreground exactly that which he once tried to avoid? In short: this only half-ironic choice of moniker stands to amplify Ford’s conscious immersion in an industrialist milieu in which names and signatures can easily become, as he puts it in Spare Parts, ‘Rechargeable Emblems/LIKE/new Ford Pickups’.117 Ford is, in other words, foregrounding the fact that the imprimatur – the traditional guarantee of aesthetic uniqueness

Charles Henri Ford


and sincerity – has become inextricably linked with the impersonal processes of mechanical reproduction in the age of Warhol. However, despite demonstrating his acute awareness of the shifting conditions of aesthetic production, the fact remains that Ford’s position within the cultural sphere he so accurately describes remains open to debate. Hence those anxious lines in ‘Poems wanted NOW’ about frozen ‘butterflies’ going unnoticed. The sheer number of contradictory, self-referential remarks contained in Spare Parts attest to the fact that Ford was deeply preoccupied with the question of his poetic and aesthetic standing during the 1960s. Some of these self-referential remarks are self-aggrandizing and draw attention to ‘the/velvet authority of Ford’s competition-bred performance’.120 Some try to convince both author and reader alike that ‘Ford’s miracle crew… Carries/More weight than MISSISSIPPI’.121 And some are defiant and faintly risqué: ‘FLIGHT COAT’ fun now pulsing AMERICA’S hidden chain what is best for my Fourth Necessity your life Charles HOLD YOUR HEART STICK JUST ENOUGH122

It almost seems as if Ford is imploring himself to stay the course in this passage, as if he is trying to convince himself that his uncredited role in ‘AMERICA’S hidden chain’ (or assembly line) of avant-garde cultural production will one day be properly acknowledged. Surrounded as he was by a number of seemingly receptive queer kindred avant-garde spirits, Ford may well have thought that his time had finally arrived. Yet there are also a number of moments in Spare Parts where Ford’s confidence and self-referential bravado appears to fall away. A more honest assessment of Ford’s ‘velvet authority’ can be said to emerge during such moments: TRUE TRADE roves …then when we sail no place our changing GOVERNOR finds himself outgrown.123

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


Outgrown? Possibly. Unnoticed? Arguably. Something of a spare part? Just maybe. In any case, unsure of and aggrieved at his position on the cultural margins, this roving ‘GOVERNER’s’ attitude towards all that surrounds him now becomes somewhat more ambivalent: this is something that really comes to the fore in his second book-length edition of Fordographs. We might, however, be forgiven for thinking otherwise – at least initially. Even more so than Spare Parts, Silver Flower Coo appears in many ways absolutely indebted to the models of Pop promulgated in New York City throughout the second half of the 1960s. Consider the title of the collection. Silver Flower Coo alludes to two of the major projects that Warhol undertook during the decade currently in question. I have in mind here his silk-screened Flowers (1964) and inflatable Silver Clouds (1966). And it goes almost without saying, of course, that the title Ford lighted on for this collection conjures up mental images of the various tin foils and silver strips with which Warhol decorated the first Factory. Indeed, featuring as it does a black and white cover photo taken by the Pop-affiliate Peter Fink at the Union Square Factory on 7 March 1968, a case suggesting that Silver Flower Coo need itself be thought of as a product of the Warholian production line doesn’t seem entirely out of the question.124 For one thing, the silvery sheen of the collection’s cover brings to mind the sort of glacial coolness one tends to associate with Warhol. This is unquestionably the sense we get when we turn our attention to the contents of Silver Flower Coo. In marked contrast to the colourful vibrancy of its immediate predecessor, the paste-up poems of this volume are all in basic black and white. They are also largely imagefree. The collection in this respect appears almost minimalistic when compared to the earlier Spare Parts. In equal measure, however, despite cosmetic differences such as this, it is clear that Ford conceived of Silver Flower Coo as the companion piece to Spare Parts. He emphasizes this in a letter he sent to Tyler on 2 September 1966: ‘I believe my book looks, and is, unbelievable. I’ve more than halfway thru poem paste-ups for a 160-page sequel – but I may not incorporate images or color  – Poems in Black & White was my first working title, now I’ve switched to OBSESSION AVENUE. (Like?).’125 While there is no record of what Tyler made of the working titles that Ford mentions in his letter, it is clear that some of the topics that preoccupied


Charles Henri Ford

his friend in 1966 continued to do so, obsessively some might say, in 1968. For instance, the fifth Coo – ‘C H SPEAKS UP’ – opens with the following acknowledgement: The new artists for the new era are now appearing Balanced 6 times longer126

Ford goes on to clarify elsewhere in the volume that these ‘new artists’ are ones whose aesthetic sensibilities are geared towards all things Pop: Up with Pop poetry, THE GAME Changes          WHEN     mass delivery Brings on A DREAMtreat it MEANS ‘THE IMAGE’ rolls with holes.127

Ford clearly recognizes the ‘GAME’ changing cultural and aesthetic impact of Pop. As in Spare Parts, Ford strives in Silver Flower Coo to remind the reader of the changes in modes of aesthetic production brought about by an aesthetic that is structured around ideas of ‘mass delivery’ and potentially endless means of reproducibility. Given all this, it comes as no surprise to find that Warhol is at the forefront of Ford’s mind in Silver Flower Coo: Complexity blooms are no longer a Gamble   WHAT WENT WRONG Even a Jet-Set child WITH brush-on Burp HAS a lot of tacky loot  A Grocery bill DYED BLACK Monroe’s americana Rock AND rage in the UTTER But how   can you get A playground For yourself Only   We don’t know Either.128

I think it is safe to say that Warhol – the producer of all those instantly recognizable, ‘brushed-on’ silkscreens – is the unnamed subject of these lines.129 Warhol had achieved iconic status by the time Ford published Silver Flower Coo. He was – as Ford suggests – a fully fledged member

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


of the international art world. Consider, however, the wider context of Ford’s acknowledgement of Warhol’s ensconced position at the head of contemporary aesthetic affairs. He seems to be suggesting that something has gone ‘WRONG’ if a jet-setting ‘child’ like Warhol can perform such dazzling aesthetic feats. In marked contrast to the entirely positive appraisal of all things ‘Andy’ that we encountered in the central poem of Spare Parts, Ford now appears to be on the verge of denouncing the Pop master as a complexityfree, ‘loot’-accumulating aesthetic trickster. Significantly, the emphasis that Ford places on Warhol’s acquired ‘loot’ stands in contrast to the evaluation of his own hoardings of cultural stock. In the forty-ninth Coo – ‘Enrichment for Sale’ – he declares: Yes, Christ Gave Us  BUILT-IN  eek and the sons of night Get more thanks to the  SADISTIC  French I SAW  The Face of  STEIN It’s real.130

This is a significant moment within Silver Flower Coo as it draws attention to an aspect of Ford’s writing that may easily be overlooked amid all the syntactical disjunction on display. Whereas in his previous collection of poster-poems Ford moved to situate Warhol in relation to earlier cultural producers such as Duchamp, he now seeks to position himself in relation to long-gone modernist writers like Gertrude Stein. Something similar occurs at the end of Ford’s forty-first Coo: if you were born in 1933… Cummings’ always-summer field of gold WILL NEVER LOSE ITS RIPPLE.131

How best to account for the nostalgic, rosy-tinted hue through which Ford has inexplicably, it seems, begun to view the world? We have, in a certain fashion, come full circle. Recall here our discussion of Ford’s interview with the photographer Allen Frame. Recall, specifically, the strangely defensive comments that Ford made about the time he spent on the set of Marcel Carne’s Terrain Vague. We had cause at that juncture to suggest that Ford was trying in some fashion to deflect attention away from his famous friend.


Charles Henri Ford

We also suggested that Ford did this in order to shore up his own sense of achievement. I want now to suggest that slightly more attention need be paid to the manner in which Ford has to cast his mind back into the past in order to be able to do this. There is, in one sense, nothing unusual about such a gesture. Ford was, after all, an old man when he sat down with Frame in 1997.132 There is, however, something slightly unusual about the sentimental tone that, for the first time, begins to creep into poetry that Ford was producing at the end of the 1960s. We are talking, after all, about a resolutely forward-thinking man who was, at the start of the decade, demanding that his close friend keep him in the loop about potential developments in cutting-edge contemporary culture. We are, to take another example, talking here of a man who was perfectly willing to stand up for what he believed in when it came to the issue of contemporary aesthetics. This is something that we see in a longrunning exchange he conducted with Tyler through the latter half of 1964 and the first few months of 1965. On 13 August 1964, Tyler told Ford: ‘Your allegiance to Pop, of course, irritates me since I would regard anything so undiscriminating as your tone a great weakness in anyone.’133 Ford appears on this occasion, somewhat uncharacteristically, to have been willing to bite his tongue. Perhaps this is why Tyler continued to goad him. ‘Ah’, Tyler wrote on 3 December, ‘what is worse than the wrong sort of “divinity”? Page it in Pop Art: it’ll answer with the tongues of a thousand dumbdoras. As if I hadn’t defined the heart and the limits of dumbdora sublimity as long ago as the H[ollywood] H[allucination], that constantly cited classic… . Who wants the comicstrip blueandpinkprints? Flabby art-poshes.’134 This time, Ford did take the bait. ‘Honey’, he replied, ‘you can’t put down Pop Art – don’t keep trying – it’s like trying to put down a WHOLE EPOCH (I already told you, man). Everybody doesn’t HAVE to be HIP, of course – nobody’s FORCING you xxx.’135 Having thus warmed to his task, Ford delivered the final word on the matter on 6 February 1965: ‘I saw the value of Pop Art in 1962; people who were sticking up their noses then are some of them the same people who’re sticking their noses in now.’136 How best then to account for the profound changes that seem to have occurred in Ford’s thinking in the relatively short span of time stretching between 1965 and 1968? Appropriately enough, the answer, which has

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


everything to do with the notion of Ford’s understanding of his position in contemporary artistic circles, is contained in Silver Flower Coo: A prescription KISS IS ENOUGH Dawn still has a future It’s More Brilliant Than a [sic] accident keep in touch.137

How best to read these formally and syntactically disjunctive lines? To begin with, we might say a few words about the manner in which this passage appears to find its creator trying his hardest to ‘keep in touch’ with all of the cultural developments unfurling around him. Indeed, this desire to ‘keep in touch’ is of particular significance: it effectively confirms that for Ford it is all there is left for him to do in Silver Flower Coo. This is because even before the publication of that volume, Ford’s close friends and associates had begun to re-evaluate his aesthetic standing.138 Gerard Malanga, for example, had already begun to refer to him as ‘Dear Charlie Pop Candy Pop’ in 1964.139 Malanga’s term of endearment can be read in one of two ways. On the one hand, this kind of recognition defers to Ford’s desired position as an established older artist, and positions him as precursor and in direct relation to Pop. At the same time, the decidedly playful tone undercuts any sense of paternalistic authority and gravitas that may be attached to such a standing, emphasizing the gulf between Ford and his young interlocutor. We find something similar in the ambiguous poetic character-study of ‘Charlie Pop’ contained in Malanga and Warhol’s co-authored Screen Tests/A Diary (1967): Genitals are flashing by and then colors. In the next year summer will be good to you with the young friends beside you. The fact of the matter is the dream that guides you into a life time of sunlight over your head. And relations get younger. Rain has begun to fall and tears, also. What are you thinking about? They were lined


Charles Henri Ford

up at the boardwalk and the sound of the sea shore colliding with waves. You do not withdraw from the tear drop-out. What’s beyond the horizon is not visible at high tide.140

As well as reminding us of the colourful and visually vibrant aspect of the Fordographs, Malanga’s suggestion that ‘Genitals are flashing by and then colors’ foregrounds the role that sexuality plays in Ford’s prose and poetry. Malanga’s closing suggestion that ‘What’s beyond/the horizon is not visible at high tide’ is similarly significant as it adds to the impression that a tipping point – a sort of ‘high tide’ – has been reached in Ford’s career. Malanga seeks, on the one hand, to reassure his friend that there are many more summers to come. On the other, Malanga emphasizes the gulf between Ford and ‘the young/friends’ that he continues to gather around him. In this sense, then, while Malanga’s diary entry acts as a mark of respect, it also serves to situate an ageing Ford against an increasingly melancholic poetic backdrop in which artistic friends and ‘relations’ only ever seem to get ‘younger’. Written two years later, ‘Malanga’s Life of Ford’ suggests that the gulf separating Charles Henri and his younger relations had continued to widen. Malanga debates Ford’s position in the annals of cultural history in this poem: but whether his life merely circulated as a hot foot note in the business world of poetry i don’t know for that he should go around with the aura evolving about him stories passed along as a hearing aid whisper among strangers and friends he is like the night of jupiter and lives in that fashion141

Malanga’s suggestively worded account of the ‘aura evolving around’ his friend and mentor is certainly well intentioned. Having said that, the connotations of physical decrepitude that come attached to a ‘hearing aid whisper’ are hardly

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


likely to have assuaged any anxieties Ford might have had during this period about his standing in contemporary cultural circles. In moments such as this, dearest ‘Charlie Pop’ comes across less, as he most surely must have known, as a vital creative presence – or even a benevolent father figure – than he does a significantly diminished historical relic, a ‘groggy’ yet sociable butterfly, if you will, caught betwixt and between the frozen plates of the modern and the postmodern.

Notes   1 Gerard Malanga to Charles Henri Ford, 13 December 1963, series 2, box 14, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.   2 Ford introduced Malanga to Warhol in the fall of 1962. Malanga subsequently became Warhol’s silk-screening assistant.   3 Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism (London: Penguin, 2010), 32.   4 Warhol and Hackett, POPism, 32.   5 Quoted in Allen Frame, ‘Charles Henri Ford’.   6 Parker Tyler, Underground Film: A Critical History (New York: Da Capo Press, [1969] 1995), 24–5.  7 Tyler, Underground Film, 25.   8 Jim Hoberman, ‘Introduction’, in Underground Film: A Critical History, ed. Parker Tyler (New York: Da Capo Press, [1969] 1995), v.   9 Daniel Kane, We Saw the Light: Conversations Between the New American Cinema and Poetry (Iowa City: Iowa University Press, 2009), 9. 10 As well as having long-established links with the noted film critic Parker Tyler, Ford appeared in Jack Smith’s Underground Film, No President (1968). Ford also made his own experimental films: Poem Posters (1968) and Johnny Minotaur (1971). 11 Warhol was not the only prominent Pop artist who made a lasting impression on Ford. He was also impressed with and influenced by the work of James Rosenquist and Claes Oldenburg. 12 Tillman, ‘Cut up Life’, ix. 13 Ibid., xii. 14 In his diary, Tillman notes, ‘Ford is unself-conscious about his devotion to the cause of aesthetics and the examined life.’ Ibid.


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15 Ford, Water from a Bucket, 117. 16 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 17 November 1951, container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 17 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 7 March 1952, container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 18 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 7 March 1952, HRC. 19 As mentioned previously, Ford tried his hand at a number of different artistic pursuits in the late 1940s and 1950s. For a number of years he conceived of himself as something of a playwright. (Ford also wrote the libretto for an opera entitled Denmark Vesey.) Before renouncing the craft in 1951, Ford wrote a number of plays, including ‘Alexander’, ‘Let’s Get Out of Here’, ‘The Labyrinth’, and ‘The Poet’ (which was based on a short story by Isak Dinesen). Copies of these plays can be found in Ford’s archive at the Harry Ransom Center. However, not all of Ford’s friends were particularly impressed with the results. Consider, for instance, Parker Tyler’s rather withering assessment of Ford’s turn to theatrical matters: ‘You’d much rather influence than be influenced. As for me, I am modest in wanting to communicate. As it happens, Lionel [Abel] (with whom I’ve renewed familiarity in a vague way) sides with you. He wants to influence. It seems to be typical of people who want to write plays. The basic theatrical drive is doubtless a form of personal exhibitionism: the actor is a proxy, the playwright is aware of a physical gaze. Oh, Narcissus, how various thy forms! In your case, the drive seems largely to be a reaction against your (self-estimated) failure to produce a considerable effect on the poetry-reading audience. You want the audience-reaction and you want it loud. Personally, I prefer Pound’s old esteem and Williams’ lone paean to Pulitzer Prizes, constant salvos from reviewers, and solicitations from publishers. I can’t deny my emotion when Margaret Marshall accepted my sonnet on Socrates for The Nation. But my normal irony rapidly adjusts such injuries done to the proper equilibrium.’ Parker Tyler to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 1, box 4, folder 2, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. 20 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 26 December 1952, container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 21 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 26 January 1953, container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 22 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 13 December 1952, container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 23 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 13 December 1952, HRC.

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


24 Ford, Water from a Bucket, 47. 25 Ford’s outburst does not occur in isolation, as an earlier journal entry of October 1948 confirms: ‘Ice-cream cones, hot dogs, soda pop in bottles – all of these are identified with America – and symbolic of what we like in sex too.’ Ibid., 13. 26 Ibid., 67. 27 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 13 September 1940, container 8, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 28 Charles Henri Ford to Edith Sitwell, 5 November 1947, series 2, box, 14, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 29 Consider Jean-Paul Sartre’s highly influential ‘What is Literature?’ (1947). Published originally as a six-part essay in the journal Les Temps modernes, Sartre’s text was highly critical of Surrealism. In Sartre’s estimation, André Breton and the Surrealists ‘lived in a comfortable and lavish period when despair was still a luxury. They condemned their country because they were still insolent with victory; they denounced war because the peace would be a long one. They were all victims of the disaster of 1940: the reason is that the moment for action had come and that none of them were armed for it. Some killed themselves, others are in exile; those who have returned are exiled among us. They were the proclaimers of catastrophe in the time of the fat cows; in the time of the lean cows they have nothing more to say’. Jean-Paul Sartre, What is Literature? (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge Classics, [1948, 1950] 2011), 152. A translation of Sartre’s ‘The Nationalization of Literature’ also appeared in the ‘Paris’ edition of View 7, nos. 2–3 (1946). 30 Jackson Pollock held his fourth solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s ‘Art of This Century’ in February 1947. Mark Rothko’s first one-man show opened at the Betty Parsons Gallery in March. Not long after this, in May, Robert Motherwell exhibited at the Samuel M. Kootz Gallery. During the summer of 1947, Clyfford Still held a solo exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. 31 Tyler’s stance when it came to the question of Abstract Expressionism was not nearly as clear-cut as his friend’s. In 1945 Tyler argued that Jackson Pollock’s ‘may hide a protest against the cool architectural objectivity of the abstractionist mode as it makes its subjective statement. Pollock does not seem to be especially talented, there being too much of an air of baked macaroni about some of his patterns, as though they were scrambled baroque designs. But he has a strong feeling for matière and on occasion is an interesting colourist’. Parker Tyler, ‘Nature and Madness Among the Younger Painters’, View 5, no. 2 (1945): 30.

Charles Henri Ford


Tyler’s opinion of Pollock softened considerably over time. In 1950 he had cause to describe Pollock’s ‘subtle patterns of pure form’. Parker Tyler, ‘Jackson Pollock: The Infinite Labyrinth’, Magazine of Art 43, no. 3 (1950): 93. 32 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 14 December 1955, container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 33 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 14 December 1955, HRC. 34 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 25 November 1958, container 8, folder 6, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 35 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 6 July 1958, container 8, folder 6, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 36 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 31 March 1959, container 8, folder 6, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 37 Ford does, however, refer to a broad spectrum of cultural groupings in a letter dated 31 October 1960: ‘My pictures are non-representational (except that what is “represented” is invented, so to speak), non-descriptive, but they do not belong to the abstract-expressionist, or “action” or “tachiste” schools. Someone might label them “abstract surrealist” – and my poetry too, by the way.’ Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 31 October 1960, container 9, folder 1, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 38 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 7 July 1960, container 9, folder 1, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 39 Clement Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 4, 78. 40 Ibid., 80. 41 Ibid. 42 Mark Rothko’s work was on public display at MOMA between January and March 1961. The ‘American Abstract Expressionist and Imagists’ exhibition opened at the Guggenheim in October and ran until December 1961. 43 Claes Oldenburg, ‘Selected Writings on The Store and the Ray Gun Theatre’, in Claes Oldenburg (October Files), ed. Nadja Rottner (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), 86. 44 Oldenburg, ‘Selected Writings’, 86. 45 Ibid. 46 Barbara Haskell, Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism, and Performance: 1958–1964 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1984), 69–70. 47 Greenberg, The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 4, 178. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid.

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


51 Ibid., 181. 52 Ibid. 53 Arthur C. Danto, Andy Warhol (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 46. 54 Danto, Andy Warhol, 46. 55 Ibid., 32. 56 Ibid., 36. 57 An exhibition of Warhol’s work subsequently opened at the New York-based Stable Gallery in November 1962. This was quickly followed by ‘The New Realists’ exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery. Three pieces by Warhol were selected for inclusion in the show. 58 Danto, Andy Warhol, 36. 59 Walter Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility’ (Third Version) (1939), Selected Writings: Volume 4, 1938-1940 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 252. 60 Benjamin, ‘The Work of Art’, 253. 61 Ibid., 254. 62 Ibid., Original emphasis. 63 Ibid., 256. Original emphasis. 64 Notice the revealing manner in which Oldenburg uses scare quotes when referring to the topic of artistic creation. 65 Warhol and Hackett, POPism, 20. 66 Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 9. 67 Jameson, Postmodernism, 12. 68 Ibid., 10. 69 My reference to the Catholic rite of transubstantiation echoes Arthur C. Danto’s appropriation of religious terminology in The Transfiguration of the Commonplace (1981). Danto’s account of the transfiguration of the commonplace begins with Marcel Duchamp. Danto points out that it was Duchamp ‘who first performed the subtle miracle of transforming, into works of art, objects from the Lebenswelt of commonplace existence: a grooming comb, a bottle rack, a bicycle wheel, a urinal’. Significantly, Danto also argues that Warhol should be viewed as a successor to Duchamp. In Warhol’s art, however, his ‘transfigured objects were so sunk in banality that their potentiality for aesthetic contemplation remained beneath scrutiny even after metamorphosis. This way the question of what made them artworks could be broached without bringing aesthetic considerations in at all’. Arthur C. Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981), vi.

Charles Henri Ford


70 Quoted in Ira Cohen, ‘Charles Henri Ford’, in Gay Sunshine Interviews, ed. Winston Leyland (San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1984), 58. 71 Consider the title of the magazine that Warhol founded with the British journalist John Wilcock in 1969: inter/View. It is a commonly accepted fact that with this act of naming Warhol was acknowledging the enduring importance of Ford’s View. 72 Cécile Whiting, A Taste for Pop: Pop Art, Gender, and Consumer Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 146. 73 The original ‘Silver’ Factory studio opened in 1962 and was located at 231 East Forty-seventh Street in Manhattan. The second Factory opened in 1968 and was situated at 22 Union Square West. The final Factory opened in 1973 at 860 Broadway and closed in 1984. 74 ‘The people who found their way to the Factory were typically beautiful but also lost, so that what they possessed was at most a kind of “piss glamour,” to use an epithet once bestowed on Edie Sedgwick, Warhol’s paradigm Superstar. In many cases they were destroyed by the Factory’s permissiveness, whether of sex or substance.’ Danto, Warhol, 49. 75 Ibid. 76 Simon Watney reminds us of the fact that ‘Warhol was provocatively passive and always able to initiate the most intense rivalries between his acolytes, lovers, friends, and family. Everyone had to compete for his attention’. Simon Watney, ‘Queer Andy’, in Pop Out: Queer Warhol, ed. Jennifer Doyle, Jonathan Flatley and José Esteban Muñoz (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 25. 77 Stephen Koch, Stargazer: Andy Warhol’s World and His Films (London: Calder & Boyars Ltd, 1973), 25. Original emphasis. 78 Juan A. Suárez, Bike Boys, Drag Queens, & Superstars: Avant-Garde, Mass Culture, and Gay Identities in the 1960s Underground Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), 247. 79 We might say that Suárez’s stance, yoking together as it does talk of ‘media circulation’ and ‘near magical’ decoding, sits somewhere between the two positions outlined above. 80 Quoted in John Wilcock, The Autography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol (New York: Trela Media LLC, [1971] 2010), 71. 81 Quoted in Wilcock, The Autography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, 55. 82 Ibid., 61. 83 Quoted in Allen Frame, ‘Charles Henri Ford’. 84 Lynne Tillman, telephone interview with the author, 24 November 2010.

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


85 Charles Henri Ford to Parmenia Ekstrom, 10 February 1965, series 2, box 7, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 86 Charles Henri Ford to Arne Ekstrom, 10 February 1965, series 2, box 7, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 87 Vassily Papachrysanthou worked as Ford’s printing assistant on Spare Parts. 88 Charles Henri Ford, ‘“I WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE MY SEX AS I CHANGE MY SHIRT” – ANDRE BRETON (a poem for Philip Lamantia)’, series 1, box 4, folder 8, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 89 Charles Henri Ford, ‘Ginsberg Behind the Scenes’, series 1, box 4, folder 8, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 90 Maria Fusco, ‘Charles Henri Ford’, Frieze Magazine (112, 2008, Online Edition): (accessed 10 May 2016). 91 Fusco, ‘Charles Henri Ford’. 92 Roberta Smith, ‘Charles Henri Ford, “Printed Matter 1929-1969,”’ New York Times (25 June 1999, Online Edition): arts/art-in-review-charles-henri-ford-printed-matter-1929-1969.html?src=pm (accessed 5 May 2016). 93 Ford also spent a significant portion of time in the 1960s in Greece. This is where Spare Parts was printed and published. 94 Parker Tyler, ‘Charles Henri Ford: From Poet to Graphipoet’ (1966), series 3, box, 18, folder 4, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, 7. 95 Cleaving to a properly Duchampian notion of cultural production, Bürger takes a famously dim view of Warholian Pop: ‘What Adorno calls “mimetic adaptation to the hardened and alienated” has probably been realized by Warhol: the painting of 100 Campbell soup cans contains resistance to the commodity society only for the person who wants to see it there … . The Neo-avant-garde, which stages for a second time the avant-gardiste break with tradition, becomes a manifestation that is void of sense and that permits the positing of any meaning whatsoever.’ Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, [1974], 1984), 61. 96 Tyler, ‘Charles Henri Ford: From Poet to Graphipoet’, 2. 97 Ibid., 8. 98 Ibid., 8–9. 99 Ibid., 9.

Charles Henri Ford

186 100 Ibid., 10.

101 Karen L. Rood, ‘Charles Henri Ford’, in Dictionary of Literary Biography: Volume 48: American Poets, 1880-1945, ed. Peter Quartermain (Detroit: A Broccoli Clark Book, 1986), 200. 102 Allen Ginsberg, ‘Spare Parts (Advertisement)’, [n.d.], series 1, box 4, folder 10, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library, n.pag. Where possible I have attempted to preserve ‘eccentric orthography of multitudinous type-fonts’ when citing from Spare Parts. 103 Charles Henri Ford, Spare Parts (Athens, Greece: A New View Book, 1966), n.pag. 104 P. Adam Sitney’s recent critical account of Brakhage is worth quoting here: ‘Stan Brakhage began to make films in 1952 as a precocious teenager. His encounter with modernist poetry was immediate and eccentric. But it made so forceful an impression on him that the modernism of the American avant-garde cinema has been largely defined and molded by his achievements. He quickly assimilated the modernist dimensions of the avant-garde filmmakers who were at work when he entered the field. His passion for poetry and his eagerness to incorporate the advanced work in both practice and theory, of composers and painters of his time as well, accelerated his meteoric development and influence.’ P. Adams Sitney, The Cinema of Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 149. 105 In ‘Make Place for the Artist’ (1955), Brakhage declares: ‘I believe in magic. I am learning to cast spells. My profession is transforming.’ Stan Brakhage, Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking (New York: Documentext, 2001), 74. 106 This phrase is taken from Brakhage’s ‘The Seen’ (1974). We get a clearer sense of Brakhage’s deep-seated, quasi-Blakean commitment to inner truth in this particular essay: ‘I have seen – as Kirlian photography almost touches on now, any maybe does – I have seen leaves spark or emit a spark-like emanation at their edges that are offshoots directly of the veins within that leaf, and therefore as that leaf grows, do create a metaphor previous to the extension of these veins. These things I have seen, one, because I have been involved with seeing all my life and I’m really open to seeing all there is when I’m well.’ Brakhage, Essential Brakhage, 157. 107 David E. James, ‘Amateurs in the Industry Town: Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol in Los Angeles’, in Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker, ed. David E. James (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005), 64.

Spare Parts, or, Caught Between Pop and a Historical Hard Place


108 James, ‘Amateurs in the Industry Town’, 74. 109 Ibid., 64. 110 Annette Michelson, ‘“Where Is Your Rupture?” Mass Culture and the Gesamtkunstwerk’, in Andy Warhol (October Files), ed. Annette Michelson (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002), 106. 111 Ford, Spare Parts, n.pag. 112 Ibid. 113 Roberto Matta designed the cover for Ford’s The Overturned Lake (1941). In this sense the line can also be read in self-referential terms. 114 André Breton was an early supporter of Matta, who joined the Surrealist movement in 1937. His stock in Surrealist circles continued to rise until 1947 (when Breton publicly expelled him from the group). 115 Ford, Spare Parts, n.pag. 116 Ibid. 117 Ibid. 118 Ibid. 119 Ibid. 120 Ibid. 121 Ibid. 122 Ibid. 123 Ibid. 124 Jack Smith, Taylor Mead, Viva, and Charles Henri Ford are some of the people pictured on the collaged cover of Silver Flower Coo. 125 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 2 September 1966, container 9, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 126 Charles Henri Ford, Silver Flower Coo (New York: Kulchur Press, 1968), n.pag. Due to limitations of space, I have not been able recreate the exact typography of the poems in this volume, though all original punctuation and capitalization has been preserved. 127 Ford, Silver Flower Coo, n.pag. 128 Ibid. 129 Ford also alludes to Robert Rauschenberg in this Coo. Specifically, the description of ‘A/Grocery bill DYED BLACK’ evokes Rauschenberg’s Combines of the 1950s and 1960s. Ford knew that Rauschenberg had influenced Warhol. When asked whether Rauschenberg was the artist who influenced Warhol the most, Ford replied: ‘Probably, because Andy took over the silkscreen and made it his own thing.’ Quoted in Wilcock, The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol, 55.

Charles Henri Ford


130 Ford, Silver Flower Coo, n.pag. 131 Ibid. 132 Ford’s interview with Allen Frame is undated. However, given that, in 1997, Frame and Ford mounted a joint photography exhibition at the Leslie Tonkonow Gallery, New York, it is reasonable to assume the interview’s provenance can be attributed to this time. 133 Parker Tyler to Charles Henri Ford, 13 August 1964, container 4, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 134 Parker Tyler to Charles Henri Ford, 3 December 1964, container 4, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 135 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 10 December 1964, series 2, box, 9, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 136 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 6 February 1965, series 2, box, 9, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 137 Ford, Silver Flower Coo, n.pag. 138 The Factory filmmaker Paul Morrissey suggests that Ford was perceived as a ‘real historical character’ by the time that Pop exploded onto the scene in the 1960s. Quoted in James Dowell and John Kolomvakis (dirs.), Sleep in a Nest of Flames (2000). 139 Gerard Malanga to Charles Henri Ford, 24 April 1964, series 2, box, 14, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 140 Gerard Malanga and Andy Warhol, Screen Tests/A Diary (New York: Kulchur Press, 1967), 17. 141 Gerard Malanga, 10 Poems for 10 Poets (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1970), 29. Malanga is alluding in this extract to a collection of short stories that Ford edited: The Night of Jupiter and Other Fantastic Stories (New York: View Editions, 1945).


Multitudes, Mirrors, Crystals, Haiku, Home 1 ‘What am I doing/Here all alone? Reviewing the/Multitudes I’ve known’.1 This is the question an elderly Charles Henri Ford asked himself, riffing on both David Byrne and Walt Whitman, in a short poem published mere months before he passed away, on 27 September 2001. The question I want to ask is a simple one: Can these lines be said to reveal anything about Ford? If so, what is it exactly that they reveal? That we are dealing here with a seemingly weary, mentally fragile, and potentially isolated poet playing one final part on the world’s stage, preparing for the last scene of all? Perhaps, though I am not entirely convinced. Nor am I sure, truth be told, that these are quite the right questions to ask. Consider, for instance, Lynne Tillman’s first-hand account of the poet’s later days. ‘Ford has made a habit of doing what he wants to do’, Tillman observes, ‘and his life is dedicated, as much as anyone’s can be, to poetry, art, and the pursuit of pleasure. He usually adheres to a self-imposed, rigorous routine, and now, just short of 93, he writes haiku poems and makes collages daily.’2 Of course, things could go either way here. We might, on the one hand, argue that Ford’s adherence to such a rigorous regime of creative activity hardly constitutes the behaviour of someone getting ready to give up the ghost. We might, on the other, feasibly assert that the ostensibly contented figure evoked in the extract above comes across as somewhat diminished. It seems fair to say that Ford would have agreed with the first of those statements, while disputing the other simultaneously. This is something that comes to the fore in another of his late poems: Don’t forget the Sixties Were thirty years ago So what else is new?3


Charles Henri Ford

Ford appears to be as aesthetically inquisitive as ever in these particular lines, which were published in 1995 and which more significantly still seem to eschew anything even remotely approaching the condition of sentimentalism. Even at this late stage in life, it seems that Ford was still, in his own fashion, trying to make things new. And yet, as we saw in the previous chapter, the fact remains that in his late verse Ford occasionally sought solace in the foreign country commonly known as the past. We need only return our attention to the poem with which we began in order to confirm this: Ruth posed herself – did Everything except push the Button for Man Ray.4

Ford is referring in this passage to the occasion in 1945 when his younger sister – the Estelle Rigault of the first ever Broadway performance of Sartre’s No Exit – had her portrait taken by none other than Emmanuel Radnitzky, that most famed of Surrealist photographers. In one sense, as intimated above, we are on familiar ground here: Ford is casting his mind back into his rich and varied personal memory-palace in order to convince himself that he – and those nearest and dearest to him – once stood somewhere near the centre of all things artistic and important. However, in this final chapter we will realize that things aren’t quite as simple as they at first appear. This chapter considers the latter stages of Ford’s creative career. This chapter analyses his various poetic and editorial projects of the late 1970s and 1980s. This period saw the publication of Ford’s Om Krishna trilogy (1979–82), Public Haiku (1984), Emblems of Arachne (1986), and, arguably most importantly, a return to Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms (1989). If taken at face value, Ford’s major works of the 1980s seem incommensurate in both form and content. But I want to argue that a certain sort of conceptual unity does in fact underpin Ford’s output of this period. The 1980s represented Ford’s final phase of concerted poetic and editorial activity. As well as reminding us of his investment in Warholian Pop, Ford’s poetry of this period is filled with seemingly wistful references to his apprenticeship as a fresh-faced modernist. This is especially true of Om Krishna. As this chapter reveals, Ezra Pound was never far from Ford’s mind in the 1980s. Ford’s preoccupation with his one-time high modernist mentor gives rise to a

Multitudes, Mirrors, Crystals, Haiku, Home


peculiar anxiety of influence in his late works, as he struggles, at least at first, to make his own poetic voice heard. Ford’s late poetry can also be said to mirror Pound’s uneasy retreat into domesticity in the final section of his modernist epic The Cantos. These and other such similarities are clearly evident in Ford’s Om Krishna III: Secret Haiku. Whereas the first two volumes of this trilogy featured a panoramic sweep of personages and diverse geographical locations, Ford plumps for an altogether more stable spatial setting in Secret Haiku: the humble home. Ford’s choice of setting is significant here, as is his chosen poetic mode – a syllabic style once privileged by modernists such as Pound. Having considered the implications of these decisions, I shift my attention to the poet’s return to the little magazine with which he began. Published in 1989 as a special issue of the avant-garde New York periodical Unmuzzled OX – a magazine which purported, tellingly, to be a postmodern continuation of Pound’s Cantos – the final issue of Blues serves a number of critical functions. Chief among them, Ford saw in the Unmuzzled OX Blues an opportunity to document aspects of his historical moment before it faded forever from view. Further to this, the closing section of this final chapter suggests that while he does not totally succeed in freeing himself from the high modernist spectre of his formative literary apprenticeship, his return to the favoured periodical format of his youth does secure his legacy, and prevents him from getting, as Pound did, tangled up and blue, in a perpetually refracting poetic hall of mirrors.

2 Charles Henri Ford spent much of his time during the 1970s moving back and forth between the islands of Greece, New York City, and Kathmandu, Nepal. It was in the last of these places that Ford first developed a curiosity in Buddhism. Ford’s interest in the religion impacted significantly on the poetry he produced in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We see this in his multi-volume Om Krishna project. Originally conceived as a tetralogy, this particular enterprise in fact ended up a truncated trilogy. Om Krishna I: Special Effects and Om Krishna II: From the Sickroom of the Walking Eagles are formally and thematically diffuse poetic inventories of (among other things) Indian and Buddhist mythology


Charles Henri Ford

conducted in rolling, Whitmaneseque chunks of free verse. The final volume in the trilogy is, by way of complete contrast, a fairly spartan collection of Ford’s Secret Haiku. In spite of differences such as these, however, even the most cursory reading of the trilogy reveals the depth of Ford’s engagement with specifically Buddhist forms of religiosity and iconography. This is certainly true of Special Effects: Manjuri began to plow a furrow, having yoked a lion and a griffin. Dharma Sri Mitra went up to him and asked the way to Tibet. The mongoose on the postern turned back his eyes that he might not witness a fratricide.5

What we have in this passage is a curious admixture of the ancient and the contemporary. Notice in particular how Ford weaves together multiple allusions – from heraldic images of Buddhist symbology, to a modern-day master of Yoga – in a fashion that will be instantly recognizable to readers of twentieth-century experimental Anglophone poetry. Attention need also be paid to the manner in which the stanza opens. I am especially interested in the bodhisattva associated with transcendent wisdom who makes an appearance at the start of the first line. I mention this here as the topic of Buddhist wisdom is one that carries over into the second volume of Om Krishna: Mother Saraswati is pounding the pavement of Heat Street Going to gather ash-blue plums (Krishna has two of his own same size shape and color) On the Dunes of the Ocean of Learning (her true domain) Those bearded crows of nostalgia won’t go away But she is not disturbed by their cawing.6

There is a lot we might say about these lines, especially about the noisy ‘bearded crows of nostalgia’ that appear to be disturbing the peace. To do so, however, would be to leap too far ahead. For the time being, I instead want simply to state that Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of music, art, knowledge, learning, and wisdom. She also features prominently in Nepalese Buddhist iconography. Krishna – the proud owner of two ‘ash-blue plums’ – also makes

Multitudes, Mirrors, Crystals, Haiku, Home


an appearance in the passage above. And here he is yet again, this time in the playful Secret Haiku: Krishna rushes by Front door, chasing with his butterfly Net a pig.7

Still, I am not, truth be told, all that interested in simply noting the number of times Krishna’s name crops up in Ford’s late project. I am more interested in describing the way in which Om Krishna contains myriad references to the varied modern and postmodern writers and artists that Ford numbered as his peers. I am also interested in considering why he would choose to pepper his late work with all these modern and postmodern multitudes. So let us return now to the first instalment of the trilogy. Consider the information contained in the following lines: Seemingly unaware of half-elliptic reactors He will pose for a likeness to be executed in fur nace slag On completion it is given passes through the Claes Oldenburg finishing mill Sprayed with high temperature effervescence It may con correspondents at the next Biennale and be offered to Peggy Guggenheim Who will throw a shrinkage fit and file her nails with smyrna emery With eyelid catalepsy she avoids the aborting of a ewe8

This passage is found just about halfway down on the very first page of Om Krishna I. Its concerns are of a resolutely secular nature, and it stages the thematic continuity between these lines and those contained in earlier undertakings such as Spare Parts. Much as he did in that volume, Ford yokes together rapidfire references to industrial processing plants, Pop producers, and wealthy American art collectors – so as to remind his readership of the networked fields of contemporary aesthetics, heavy industry, and global commerce. Ford was, as it happens, on very friendly personal terms with the ‘cataleptic’ Peggy Guggenheim. He had in fact known this particular bohemian heiress and


Charles Henri Ford

socialite for the best part of thirty-years by the time Om Krishna I appeared on the literary market.9 In Water from a Bucket, Ford describes how, in October 1949, Guggenheim invited both himself and Pavel Tchelitchew to stay at her seventeenth-century Venetian palazzo. Opinionated as ever, Ford notes in his journal that Guggenheim’s world-famous ‘white marble’ abode ‘is modernized inside, walls painted in not-quite-right solid shade, a Calder mobile hanging in the foyer, and in the garden of a couple of Brancusis; otherwise her collection is hard to look at, especially the messes signed Jackson Pollock’.10 Irrespective of whether we agree with this withering assessment of Pollock’s artistic worth, harking back as it does to our earlier discussion of Abstract Expressionism, the point to emphasize here is this: in order to understand exactly what it is that Ford is trying to get at in his Om Krishna project, we need also to grasp why it is that he feels the need to pepper his late poetry with so many references to friends and former artistic acquaintances. To put it in the simplest language possible: in order to understand what is going on in Ford’s late poetry, we first need to establish what underlying purpose all this seemingly inveterate, perhaps even compulsive, name-dropping serves. This is precisely the sort of thing that we need to keep in mind as we approach the following excerpt, which is taken from the second volume of Om Krishna: Food comes first a sticky banana For breakfast sheep-hustlers prefer chittlings What is Djuna holed up in Patchin Place eating at this moment Clandestine the last bite swallowed by Harry Crosby Jean-Arthur had a date in the desert (where else) There’s a fine connection between digestive acids And alignment for parole.11

Carolyn Korsmeyer reminds us that the representation of ‘food in art extends from the base and gross to the most profound spiritual dimensions, and images of foods range from the decorative to the horrible’.12 She also tells us that many an artist has ‘employed foodstuffs in contexts sacred and profane; to whet the appetite and to keep it at bay; to immerse the viewer in a lusty sensuousness and to catch us unawares with reminders of mortality; to tempt

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and to sicken’.13 We see all this and more in the major works of modernism. One need only think of Bloom’s lunchtime snack of a gorgonzola sandwich and glass of burgundy in Joyce’s Ulysses, or of the manner in which the dinner party sequence at the heart of To the Lighthouse, to borrow from Korsmeyer once more, ‘demonstrates Woolf ’s great preoccupations: time, its passage, and the changes it wreaks; memory and forgetfulness; the irreconcilability of our shifting perspectives on reality’.14 Equally, one might just as soon think of the ‘unexpected excellent sausage,/the smell of mint, for example’ (LXXIV: 458) that spring suddenly to Pound’s mind among the ruins of his Pisan dream,15 or, most famously of all, of Proust’s celebrated, tea-soaked madeleine. In a similar fashion, the arrival of a ‘sticky banana’ in the extract above sets off a chain of associative reactions in Ford’s mind. He starts to reminisce about people closely associated with the formative stages of his literary career. Specifically, he begins to wonder what has become of the woman he once, in the early 1930s, thought of marrying: the reclusive modernist Djuna Barnes. Immediately after this, one of the expatriate writers Ford deigned to publish in the pages of Blues – Harry Crosby, he of that infamous felo de se – hones into view. So, too, does the man whose dress and appearance Ford strove to approximate while working on The Young and Evil in 1930s Paris,16 the crucial proto-Surrealist poet: Jean Arthur Rimbaud. In this sort of passage, that which is absent speaks louder than what is in front of us: a sense of anxiety. A brief comparison between Om Krishna and the previously discussed Silver Flower Coo is instructive in this regard. In particular, recall how, in that earlier text, Ford would repeatedly cast his mind back into the past in order to shore up his personal sense of artistic worth in the present. That simply does not happen in Om Krishna. If anything, Ford seems to have reconciled himself with his position on the cultural sidelines, cracking wise as he now tends to do about his late poetry being ‘a poetry of post-poetry to be published/posthumously’.17 Having said that, it is important to be absolutely clear here. I am not suggesting that Om Krishna is completely devoid of a sense of anxiety, but rather, as we will soon see, that the sort of unease that we encounter in this late project – especially in the third volume – has relatively little to do with Ford’s sense of self, and more to do with the thorny, deeply unfashionable question of poetic influence. Before we broach that particular topic, however, we need to


Charles Henri Ford

spend just a touch more time analysing the brand of anxiety-free nostalgia that comes to characterize Om Krishna. It is in this project that Ford comes to appreciate that what, to crib from Pound once again, ‘thou lov’st well is thy true heritage/What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee’ (LXXXI: 535). We see this most clearly in the closing section of the second volume of Om Krishna: What seems like fragmentation is making all in one Tchelitchew Excelsior of sensory disturbances Prophet turning round and round an opening Avian respiration in everything he did Tidal in certain regions a medium in which to Propagate-Each scan of ancestry Excess of subtlety from the enchanter’s hand.18

By turns elegiac, poignant, and evocative, there is something irresistible about these lines – lines which, on the surface of things, concern perhaps the single most important person to feature in Ford’s long life: Pavel Tchelitchew. As well as praising the paradoxically excessive ‘subtlety’ of Tchelitchew’s painterly brushwork, Ford here describes his former partner’s handcrafted creative output in terms of prophetic, nay properly auratic enchantment. This is posthumous high praise indeed. And there they are again, those most loaded of words. Auratic enchantment. We would do well to bear these two words in mind when reading the following portion of poetry, which is positioned just in front of the one about Tchelitchew: The Synthesis is what I made and what has made me But love lasts longer than fame for many another Whatever the waves are saying will be cradled by the wind Leaving skull-silver mirrors to keep you wondering.19

A clear point of thematic continuity runs between these passages, concerned as they are with the notion of coalescence, of amalgamation. But what are we to make of the suggestion that enduring affection will always, in most cases at

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least, triumph over celebrity? What we have here is, of course, an allusion to Andy Warhol’s pithy assertion to about fifteen minutes of fame. It is one of a number of references in Ford’s late poetry to the artist whose technologically reproducible output, lest we forget, productively complicates the very notion of auratic enchantment. In addition, the line we just quoted about the ‘skullsilver mirrors’ that keep people guessing can also be said to pertain to Ford’s exceptionally famous, Pittsburgh-born friend. As mentioned previously, silver was the colour that came to be associated with the first Factory. Nor is this all. The allusion contained in this line also stirs memories of Warhol’s Self-Portrait with Skull (1977). Do we not find in this deathly image – silvery hairpiece and all – an apt visual correlative to Ford’s evocation of Warholian silver skulls? I think we do. In equal measure, however, it is important to emphasize the fact that Warhol is by no means the only major cultural figure from Ford’s past to appear in Om Krishna. The presence of Ezra Pound is also clearly felt in Ford’s late poetry. Consider the following lines, which appear in the first volume of Om Krishna: The lonely transvestite swooping across a mock gun battle shines in the dark. All his bones melt and he’s a rippling waterfall of flesh, tripping and burning while flicking sema phore messages to the imps of nostalgia. ‘– But it’s got your style, Ezra’, – and that’s any light rising in a supernatural harvest.20

Ford’s aside to that man ‘Ezra’ in this eroticized and ejaculatory passage, containing as it does suggestive references to gushing waterfalls, luminescent and code-emitting transvestites, and gloriously chiselled male torsos, is one of many similar mentions in Om Krishna. Meshing together the corporeal and the numinous, this delightfully white-hot extract, which pitches and careens excitedly across and down the page, forms part of a wider poetic and personal conservation with Pound that takes shape in Ford’s various literary and editorial projects of the late 1970s and 1980s. Note also the telling presence of certain ‘imps of nostalgia’ in this passage. Ford’s attention here seems firmly fixed on the past. This backward glance accounts in part for Pound’s appearance in Om Krishna. It is palpably evident that the man he sought out for advice at the


Charles Henri Ford

very start of his literary career is at the forefront of Ford’s thinking in the first instalment of Om Krishna: I fly no prayer-flags we grow accustomed to amazement I recognize you in the husk of what’s to come.21

Ford alludes in these lines to something that Pound wrote in his late collection of cantos, Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CX-CXVII (1968): A blown husk that is finished but the light still sings eternal. (CXV: 808)

To what might this image of gutted vegetation refer? It seems feasible that such a reference is directed towards The Cantos themselves. The ‘blown husk’ to which Pound refers denotes both disturbance and disintegration; it initially appears representative of a categorically completed process. Yet a glance at the dictionary reminds us of the fact that the term ‘husk’ suggests the outer membrane – or better yet, envelope – of particular sorts of seeds or fruit. In the above lines the outer shell to which Pound refers has certainly been shed – and the contents contained within this vegetal envelope delivered. Ford evidently recognizes the generative potential for dissemination implied by Pound’s paradoxical image of a spent casing. Other examples in Om Krishna similarly reveal the extent of Ford’s preoccupation with the formally provisional late poetry of Pound: Arcane manoeuvrings in a clouded-crystal ball. Distended kickback of the quick-release prong. Wrought-up pushovers require short er feeding periods.22

The first line of the above extract is another allusion to the fragmentary poetic drafts that close out the Cantos: I have brought the great ball of crystal; Who can lift it? (CXVI: 809)

In order to properly understand the sentiment being expressed in this quote, which bears the imprint of Pound’s long-standing interest in neo-platonism, we need to turn to Guide to Kulchur (1938). In this idiosyncratic textbook,

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Pound asserts that ‘we shd. read for power. Man reading shd./be man intensely alive. The book shd. be a ball of light in one’s hand’.23 As is well known, Pound had high hopes that his long modernist poem might one day be thought of as precisely such a portable, light-emitting receptacle. But history tells us that things did not turn out as the Idaho-born poet planned. He simply could not, in his own words, ‘make it cohere’ (CXVI: 810). Pound came instead to the conclusion that he was destined to leave behind ‘a tangle of works unfinished’ (CXVI: 809), that he was in fact doomed to remain ‘Unstill, ever turning’ (CXIII: 804). What, though, does all this have to do with Ford? That is, what do all these passing references have to tell us, aside from the fact that the late Cantos were clearly on Ford’s mind when it came time for him to sit down and write Om Krishna? The rather prosaic answer has much to do with Harold Bloom’s well-trodden theory of poetic influence and anxiety. ‘How do men become poets’, Bloom asks, ‘or to adopt an older phrasing, how is the poetic character incarnated?’24 Bloom reasons that around the time a ‘potential poet first discovers (or is discovered by) the dialectic of influence, first discovers poetry as being both external and internal to himself, he begins a process that will end only when he has no more poetry within him, long after he has the power (or desire) to discover it outside himself again’.25 Bloom then goes on to suggest that while ‘all such discovery is a self-recognition, indeed a Second Birth, and ought, in the pure good of theory, to be accomplished in a perfect solipsism, it is an act never complete in itself ’.26 This, then, is the rub. The aspiring versifier, try as he might, ‘is condemned to learn his profoundest yearnings through an awareness of other selves. The poem is within him, yet he experiences the shame and splendour of being found by poems – great poems – outside him. To lose freedom in this center is never to forgive, and to learn the dread of threatened autonomy forever’.27 All of which is perhaps to say: you are what you read and someone else always gets there first anyway. Ford seems to have been aware of this fact. And this is why his late poetic ventures are full of direct references and allusions to the man whose verses he once copied out verbatim in his journals, as a teenager. It is almost as if Ford, who was by now, ‘in his own final phase, already burdened by an imaginative solitude that is almost a solipsism, holds his own poem so open again to the precursor’s work that at first we might believe the


Charles Henri Ford

wheel has come full circle, and that we are back in the later poet’s flooded apprenticeship, before his strength began to assert itself in the revisionary ratios’.28 As to what Ford would have made of such an assessment? That remains to be seen.

3 Ezra Pound’s late writing is famously difficult. ‘The poetry of the late cantos vacillates’, Sean Pryor notes, ‘apprehending then explaining, presenting then referring, painting a miniature rose then mistrusting it, flaring then disappearing in darkness, striding ahead of the reader then turning back to help or hurry’.29 In spite of difficulties such as these, we need now to come to terms with some of the myriad complexities and contradictions at work in Pound’s very last collection of Cantos. Such an understanding is important: it will enable us to appreciate more fully the nuances of Ford’s Secret Haiku and Emblems of Arachne. But first: Why was Ford so drawn to Pound’s late poetry, especially the so-called Drafts and Fragments? If we are to answer that question, we need first to understand what Pound hoped to achieve in this late collection of cantos. This volume of poetry represented a final concerted effort on the elderly poet’s part to furnish his modernist epic with a proper ending. These highly emotive poetic texts also read as an idiosyncratic attempt to fashion a stable – and tranquil – aesthetic vantage point from which the decidedly world-weary creator of the Cantos might quietly reflect on his life’s work. The remarkable opening canto of the sequence finds Pound at rest in a peaceful and ‘quiet house’ (CX: 791), inspired by the Byzantine basilica situated on the lagoon island of Torcello. Pound makes it clear that he does not want to disturb the tranquillity afforded by this Venetian domicile in the opening lines of Drafts & Fragments. Pound appears to be in a reconciliatory mood in the opening passages of this canto. Downplaying his long-standing interest in conceptions of cultural and political totalitarianism, Pound declares in this poem that he is ‘all for Verkehr without tyranny’ (CX: 791). This ostensibly contrite gesture denotes a dramatic shift in poetic emphasis in his final group of Cantos. Absent, too, is the syntactically rebarbative and ideologically conspiratorial sort of verse that dominated in the preceding sections: Rock-Drill (1955) and Thrones (1959). The lyrically ‘exultant’

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(CX: 791) opening lines of Drafts & Fragments are infused with a sense of playful poetic energy: Hast’ou seen boat’s wake on sea-wall, how crests it. What panache? paw-flap, wave-tap, that is gaiety, Toba Sojo, toward limpidity, that is exultance, here the crest runs on wall. (CX: 791)

Fred Moramarco argues that ‘generative forces’ structure this passage and contribute to the ‘bounding’ appearance of lines of verse that ‘themselves reflect an energetic, vital movement toward clarity’.30 Such analysis would seem to reinforce the view that Pound has, in these final cantos, somehow managed to break away from the dense economic and monetary allusions that had underpinned the earlier Rock-Drill and Thrones. The playful ease with which the opening portions of Drafts & Fragments skip across the page is characteristic of a more general move towards lucidity on Pound’s part. This also accounts for the reference he makes to the Japanese Buddhist narrative scroll painter Toba Sojo (1053–1140). Pound evidently admired Sojo’s finely observed, graceful depictions of flora and fauna.31 The landscape evoked in lyrical opening lines of canto CX resembles the sort of luminescent natural panorama usually associated with Sojo: The water is blue and not turquoise When the stag drinks at the salt spring and sheep come down with the gentian sprout, can you see with eyes of coral or turquoise or walk with the oak’s root? (CX: 791)

Pound delights in the simple pleasures afforded by the natural world in these lines. However, poetic images celebrating the invigorating forces of natural motion – displayed in lines such as ‘che paion’ si al vent’ (CX: 791) – are soon struck ‘dumb’ (CX: 791) by an encroaching notion of almost funereal fixity: Laurel bark sheathing the fugitive, a day’s wraith unrooted? Neath this altar now Endymion lies. (CX: 793)


Charles Henri Ford

This tonal shift relates to Pound’s earlier evocation of ‘2Hår-2la-1llü 3k’ö’ (CX: 791). The ceremony of the indigenous Na-khi tribe of Southwest China at first seems to correspond with the previously mentioned forces of generative motion that Moramarco associates with canto CX. This phrase can be translated as ‘wind sway perform’ and Pound is keen to emphasize such a fact, describing it as the ‘2Hår-2la-1llü 3k’ö’/of the wind sway’ (CX: 791). But it is equally important to note that this particular ceremony is one in which, as William Cookson notes, ‘the demons of suicide are invited, propitiated and exorcised’.32 The ominous undertones attached to the rituals of the Na-khi come to temper the overall tone of canto CX. The initial tranquillity of Drafts & Fragments subsequently gives way to Pound’s melancholy admission that if ‘love be the cause of hate,/something is twisted’ (CX: 794). The reader is now confronted with numerous images of sterility as ‘bare trees walk on the sky-line’ (CX: 794) and of reversal: ‘mountain sunset inverted’ (CX: 794). The contradictory, fluctuating nature of this increasingly morose canto is perhaps most fully embodied in the following passage: Falling spiders and scorpions, Give light against falling poison, A wind of darkness hurls against forest the candle flickers is faint Lux enim – Versus this tempest. (CX: 795)

The falling creatures featured in the first line of this passage provide protection and ‘give light’ against an unidentified form of poison. The portentous tone of the passage is emphasized by the ‘wind of darkness’ that is being violently ‘hurled’ against the forest. The apparently unrelated image of the flickering candle that follows in the fifth line reinforces this negative perspective; and the illumination provided by the light – or perhaps better, the life sustaining – candle buffeted by the blustering winds is worryingly feeble. We need to account for the sudden appearance of the raging ‘tempest’ that now threatens completely to overwhelm the tranquil scene evoked at the outset of Drafts & Fragments. The surprising – and admittedly morbid  – answer has much to do with Pound’s famous conception of Imagism. It is important here to bear in mind that Pound breaks with dense historical and

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economic didacticism and belatedly returns to the formal and conceptual precepts of Imagism in the Drafts & Fragments. Often characterized by what a younger Pound might have described as a ‘sense of sudden liberation’,33 these fragmentary poetic drafts are replete with patently imagistic details that direct our attention to ‘the blue flash and the moments/benedetta’ (CXVII: 815). On the one hand, these lucid final cantos feature a strikingly high proportion of radiant poetic nodes and unsullied imagistic clusters which recall an earlier period of Pound’s writing life, ‘when the snow was like sea foam/Twilit sky leaded with elm bows’ (CXVII: 815). While imagistic respites such as this come as a welcome relief to the committed reader of the programmatic and otherwise obscure late Cantos, one must, on the other hand, also recognize that they carry with them attendant, implicitly cadaverous connotations. Imagism arose, as we know, out a profound sense of cultural and poetic dissatisfaction. Precocious first-generation modernists such as Pound, Hilda Doolittle, and Richard Aldington had grown tired of the ornate verbiage and clichéd linguistic discursiveness prevalent in the stereotypical romantic poetry of their Victorian predecessors (and their Georgian contemporaries). Reacting against this, the so-called Imagist poets developed a style of unsentimental, rigorously precise, and classically inflected writing that stressed syntactical exactitude. Daniel Tiffany posits that the Imagist aesthetic ‘is exemplary in the sense that it entails and portrays the conversion of literary Decadence into a formation of the avant-garde – a metamorphosis that is reiterated in countless other manifestations of modernism’.34 Imagism most definitely played a crucial role in Pound’s personal poetic development. Tiffany argues that the ‘emergence’ of Imagism in Pound’s literary career ‘coincides with his repudiation of what he calls the “corpse language” of late Victorian poetry (which includes most of his early poems)’.35 He also suggests that Pound’s turn to Imagism should be understood as an early attempt to ‘rid his work of an illicit – and obviously Decadent – infatuation with dead bodies and ghosts, which in turn sustains a poetic language exemplified by these figures’.36 As to whether Pound succeeded in ridding his work of such things? Tiffany has his doubts. This is why he describes Imagism ‘as a largely unsuccessful attempt by Pound to bury – that is, to modernize – his earlier and more archaic conceptions of the Image’.37 Significantly, Tiffany suggests that Pound’s morbid infatuation with deathly Decadent poetic tropes persists long after the poet’s


Charles Henri Ford

interest in Imagism began to wane. In fact, Tiffany asserts that a residual – and decidedly Decadent – hidden ‘corpse language’ underwrites all of Pound’s post-Imagist poetry. According to Tiffany, the presence of this residual corpse language is in this sense indicative of ‘a preoccupation with death and memory that impedes [Pound’s] formalist agenda’.38 Residual textual traces and poetic emblems of this corpse language certainly persist in the Drafts & Fragments. The ghostly and suicidal figures that populate the poetic landscape of this final collection of cantos preclude the possibility of achieving aesthetic tranquillity and impede Pound’s drive towards formal limpidity. Pound’s belated imagistic homecoming thereby proves problematic and somewhat ironic. Indeed, we might say that Pound’s late approximation of an imagistic poetic mode is inexorably fraught and painful. This is because the poet is tacitly aware of the fact that he is belatedly returning to the compromised poetic form – and thus the originary scene of his largely unsuccessful attempt to rid his early verse of illicit infatuations – that was designed precisely to combat the Decadent and deathly elements that before too long begin to bubble-up to the surface of his purportedly reposeful Drafts & Fragments. Ford’s desire to engage with the Drafts & Fragments in his collections of haiku has a number of unexpected poetic and theoretical consequences. He effectively internalizes certain of the lessons, mistakes, ‘errors and wrecks’ (CXVI: 810) previously outlined in Pound’s late poetry. Chief among these internationalizations is Tiffany’s aforementioned conception of a specifically Poundian sort of residual corpse language. Ford’s preferred mode of late poetic delivery is important in this regard. Here is what Ford had to say about haiku while being interviewed by Asako Kitaori: The thing about the haiku is it’s very flexible as to content and the form is fascinating because of its brevity and it can be a very concentrated content. It’s the most flexible form of poetry, much more so than the sonnet. I think [that’s] the first thing that attracted me to the haiku, but it’s not what attracts me now particularly, but it ends up being surrealist because of the superimposition – two unrelated things that make a whole which seems to be a collage.39

There is a lot that could be said about this statement, which resonates when considered in relation to a number of Ford’s earlier ventures and long-standing artistic passions. Does not, for instance, Ford’s remark about ‘superimposition’ bring to mind the creative processes undergirding his major graphipoem

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ventures of the mid- to late-1960s? To take another example, what are we to make of the point of continuity that Ford moves to establish between the haiku and the sort of chance aesthetic encounter that has traditionally been associated with Surrealism? Given what we have already said about Ford’s career-long investment in all things convulsively incongruous and beautiful, such a gesture surely makes more than a small amount of conceptual sense. Yet I want to suggest that Ford’s late haikus often read as more Poundian than Surrealist. Pound famously looked to the concise form of the Japanese haiku while developing his precise poetics of Imagism. Ford would have been well aware of the well-documented links between high modernism and the classical Japanese haiku. In this fashion, Ford’s fondness for the haiku also leads to an alignment with long-deceased modernists such as Pound. However, it is important to recognize that Ford’s fondness for the imagistic – and thus implicitly modernist – form of the haiku proves problematic. With a bold rhetoric flourish, Tiffany posits that the ‘influence of Japanese haiku on Imagism, for example, can be understood as an exotic means of formalizing and dignifying a poetic suicide’.40 In Tiffany’s reckoning, ‘distilled to a handful of syllables, the Imagist poem derives its power from its resistance to language, from the perilous condition of its own medium – a form that is inherently self-destructive.’41 Tiffany’s comments about the self-destructive aspects of Imagism are worth bearing in mind when considering Ford’s formal haiku of the 1980s. As we will now see, something akin to a destructive corpse language soon begins to creep into Secret Haiku and Emblems of Arachne. Moreover, this corpse language is reminiscent of the sort that we previously identified at work in his predecessor’s Drafts & Fragments. Ford holds his late haiku up to his modernistic precursor’s imagistic Drafts & Fragments. Secret Haiku and Emblems of Arachne share a number of thematic concerns with Pound’s final collection of Cantos. Like Pound, Ford wants to establish a stable – and peaceful – vantage point from which to contemplate his literary career. Much as it did for the aged and housebound Pound, domestic space comes to dominate in Ford’s late modernist haiku. Sometimes the sanctity of the domestic enclave (along with the attached garden) is figured in relation to the natural world: He took honey from The walls of his house – that’s where The bees hide their lives.42


Charles Henri Ford

The same can also be said of the following haiku. Calling to mind Pound’s famous account of the ideogrammic method and his equally well-known evocation of ‘the rose pattern driven into the dead-iron filings by the magnet’,43 as well as the evocation of the natural world that we encounter in the opening canto of Drafts & Fragments, Ford delights in satisfyingly simple feats of organic beauty in the domestic textual enclave provided by Secret Haiku: The bedraggled rose The young gardener brought Has become a beauty.44

In keeping with the mystical propensities of the earlier volumes of Om Krishna, the comfort of the tranquil domestic enclave is also infused with quasi-spiritual potentiality in Secret Haiku: Who walks barefoot in The house with dusty floors? Unexpected Glory.45

Like the preceding Secret Haiku, Emblems of Arachne is rooted in the realm of the domestic: Indra; my house; the Garden. A work of fiction, Assembled by me.46

Much like the generative and limpid opening lines of Pound’s Drafts & Fragments, Ford’s tone in the similarly domesticated haiku of Emblems of Arachne is also relaxed and often playful: Crows in the fog, dogs In the dew, honey in the house And so are you.47

Upon first inspection, the sense of domestic ease established in the earlier Secret Haiku appears to persist in Ford’s Emblems of Arachne: A place in which to Talk to oneself, while a child’s Kite flies in the rain.48

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The hearth of the home seemingly provides a place for peaceful reflection in the final haiku of Ford’s Emblems of Arachne. However, the more closely we look at these late haiku, the more clearly we can appreciate that something has already disturbed Ford’s assembled domestic idyll: Invisible envelopes, A standstill afternoon. A rain of merde.49

Original emphasis and all, this frustrated outburst implies that things aren’t quite what they seem in the domestic setting of Emblems of Arachne. The following haiku offers a further clue as to why: The weather is mild And noble. Mummies of Reminiscence parade.50

The ‘Mummies of/Reminiscence’ that ‘parade’ through Ford’s home are responsible for disturbing the domestic peace. They also bring with them a residual corpse language that threatens the tranquil domestic scene of Ford’s late haiku. A peculiar kind of oppressive ‘Dampness in the air’ starts to descend.51 Has our elderly poet found a secure, peaceful place to rest his weary head? It is, ultimately, impossible to say either way. Thus the final haiku of Emblems of Arachne appears to ensure that Ford’s long and varied poetic career ends shrouded in a dampening mist of ambiguous uncertainty.

4 Or does it? In 1989, three years after Emblems of Arachne, a tenth edition of Ford’s Blues was published in New York. Blues 10 was issued as a special edition of Michael Andre’s avant-garde little magazine: Unmuzzled OX. Ford’s return to Blues was somewhat belated.52 Some sixty years had elapsed since the publication of the first issue of the magazine. Ford had long hoped to publish a tenth edition of Blues. In a letter dated 14 October 1951, Ford wrote excitedly to James Laughlin that the ‘inspiration has come to me to edit a quarterly of new poetry and call it BLUES 52’.53 Turning to the 1960s, we can see that Ford’s Blues impulse saw little sign of abating. In a letter dated 18 March 1964, Paul


Charles Henri Ford

Bowles confirms as much. ‘Blues Ten sounds good’, Bowles writes, ‘but I feel sure that by now it’s a project of the past, since you do change your mind with the wind, don’t you?’54 But Ford did not change his mind. Consider the letter he sent to Charles Boultenhouse on 6 March 1978: The prime reason for this aerogram is to alert you to my latest active project (it’s been in the back of my mind for some years): i.e. I want to edit BLUES 10, there having been only nine numbers in 1929–30. Kay Boyle has indicated her willingness to write an introduction. I will give a clarion call to all the surviving contributors, recruit new names, plus delving, where possible, into the archives of Blues contributors now deceased. For this latter group I have in mind, notably, William Carlos Williams, Gertrude Stein and our ever dear and drastic Parker. Can I depend on your to select a few PT MSS which you must know – perhaps already in the Texas archive, perhaps still in your possession…? Do help me on this important mission.55

And as Andre tells it, Ford’s desire to return to Blues was just as strong in the 1980s: At tea at the Dakota Charles told me about Blues and said ‘I want you to publish it as an issue of Unmuzzled OX’. He may just have said ‘I want you to publish it’ but I can still hear those six words. Charles’ voice was rising as he delivered them. It was the assertion at the end of the narrative. It was a very characteristic change in his speaking voice.56

As Andre suggests, Ford was extremely keen to grasp the opportunity to push his magazine back into the literary limelight after an extended absence.57 Among other things, the tenth Blues represented a last chance of sorts for the marginalized, ‘hermitized’ Ford to renew his dialogue with Ezra Pound and to make his presence felt once more in contemporary literary circles (while also reminding people of his various achievements).58 At the same time, Ford’s belated return to Blues was always going to bring with it the promise of a potentially problematic sort of personal closure, a type of closure that was noticeably absent in his final haiku. To return to Harold Bloom, we might say that the ‘wheel’ of Ford’s modernist apprenticeship came ‘full circle’ in what we can characterize as a postmodern historical moment. We have already seen how conceptions of domestic space filter through into Ford’s haiku in the 1980s. Now we will see how the same can also be said of Ford’s editorial return

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to Blues in 1989. The original Blues was one of the foundational sites of Ford’s literary apprenticeship. We might even say that the 1929 Blues was Ford’s first literary home. The original Blues was the idealized home – the symbolic domestic enclave – of Ford’s pubescent apprenticeship. Some sixty years later, Ford returns to the symbolic site of his modernist apprenticeship to take stock and reflect. The tenth issue of Blues thus offers Ford a final opportunity to find a domesticated ‘place in which to/Talk to oneself ’ in quiet, peaceful reflection. However, it seems that even here Ford cannot shake the spectre of Pound. The belated appearance of the tenth Blues brings with it a large helping of irony. The reason behind this irony has much to do with the immediate context in which the magazine emerged. Recall that what turned out to be the final Blues was issued as a special edition of Andre’s Unmuzzled OX. Issues 23–26 of Andre’s Unmuzzled OX were alternately known as ‘The Cantos (121–150) of Ezra Pound’. Andre thought of these issues as ‘tabloid extensions of Pound’s cantos’. The Unmuzzled OX Blues was the fourth part of Andre’s proposed continuation of the Cantos. Much as it did in Ford’s late haiku, the ghost of Pound in this sense lingers in the Unmuzzled OX Blues. Indeed, Andre draws attention to this fact in an editorial interjection entitled ‘Ezra’s Last Words’ in Ford’s tenth Blues: ‘Pound phoned again on Tuesday and I said, “Ez, you’re dead.”’59 All jokes aside, the spectral presence of Pound is felt in other, more persuasive ways in the Unmuzzled OX Blues. However, in order to more clearly demonstrate how Ford’s tenth Blues is ostensibly indebted to Poundian modernist imperatives, we must first differentiate it from the other issues of the Unmuzzled OX Cantos. Broadly speaking, the three issues of Andre’s Unmuzzled OX Cantos (23–5) that immediately precede Ford’s tenth Blues sought to critically evaluate the lasting legacy of Pound. For example, Unmuzzled OX 25 (also known as ‘Ezra Pound’s Interview’) closes with an interview of the poet Galway Kinnell. In this interview, Sarah Barnett presses Kinnell on the topic of Pound’s influence and legacy. Kinnell concedes that Pound has influenced him in the same way that he has everybody else, ‘in the sense that he’s opened up some of the limitations we would have taken for granted otherwise in poetry, as far as jumping from thing to thing to thing, as far as intermingling quotations with our own work’.60 In equal measure, however, Kinnell distances himself from Pound’s personality and politics: ‘But


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I don’t think I’ve been greatly affected in any personal and deep way by Pound. I’ve really always been put off by his anti-Semitism, his fascism, and by his alienated ego. And so these three things have just created a wall.’61 Despite offering little in the way of significant critical insight, it is important to note that Kinnell’s Unmuzzled OX interview is part of a wider – and often more nuanced – critical treatment of Pound’s modernist legacy that takes place in the various issues of Andre’s magazine. This is especially true of the radically experimental contributions of the anarchist poets John Cage and Jackson Mac Low in Unmuzzled OX 23. Tyrus Miller notes that Cage and Mac Low ‘were engaged enough with the work of Pound to subject the Cantos to an elegiac “writing-though,” a textual reprocessing of Pound that may be in equal measure and mournful of their oversized modernist predecessor’.62 In Miller’s appraisal, Cage and Mac Low quite literarily weave the name of Ezra Pound through their poems ‘as a paleonymic ghost who may be forgiven and perhaps even admired’.63 We can look to Mac Low’s contribution to Unmuzzled OX to see how this technique works: he olD En’s nZe piRe r’s fAll; Place gOutyfooted. StUbborn gaiNst ilteD Ers tZ, e eRa, todAy Past, ‘Contemporary’.64

As we can see, Mac Low’s process of writing-through provides a suitably fragmentary commentary on the ‘shattered’ figure of Pound. To be sure, Mac Low’s unusual typography ostensibly mimics the idiosyncratic approach privileged by Pound. But this is where the comparison ends. Instead, Mac Low proffers a thinly veiled critique of Pound’s ‘StUbborn’ personality and individual shortcomings. Mac Low seems in this respect to be arguing that a famously poor, ‘gOuty-/footed’ decision-making process has contributed to Pound’s fall from poetic grace in contemporary literary circles. In this reading, in an ironic twist on his own dictum about great literature, Pound appears to be old news.65

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What, though, of Ford? Turning to the tenth Blues, one is struck first by the marked difference between Ford’s issue of Unmuzzled OX and the three that precede it. There is, for one thing, nothing comparable to Mac Low’s ambivalent textual reprocessing of Pound in the Unmuzzled OX Blues. Indeed, on first inspection, it seems as if Ford has simply chosen to dispense with the investigation of Pound’s legacy that so preoccupied the three preceding issues. Ford is less interested in debating Pound’s legacy than he is with shoring up his own. Hence the inclusion of Ira Cohen’s ‘In Japan You Have The Right To Kill Someone Who Is Destroying Your Inner Space’ in the tenth Blues: The Aeroflot plane which Charles Henri Ford was not allowed to board was hijacked today. Instead of being hijacked he records his temperature and takes a Tentex Forte (ayurvedic aphrodisiac coated with silver). He knows the party has peaked & considers removing the excessive sexual references. Charles Henri Ford is definitely a seminal poet, he approves the crab remoulade & savors a glass of Courvoisier. After all, his blood has been sent by diplomatic pouch to California, albeit under a fictitious Nepali name. He is a living corsair of modern poetry. Can’t you hear the feathered feet stamping in the abandoned subway of history? (Blues: 10, 71)

Cohen’s tribute is effusive and effacing in equal measure. He acknowledges Ford’s outsider status in contemporary literary circles and seeks to redress such a critical imbalance by raising our ‘seminal’ subject to the status of an important poetic diplomat,66 but only after having poked fun at what he perceives to be his friend’s personal extravagances and pretentions. The poem also includes a passing reference to Ford’s internationalism. When read alongside the playful reference to samples of Ford’s poetic DNA being mailed in a Malatesta-esque ‘diplomatic pouch’ from Nepal to California, Cohen’s poem hints at the transnational, alternative networks of communication and poetic exchange which Ford sought to establish throughout his career. Yet he also depicts Ford as having come to the conclusion that the party is about to end. In short, the suggestion that Cohen is making here is that the ‘featherfooted’ Ford has realized that his own ‘historical’ moment has passed.


Charles Henri Ford

This helps to explain why the opportunity to guest-edit an issue of Andre’s Unmuzzled OX appealed to the elderly Ford. He saw in the Unmuzzled OX Blues an opportunity to preserve certain aspects of his historical moment before it faded from view. Ford envisaged the Unmuzzled OX Blues as a poetic vessel, a repository in which to showcase aspects of his poetic and aesthetic legacy. The writers selected for inclusion in the tenth issue of Blues were chosen mainly because of the way that their contributions gesture towards Ford’s personal investment in a variety of diverse literary and cultural movements scattered across the decades of the twentieth century. We can divide the contributions to the Unmuzzled OX Blues into three main categories. First, we have the writers whose work refers back in some shape or fashion to the original Blues: Paul Bowles (‘P.B. in 1929’), Edouard Roditi (‘Childhood Memory’), and Parker Tyler (‘Dostoevsky and the Scandalous Dynamic’). What we have here is another instance of Ford’s literary apprenticeship coming full circle. But the decision to include these writers in the 1989 Blues should not be attributed to a simple case of nostalgia on Ford’s part. He is responding to something Bowles said in his contribution to the tenth Blues: ‘Nineteen Twenty Nine was a real year, I suppose, but now it has little substance for me. I mean that I remember what happened to me, but I have no clear idea of the sort of world where it happened’ (Blues: 10, 56). The 1989 Blues was designed to combat the sort of historical forgetfulness mentioned by Bowles. That is to say, Ford envisaged the Unmuzzled OX Blues as a repository where individual impressions, recollections, and past personal associations – especially those pertaining to him – could be documented before they faded into the ether. We also find a number of contributions that attest to Ford’s involvement in a wide range of modern and postmodern artistic movements. Included in this category are artists like Pavel Tchelitchew, the Pop artist Ray Johnson, and first- and second-generation beat writers like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Harold Norse, and Anne Waldman. Finally, we have those writers whose work was directly influenced by Ford. For instance, the sexually explicit content of prose pieces like Lynne Tillman’s ‘Diary of a Masochist’ and poems such as Sky Garner’s non-normative ‘Fin de Siècle’ bear the imprint of Ford’s foundational text of queer modernism: The Young and Evil. In a similar manner, the contributions of younger American Surrealist poets like Andrei Codrescu, Ted Joans, and Valery Oişteanu also feature prominently in the Unmuzzled

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OX Blues. In this manner, Ford marshals a lifetime’s worth of literary contacts and aesthetic associations for the sake of posterity in the Unmuzzled OX Blues. The situation seems to be comparable to the scene Oişteanu describes in his contribution to the final issue of Ford’s little magazine: Body-snatchers and necrophiliacs Dancing on the edge of my crypt Go away my nightmare! pass! I am trying to sleep Focusing on posterity (Blues: 10, 70)

Ford is, to be sure, firmly focused on posterity in the Unmuzzled OX Blues. He also tries to assert his poetic authority by effectively effacing any trace of his modernist mentor from his issue of Unmuzzled OX. With the exception of a heavily truncated version of Pound’s ‘Program 1929’ (originally published in the Blues of March 1929), there is scarcely a mention of the poetic master of Ford’s apprenticeship to be found in the Unmuzzled OX Blues. In this respect, we might well surmise that Ford has wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity finally to shake off the anxiety-inducing ghost of his poetic and editorial apprenticeship. Yet the great irony of Ford’s attempted effacement is that it cannot prevent his Unmuzzled OX Blues from fulfilling a basic Poundian imperative. Pound famously, if half in jest once wrote of his desire to construct a ‘portable substitute for the British Museum’.67 Replete with luminous historical details and filled with cultural artefacts, The Cantos came to symbolize Pound’s attempt to do this. However, given that Pound himself doubted the viability of ever producing such a comprehensive portable archive, it is perhaps unsurprising that the project seemed destined to fail. For fail it did: with disastrous personal consequences for the author. Late in life, beaten down by the forces of history and irrevocably damaged by individual political and economic folly, Pound had cause to rethink his position. No longer conceiving of his modernist epic as a portable archive for the treasures of the world, The Cantos came instead to resemble a symbolic poetic space where Pound could cling rather desperately to that which he held dear. We have already established that the simultaneously physical and metaphorical space that Pound initially comes to rest upon in the Drafts & Fragments is rendered in explicitly domestic terms:  the


Charles Henri Ford

aforementioned ‘quiet house’ of the sparsely populated island situated at the northern end of the Venetian Lagoon. But it is equally important to note that the faded grandeur of the Byzantine basilica assumes a more humble form later in the Drafts & Fragments. The basilica of Torcello is replaced by a ‘Town house in Hartford’ (CXI: 796). However, this space is soon rejected. So, too, are numerous others: No more the pseudo-gothic sprawled house out over the bridge there (Washington Bridge, N.Y.C.) but everything boxed for economy (CXIII: 802)

Pound wants to return to a far more humble, domestic, and private space: ‘And to this garden, Marcella, ever seeking by petal, by leaf-vein/out of dark, and toward half-light’ (CXIII: 802). The drift towards the domestic in the late Cantos seems to provide Pound with some semblance of personal peace. However, we also know that the sense of domestic tranquillity does not last long in the Drafts & Fragments. Past failures return to haunt Pound and the initially peaceful Byzantine basilica comes to represent a more ominous, deathly ‘tomb, an end,/Galla’s rest, and thy quiet house at Torcello’ (CX: 794). What he once thought a portable compendium of cultural achievement finally becomes a binding poetic mausoleum. The ‘quiet house’ in which Pound hoped to store what he ‘lov’st well’ turns, in this fashion, into something akin to a sepulchre. While Pound and Ford’s biographies are, of course, completely different, the fact remains that the respective forms of their late poetic projects end up being strikingly similar. That is, while Pound and Ford have taken very different routes to get there, they eventually arrive at the same destination as they move into old age. By bringing together what he ‘lov’st well’ in the ‘quiet house’ of Unmuzzled OX Blues, Ford’s final editorial venture does begin unintentionally to mirror, albeit on a much smaller scale, the sort of symbolic refuge favoured by Pound in his late, domesticated Cantos. What we have here is an example of a sort of conceptual internalization. Somewhat ironically, the tenth Blues registers the Poundian imperative towards preservation on a basic conceptual level. Consequently, it seems feasible to posit that the Unmuzzled OX Blues is far closer in spirit to Pound’s late Cantos than Ford seems either

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able or willing to recognize. Similarly, we might also reason that Ford’s focus on posterity subsequently transforms his tenth Blues into a personal ‘crypt’ (Oişteanu): something reminiscent of Pound’s ‘tomb’ in the suitably spectral, concluding Drafts & Fragments. However, the very form of the Unmuzzled OX Blues prevents Ford’s final editorial project from slipping into the sort of everlasting mausoleum evoked by Pound in what proved to be the concluding, binding section of the Cantos. Charles Baudelaire once argued that modernity is best characterized as ‘the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the one half of art whose other half is the eternal and immutable’.68 Perhaps Shari and Bernard Benstock had this in mind when they suggested that modernist little magazines are very much ‘ephemeral forms, dependent on the conditions of history’.69 The ephemeral and historically contingent form of the Unmuzzled OX Blues ensures that Ford’s last major literary venture resists binding finality (while simultaneously harking back to the roots of Ford’s originary modernist apprenticeship). To put it another way: while Ford’s tenth Blues is undoubtedly preservative, it also strives to be proactive and projective; it is illustrative of Ford’s absolute commitment to remaining open to the possibility of building fresh aesthetic networks in which to house both old and new friendships and poetic associations. It also offers a snapshot of a diverse grouping of a few people moving through a rather brief moment in time. In this regard, the contingent and ephemeral little magazine format of Ford’s 1989 Blues resembles something akin to a mobile home: a projective, temporary aesthetic archive of no fixed abode. In this sense, then, while the elderly Ford does not totally succeed in freeing himself from the ghost of his formative literary apprenticeship in his late poetic and editorial practice, his belated return to the modernist form of his youth prevents him from getting, as Pound did, ‘stuck’.70

Notes 1 Charles Henri Ford, ‘One Hundred 69 Haiku for Charles Henri’, Milk Magazine: 3 (2001). Online Edition: Henri%20FORD (accessed 15 May 2012). 2 Tillman, ‘Cut Up Life’, ix.

Charles Henri Ford


  3 Charles Henri Ford, ‘From The Minotaur Sutra’, in 50: A Celebration of Sun & Moon Classics, ed. Douglas Messerli (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995), 174.   4 Ford, ‘One Hundred 69 Haiku for Charles Henri’.   5 Charles Henri Ford, Om Krishna I: Special Effects (New York: Cherry Valley Editions, 1979), 18.   6 Charles Henri Ford, Om Krishna II: From the Sickroom of the Walking Eagles (New York: Cherry Valley Editions, 1981), n.pag.   7 Charles Henri Ford, Om Krishna III: Secret Haiku (New York: The Red Ozier Press, 1982), 31.  8 Ford, Om Krishna I, 9.   9 Guggenheim died on 23 December 1979. 10 Ford, Water from a Bucket, 63. 11 Ford, Om Krishna II, n.pag. 12 Carolyn Korsmeyer, Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy (New York: Cornell University Press, 1999), 8. 13 Korsmeyer, Making Sense of Taste, 8. 14 Ibid., 212. 15 Ezra Pound, The Cantos (New York: New Directions, 1996), 458. Hereafter all quotations from Pound’s long poem are cited by canto and page number in the main body of text. 16 Ford once told Tyler that the Blues contributor Roberta Thoma ‘is an intimate of cocteau who is ill often on opium so he cant see him. i look like cocteau’s lover what he rescued from the french navy (r.). i look like rimbaud looked (jacques bossard). c. makes up like you do. the uniforms of the fr. sailors are cuter than t.u.o.t.a.s. the pants and jacket are dark blue; a light blue collar falls over half the back or all the shoulders: in front a sweater with horizontal blue stripes against white can be seen for a V. the cap is dark blue and stiff brimmed flat on top and the top has in the middle a red pompom’. Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 18 July 1932, container 8, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 17 Ford, Om Krishna II, n.pag. 18 Ibid. 19 Ibid. 20 Ford, Om Krishna I, 15. 21 Ibid., 14. 22 Ibid., 15.

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23 Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur (New York: New Directions, [1938] 1970), 55. 24 Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, [1973], 1997), 25. 25 Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence 25. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid., 26. 28 Ibid., 15–16. 29 Sean Pryor, W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound and the Poetry of Paradise (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), 179. 30 Fred Moramarco, ‘Concluding an Epic: the Drafts and Fragments of the Cantos’, American Literature 49, no. 3 (November 1977): 310–11. 31 Ford’s Secret Haiku includes a number of minimalistic line drawings by Isamu Noguchi. These drawings bear more than a passing formal resemblance to the twelfth-century scroll paintings of Sojo. 32 William Cookson, A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound (London: Anvil Press, 2001), 265. 33 Ezra Pound, Literary Essays, 4. 34 Daniel Tiffany, Radio Corpse: Imagism and the Cryptaesthetic of Ezra Pound (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 20. 35 Tiffany, Radio Corpse, 20. 36 Ibid. 37 Ibid., 53. Taking a slightly different critical tack in his wide-ranging account of Anglo-American modernist cultural production and media theory, Julian Murphet argues forcefully that we need to read the deathly and destructive impulses adhering to Poundian Imagism in relation to the threat posed by emergent mass cultural structures. ‘Whereas in the official system of the arts taking shape under the shadow of the nascent Culture Industry’, Murphet writes, ‘poetry was kept artificially buoyant as a decorative and nostalgic lodestar, Pound’s deeper sensitivity to the actual redistribution of effects across the media ecology discerned the logical consequence: impending cultural irrelevance. Rather than participate in a pathetic, terminal decline, Pound’s poetics impel the medium to the very brink of extinction’. Julian Murphet, Multimedia Modernism: Literature and the Anglo-American Avant-Garde (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 118–19. 38 Tiffany, Radio Corpse, 20. 39 Quoted in Asako Kitaori, ‘Charles Henri Ford: Catalyst Among Poets’. 40 Tiffany, Radio Corpse, 49.

Charles Henri Ford

218 41 Ibid., 48.

42 Ford, Om Krishna III: Secret Haiku, 14. 43 Pound, Guide to Kulchur, 152. 44 Ibid., 12. 45 Ibid., 35. 46 Charles Henri Ford, Emblems of Arachne (New York: Catchword Papers, 1986), 27. 47 Ford, Emblems of Arachne, 23. 48 Ibid., 27. 49 Ibid., 15. 50 Ibid., 16. 51 Ibid., 23. 52 One sometimes gets the sense, reading through Kitaori’s interview with Ford, of a conceptual jigsaw falling into place. ‘I was exposed to blues and jazz’, Ford notes, ‘that’s why I named my magazine Blues. Now, in the haiku that I’m writing, sometimes the words from the old blues songs come back and get put in.’ Quoted in Asako Kitaori, ‘Charles Henri Ford: Catalyst Among Poets’. 53 Charles Henri Ford to James Laughlin, 14 October 1951, series 2, box 7, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 54 Charles Henri Ford to Paul Bowles, 18 March 1964, series 2, box 12, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. 55 Charles Henri Ford to Charles Boultenhouse, 6 March 1978, series 1, box 4, folder 10, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. 56 Michael Andre, e-mail to the author, 5 February 2011. 57 An editorial announcement in Unmuzzled OX 22 (Winter 1981) makes passing reference to the fact that Ford had already collected a significant number of manuscripts for a possible tenth Blues as early as 1981. 58 Late in life, Ford was prone to self-depreciation, referring to himself as the ‘Hermit of the Dakota’ (his New York home of many years). See Valery Oişteanu, ‘Charles Henri Ford (1908-2002)’, NY Arts: December 2002 (Online Edition): (accessed 10 June 2016). 59 Michael Andre, ‘Ezra’s Last Words’, Unmuzzled OX: 26Blues: 10 (1989), 78. Hereafter all quotations from the tenth issue of Ford’s magazine are abbreviated and appeared in the main body of text. 60 Sarah Barnett, ‘Galway Kinnell and Sarah Barnett Three Weeks After Chernobyl’, Unmuzzled OX: 25 (1988), 120.

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61 Barnett, ‘Galway Kinnell’, 120. 62 Tyrus Miller, Singular Examples: Artistic Politics and the Neo-Avant-Garde (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2009), 66. 63 Miller, Singular Examples, 70. 64 Jackson Mac Low, ‘CXXIV’, Unmuzzled OX: 23 (1988), 14. 65 Pound believed great literature ‘is news that STAYS news’. Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (New York: New Directions, 1987), 29. 66 Cohen is, of course, alluding to Edward B. Germain’s account of Ford. 67 Pound, Literary Essays, 16. 68 Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (London: Phaidon, 1964), 13. 69 Shari Benstock and Bernard Benstock, ‘The Role of Little Magazines in the Emergence of Modernism’, The Library Chronicle of the University of Texas at Austin 20, no. 4 (1991): 87. 70 Pound’s exact words to Donald Hall: ‘Okay. I am stuck. The question is, am I dead, as Messrs. A. B. C. might wish?’ Donald Hall, Reminiscences and Opinions (New York: Harper & Row, 1978), 240.


Conclusion: I Will Be What I Am, or, the Camp Modernist Legacy of Charles Henri Ford

‘The younger generation is asking about you all the time so you are beginning to penetrate.’1 This line is taken from a letter that the New York-based experimental filmmaker Charles Boultenhouse sent to Charles Henri Ford on 4 January 1965. Ford was living in Athens, Greece at the time. He replied to Boultenhouse on 8 January. ‘Boy,’ Ford exclaims, ‘there’s no idea I like more than “penetrating” the younger generation.’2 Leaving the issue of this perennially hopeful penetrator’s vulgarity aside, what are we meant to make of such an exchange? While he doesn’t specify which particular members of the ‘younger generation’ have been asking after the absent Ford, Boultenhouse presumably has writers and artists associated with the 1960s New York artscene in mind. However, he might just as well have been referring to the generation of poets that came of literary age in Manhattan during the 1950s. I am thinking here of the first-generation figures associated with the so-called New York School of Poetry. In a sense, of course, we have been here before. We have, for one thing, already established that the core members of the tittletattling New York School had high praise for the equally gossipy Ford.3 Yet I want now to draw to a close by suggesting that there is still more to be said about Ford and the New York School. Mark Silverberg has pointed out that notable post-war poets such as Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and Kenneth Koch ‘were among the few of Donald Allen’s “New Americans” to make humor an important part of their aesthetic. Humor for these poets was both a value in itself and a means toward an already-described end: a way of achieving the detachment or indifference necessary to the creation of neo-avant-garde art in the 1960s’.4 Specifically, ‘the New York School used comedy and camp as means of incorporating, celebrating and, most importantly, exaggerating (rather than rejecting) the culture in which they lived’.5 ‘Unlike the Beats’, Silverberg adds, ‘the New York School poets were not interested in offering


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a new (more progressive, liberated, hip) culture but rather in working with American culture as they found it – exposing, playing up, and camping up its quirks, absurdities, and odd (queer) mannerisms.’6 Much the same can be said of Ford. He was extremely interested in and recognized the significance of Camp. We get a fleeting sense of this in a message Ford posted to Parker Tyler on 10 December 1964. He demands in this letter that his old comrade ‘lock on [to the] Pop CAMP EXPRESS (see Susan Sontag’s article in Partisan, which Time took up & summarized)’.7 Ford is referring here to the career-making essay – ‘Notes on “Camp”’ – that Sontag published in the Partisan Review in 1964. But what exactly is Camp? As with modernism, it depends on whom you ask. This is how Sontag chooses to define the term:8 ‘It is not a natural mode of sensibility’, Sontag argues, ‘if there be any such. Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric – something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques.’9 Further to this, in Sontag’s estimation, ‘Camp is a certain mode of aestheticism. It is one way of seeing the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. That way, the way of Camp, is not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylization.’10 Fabio Cleto’s account of ‘Notes on “Camp”’ helps us to understand what Sontag is getting at in passages such as these. ‘Sontag’s essay disseminated camp as the cipher for contemporary culture’, Cleto notes, ‘as a refined – and, most infamously, apolitical – aesthetic taste for the vulgar and the appreciation of kitschy middle-class pretensions.’11 Because of this, various critics have tended to accuse Sontag of, as Cleto puts it, ‘turning a basically homosexual mode of self-performance into a degayifed taste, a simple matter of ironically relishing an indulgence in what is “so-bad-it’s good.”’12 For a staunch critic like Moe Meyer, such a ‘degayifed’ account of Camp is unforgivable: all the more so given that historical analysis confirms the specifically homosexual origins and politicized connotations pertaining to the term. ‘By removing, or at the least minimizing, the connotations of homosexuality’, Meyer argues, ‘Sontag killed off the binding referent of Camp – the Homosexual – and the discourse began to unravel as Camp became confused and conflated with rhetorical and performative strategies such as irony, satire, burlesque, and travesty; and with cultural movements such as Pop.’13 This, in Meyer’s eyes, simply will not do. For him, there was, is, and will always be only one kind of Camp: ‘And it is queer. It can be engaged directly by the queer to produce social visibility in the



praxis of everyday life, or it can be manifested as the camp trace by the un-queer in order … to provide queer access to the apparatus of representation.’14 I wonder what Meyer might make of the creative output of an openly gay modernist writer and artist who, lest we forget, started working in a decidedly closeted period of history. A second-generation modernist novel like The Young and Evil would probably be of great interest to Meyer, given over as it is to innumerable depictions of queer characters dolled-up in drag and ‘camp[ing] like mad’.15 But might the same be said of Ford’s deep-seated interest in some the very same ‘cultural movements’ that Meyer decries while discussing Sontag and Camp? Ultimately it is difficult to say. However, we can say that, long before Meyer, Sontag, and, for that matter, the New York School, Ford intuitively grasped the aesthetic advantages of Camp. Turning our attention to Ford’s literary output of the late 1930s and the early 1940s, it appears that, at least when it came to his own work, he proposed to camp Surrealism via processes of self-conscious exaggeration and theatrical poetic stylization. This becomes clear when considering the closing lines of the following poem, which was included in The Overturned Lake: this is a jingle for your jaw, pearl‐planted, a rant for the blest hee‐haw of the pink bee storing in your brain’s veins a gee‐gaw honey for the golden skillet set to heat on my heart’s rubies BABY WITH REVOLVER HOLDS HURRICANE AT BAY16

How best to read this exuberant and self-consciously surreal poem, which concludes with a playful nod in the direction of André Breton’s collection The White-Haired Revolver (1932), and which also flirts with notions of metaphorical incongruity and outright nonsensicality? Edward B. Germain makes the important point that Ford’s Surrealism is wholly ‘American in its hilarity and ingenuousness and its fascination with sex and slang and the lyrics of popular songs’.17 Of particular interest here is the reference that Germain makes to the strain of seemingly irreverent humour, or hilarity, coursing through Ford’s poetry. Reading poems such as this we are left with the impression that Ford just wants to have a bit of fun. However, there is slightly more to it than that, and this pertains to yet another definition of


Charles Henri Ford

Camp. In The World in the Evening (1954), Christopher Isherwood makes the following claim: ‘High Camp always has an underlying seriousness. You can’t camp about something you don’t take seriously. You’re not making fun of it; you’re making fun out of it. You’re expressing what’s basically serious to you in terms of fun and artifice and elegance.’18 Isherwood’s comments should be kept in mind when considering Ford’s output of the 1940s. When Isherwood’s comments on Camp are read in relation to unpublished texts such as the previously discussed ‘Imaginationist Manifesto’ we begin more fully to appreciate that Ford has no interest in rejecting – or simply making fun of – Surrealism; rather, he is interested in shaping or making fun out of it. Realizing this, one comes to suspect that the same thing might also be said of this man-sized mystic-writing pad’s approach to modernism more generally. Of all Ford’s achievements – above and beyond even his proposed renovation of modernism, his career-spanning commitment to communal and collaborative creative praxis, his long-standing investment in and promotion of Surrealism, and his receptiveness to the work of queer postmodern kindred spirits – his camp aesthetic sensibility may well prove to be this historically torsional figure’s lasting modernist legacy. Only time will tell.

Notes 1 Charles Boultenhouse to Charles Henri Ford, 4 January 1965, series 1, box 4, folder 9, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. 2 Charles Henri Ford to Charles Boultenhouse, 8 January 1965, series 1, box 4, folder 9, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. 3 They also shared Ford’s passion for literary collaboration. I have in mind collaborative ventures such as the experimental literary journal Locus Solus (1961–2). Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, and James Schulyer edited this magazine. Another example would be Ashbery and Schulyer’s co-authored novel A Nest of Ninnies (1969). 4 Mark Silverberg, The New York School Poets and the Neo-Avant-Garde: Between Radical Art and Radical Chic (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010), 135. 5 Silverberg, The New York School Poets and the Neo-Avant-Garde, 135. 6 Ibid., 135.



  7 Charles Henri Ford to Parker Tyler, 10 December 1964, container 9, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.   8 Parker Tyler had profound reservations about Sontag’s reading of Camp. This comes to the fore in a letter he sent to the cineaste Amos Vogel. He writes: ‘This is a country where a Susan Sontag puts up a defense of the mere act of compulsive self-expression in a Jack Smith by conceptualizing the kind of response to life that made Smith take his fetish footage; however arbitrarily, she causes him to look intellectually chic. Only an utmost minimum of the filmfancying audience in Europe could swallow such clumsiness and inconsequence as Flaming Creatures, which is on a subject very close to French hearts in particular: sexual variations.’ Parker Tyler to Amos Vogel, 20 April 1966, container 5, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.   9 Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays (London: Penguin Books, [1966] 2009), 275. 10 Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays, 277. 11 Fabio Cleto, ‘Introduction: Queering the Camp’, Camp: Queer Aesthetics and Their Performing Subject: A Reader, ed. Fabio Cleto (Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 2002), 10. 12 Cleto, ‘Queering the Camp’, 10. 13 Moe Meyer, ‘Reclaiming the Discourse of Camp’, The Politics and Poetics of Camp, ed. Moe Meyer (London: Routledge, [1994] 2005), 6. 14 Meyer, ‘Reclaiming the Discourse of Camp’, 4. 15 Ford and Tyler, The Young and Evil, 167. 16 Ford, The Overturned Lake, 38. 17 Germain, ‘Introduction’, 9. William Carlos Williams comes to a similar conclusion in the introduction – ‘The Tortuous Straightness of Charles Henri Ford’ – he penned for the younger poet’s The Garden of Disorder (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1939). ‘In reading these poems through, from beginning to end, at one long stroke’, Williams starts, ‘a special condition of the mind is generated which to me seems the gist of the poems and the only way to understand them particularly or generally. They form an accompaniment to the radio jazz and other various, half-preaching, half-sacrilegious sounds of a Saturday night in June with the windows open and the mind stretched out attempting to regain some sort of quiet and be cool on a stuffed couch.’ William Carlos Williams, Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams (New York: New Directions, 1969), 235. 18 Christopher Isherwood The World in the Evening, (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, [1954] 1999), 110.


Bibliography Charles Henri Ford – published work Ford, Charles Henri. 7 Poems. Kathmandu, Nepal: Bardo Matrix, 1974. Ford, Charles Henri. Emblems of Arachne. New York: Catchword Papers, 1986. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘From The Minotaur Sutra’. In 50: A Celebration of Sun & Moon Classics, edited by Douglas Messerli, PAG. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘Frustrations: Four From Tension’. Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 1, no. 4 (1929): 99–101. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘How to Write a Chainpoem’. In New Directions in Prose & Poetry, edited by James Laughlin, 369. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘International Chainpoem’. In New Directions in Prose & Poetry, edited by James Laughlin, 370. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940. Ford, Charles Henri. Om Krishna I: Special Effects. New York: Cherry Valley Editions, 1979. Ford, Charles Henri. Om Krishna II: From the Sickroom of the Walking Eagles. New York: Cherry Valley Editions, 1981. Ford, Charles Henri. Om Krishna III: Secret Haiku. New York: The Red Ozier Press, 1982. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘One Hundred 69 Haiku for Charles Henri’. Milk Magazine, 3 (2001). Online Edition: Henri%20FORD (accessed 15 May 2012). Ford, Charles Henri. Out of the Labyrinth: Selected Poems. San Francisco: City Light Books, 1991. Ford, Charles Henri. Silver Flower Coo. New York: Kulchur Press, 1968. Ford, Charles Henri. Spare Parts. Athens, Greece: A New View Book, 1966. Ford, Charles Henri. The Garden of Disorder. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1938. Ford, Charles Henri. The Mirror of Baudelaire. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1942. Ford, Charles Henri. The Overturned Lake. Cincinnati: The Little Man Press, 1941. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘To Be Pickled in Alcohol’. Blues: A New Magazine of Rhythms 1, no. 2 (1929): 39. Ford, Charles Henri. Water From a Bucket: A Diary 1948-1957. New York: Turtle Point Press, 2001. Ford, Charles Henri and Parker Tyler. ‘Duo No. 2’. In New Directions in Prose & Poetry, edited by James Laughlin, 371–2. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940.



Ford, Charles Henri and Parker Tyler. ‘Surrealist Protest’. Partisan Review 7, no. 1 (1940): 77–8. Ford, Charles Henri and Parker Tyler. The Young and Evil. 1933. Reprinted. London: Gay Men Press, 1989. Ford, Charles Henri and Parker Tyler. ‘What Happens to a Radical Literary Magazine’. The Sewanee Review (January 1931): 62–7.

Charles Henri Ford – unpublished work Ford, Charles Henri. ‘A Record of Myself ’. 1950. Series 1, box 5, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘Ginsberg Behind the Scenes’ [n.d.]. Series 1, box 4, folder 8, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘Gossip from Abroad’. 1936. Series 1, box, 2, folder 4, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘I Will Be What I Am: A Documentary Portrait’ [n.d.]. Series 1, box, 3, folder 1, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘“I WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE MY SEX AS I CHANGE MY SHIRT” – ANDRE BRETON (a poem for Philip Lamantia)’ [n.d.]. Series 1, box 4, folder 8, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘International Sonnet No. 1’, [n.d.]. Series 1, box 1, folder 5, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’ [n.d.]. Series 4, box 4, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘Scrapbook: 1928-1931’ [n.d.]. Oversize, box 6, folder 327, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Ford, Charles Henri. ‘The Poem in Prose’ [n.d.]. Series 1, box 4, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri and Parker Tyler. ‘Program’ [ca.1931]. Series 3, box, 19, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Works about Ford Cohen, Ira. ‘Charles Henri Ford’. In Gay Sunshine Interviews, edited by Winston Leyland, 35–65. San Francisco: Gay Sunshine Press, 1984.



Dowell, James and John Kolomvakis. Sleep in a Nest of Flames. USA, Symbiosis Films, 2000. Frame, Allen. ‘Charles Henri Ford’. Journal of Contemporary Art [n.d.]: (accessed 22 January 2016). Fusco, Maria. ‘Charles Henri Ford’. Frieze Magazine, 112 (2008). Online Edition: (accessed 10 May 2016). Germain, Edward B. ‘Introduction’. Flag of Ecstasy: Selected Poems, edited by Charles Henri Ford, 7–11. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1972. Kimmelman, Michael. ‘Art in Review; Charles Henri Ford’. New York Times, 24 January 2003. Online Edition: (accessed 10 May 2016). Kitaori, Asako. ‘Charles Henri Ford: Catalyst Among Poets’. Rain Taxi Review of Books (Spring 2000): (accessed 4 December 2015). Neiman, Catrina. ‘Introduction: View Magazine: Transatlantic Pact’. In View: Parade of the Avant-Garde 1940-1947, edited by Charles Henri Ford, xi–xvi. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1991. Oişteanu, Valery. ‘Charles Henri Ford (1908-2002)’. NY Arts: December (2002). Online Edition: (accessed 10 June 2016). Philpot, Clive and Lynne Tillman. ‘An Interview with Charles Henri Ford: When Art and Literature Come Together’. Franklin Furnace Flue 1, no. 2 (1980): 1–2, 8. Rood, Karen L. ‘Charles Henri Ford’. In Dictionary of Literary Biography: Volume 48: American Poets, 1880-1945, edited by Peter Quartermain, 191–210. Detroit: A Broccoli Clark Book, 1986. Smith, Roberta. ‘Charles Henri Ford, “Printed Matter 1929-1969”’. New York Times (25 June 1999) Online Edition: (accessed 5 May 2016). Tillman, Lynne. ‘Cut Up Life’. In Water From a Bucket: a Diary 1948-1957, edited by Charles Henri Ford, vii–xiii. New York: Turtle Point Press, 2011. Uncredited. ‘The First Post Modernists: American Poets of the 30s Generation’. 1993. Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler. Series 1, box 4, folder 13, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. Watson, Steven. ‘Introduction’. In The Young and Evil, edited by Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler. London: Gay Men Press, 1989. Wolmer, Bruce. ‘Charles Henri Ford’, BOMB 18 (Winter 1987). Online Edition: (accessed 2 October 2013).



Charles Henri Ford – unpublished correspondence Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Charles Boultenhouse. 8 January 1965. Series 1, box 4, folder 9, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Charles Boultenhouse. 6 March 1978. Series 1, box 4, folder 10, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Paul Bowles. 18 March 1964. Series 2, box 12, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Arne Ekstrom. 10 February 1965. Series 2, box 7, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parmenia Ekstrom. 10 February 1965. Series 2, box 7, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Charles L. Ford. 5 February 1928. Series 2, box 7, folder 7, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Charles L. Ford. 17 March 1930. Series 2, box 7, folder 7, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to James Laughlin. 14 October 1951. Series 2, box 7, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Edith Sitwell. 5 November 1947. Series 2, box, 14, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler [n.d.]. Container 8, folder 1, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 3 December 1931. Container 8, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 18 July 1932. Container 8, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 8 August 1936. Container 8, folder 3, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 5 April 1939. Container 8, folder 3, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 13 September 1940. Container 8, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler, 9 August 1946. Container 8, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 24 September 1951. Container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.



Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 17 November 1951. Container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 7 March 1952. Container. 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 13 December 1952. Container. 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 26 December 1952. Container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 26 January 1953. Container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 14 December 1955. Container 8, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 6 July 1958. Container 8, folder 6, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 25 November 1958. Container 8, folder 6, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 31 March 1959. Container 8, folder 6, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 7 July 1960. Container 9, folder 1, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 31 October 1960. Container 9, folder 1, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 10 December 1964. Container 9, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 6 February 1965. Series 2, box, 9, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ford, Charles Henri. Letter to Parker Tyler. 2 September 1966. Container 9, folder 2, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

General unpublished correspondence Andre, Michael. E-mail to the author. 5 February 2011. Berrigan, Ted. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 26 April 1965. Series 2, box, 12, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Boultenhouse, Charles. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 4 January 1965. Series 1, box 4, folder 9, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. Ford, Ruth. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.]. Series 2, box 9, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.



Jackson, Laura Riding. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.]. Series 1, box 1, folder 87, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Johnson, Ray. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.]. Series 2, box, 14, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Malanga, Gerard. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 13 December 1963. Series 2, box 14, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Malanga, Gerard. Letter to Charles Henri Ford, 24 April 1964. Series 2, box, 14, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ransom, John Crowe. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 29 March 1939. Series 2, box, 14, folder 5, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Ransom, John Crowe. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 1 December 1939. Series 2, box, 14, folder 5, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Rexroth, Kenneth. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 30 November 1929. Series 1, box 2, folder 157, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Thomas, Dylan. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 14 December 1939. Series 2, box, 15, folder 3, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Tillman, Lynne. Telephone interview with the author. 24 November 2010. Tyler, Parker. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.]. Series 1, box 4, folder 2, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. Tyler, Parker. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 13 August 1964. Container 4, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Tyler, Parker. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 3 December 1964. Container 4, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Tyler, Parker. Letter to Ezra Pound [n.d.]. Series 1, box 2, folder 176, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Tyler, Parker. Letter to Alice B. Toklas. 10 September 1959. Container 5, folder 4, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Tyler, Parker. Letter to Amos Vogel. 20 April 1966. Container 5, folder 5, Parker Tyler Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Williams, William Carlos. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.]. Series 1, box 2, folder 189, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Young, Kathleen Tankersley. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.], series 1, box 2, folder 189, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University.



Young, Kathleen Tankersley. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.]. Series 1, box 2, folder 194, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Young, Kathleen Tankersley. Letter to Charles Henri Ford [n.d.] Series 3, box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Young, Kathleen Tankersley. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 23 November 1928. Series 3, box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Young, Kathleen Tankersley. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 28 December 1928. Series 3, box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Young, Kathleen Tankersley. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 20 April 1929. Series 1, box 2, folder 189, Charles Henri Ford Papers, YCAL MSS 32, Beinecke Library, Yale University. Young, Kathleen Tankersley. Letter to Charles Henri Ford. 29 February 1929. Series 3, box, 15, folder 6, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

General unpublished work Ginsberg, Allen. ‘Spare Parts (Advertisement)’, [n.d.]. Series 1, box 4, folder 10, Charles Boultenhouse and Parker Tyler Papers, NYPL Archives & Manuscripts, New York Public Library. Tyler, Parker. ‘Charles Henri Ford: From Poet to Graphipoet’. 1966. Series 3, box, 18, folder 4, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin. Tyler, Parker. ‘Imaginary Conversation between Mr. E. E. Cummings and the Editors of BLUES’ [n.d.]. Series 3, box, 19, folder 2, Charles Henri Ford Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.

General bibliography Anderson, Perry. The Origins of Postmodernity. London: Verso Books, 1998. Andre, Michael. ‘Ezra’s Last Words’. Unmuzzled OX: 26/Blues: 10 (1989): 78. Arnold, David. Poetry and Language Writing: Objective and Surreal. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2007.



Ashbery, John. Reported Sightings: Art Chronicles, 1957-1987. New York: Knopf, 1989. Barnett, Sarah. ‘Galway Kinnell and Sarah Barnett Three Weeks After Chernobyl’. Unmuzzled OX: 25 (1988): 117–20. Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. London: Phaidon, 1964. Benjamin, Walter. Selected Writings: Volume 4, 1938-1940. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. Benstock, Shari and Bernard Benstock. ‘The Role of Little Magazines in the Emergence of Modernism’. The Library Chronicle of the University of Texas at Austin 20, no. 4 (1991): 68–87. Bernstein, Charles. ‘Objectivist Blues: Scoring Speech in Second-Wave Modernist Poetry and Lyrics’. American Literary History 20, nos. 1–2 (2008): 346–68. Bishop, John Peale. ‘Chainpoems and Surrealism, 1940’. In New Directions in Prose & Poetry, edited by James Laughlin, 361–8. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1940. Blom, Ina. ‘How to (Not) Answer a Letter: Ray Johnson’s Postal Performance’. In Ray Johnson: Please Add To & Return, 100–11. Barcelona: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, 2009. Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. 1973. Reprinted. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Boone, Joseph Allen. Libidinal Currents: Sexuality and the Shaping of Modernism. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998. Bourdieu, Pierre. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure in the Literary Field. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. Bowles, Paul. ‘P.B. In 1929’. Unmuzzled OX 26/Blues 10 (1989): 56. Bowles, Paul. ‘Promenade des Anglais’. Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 2, no. 7 (1929): 25–6. Brakhage, Stan. Essential Brakhage: Selected Writings on Filmmaking. New York: Documentext, 2001. Breton, André. Communicating Vessels. 1932. Reprinted. Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, 1990. Breton, André. Mad Love. 1937. Reprinted. Lincoln: Nebraska University Press, 1987. Breton, André. Manifestos of Surrealism. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 1972. Breton, André. ‘The Point of View: Testimony 45’, View 5, no. 1 (1945): 5. Britzolakis, Christina. ‘Making Modernism Safe for Democracy: The Dial (19201929)’. In The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II, North America 1894-1960, edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, 85–102. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Browder, Clifford. André Breton, Arbiter of Surrealism. Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1967.



Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. 1974. Reprinted. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1984. Butt, Gavin. Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World, 1948-1963. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. Calmer, Ernest. ‘Any Given Segment’. Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 2, no. 7 (1929): 4. Caws, Mary Ann. ‘Linkings and Reflections: André Breton and his Communicating Vessels’. Dada/Surrealism 17, no. 1 (1988): 91–100. Caws, Mary Ann. Salvador Dalí. London: Reaktion Books, 2008. Caws, Mary Ann. The Surrealist Look: An Erotics of Encounter. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997. Chauncey, George. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. New York: Basic Books, 1994. Churchill, Suzanne W. ‘The Lying Game: Others and the Great Spectra Hoax of 1917’. In Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches, edited by Suzanne W. Churchill and Adam McKible, 177–96. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Cleto, Fabio. ‘Introduction: Queering the Camp’. In Camp: Queer Aesthetics and Their Performing Subject: A Reader, edited by Fabio Cleto, 1–42. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 2002. Cohen, Ira. ‘In Japan You Have the Right to Kill Someone Who Is Destroying Your Inner Space’. Unmuzzled OX 26/Blues 10 (1989): 71. Cohen, Margaret. Profane Illumination: Walter Benjamin and the Paris of Surrealist Revolution. Berkeley: California University Press, 1993. Cole, Sarah. Modernism, Male Friendship, and the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Cookson, William. A Guide to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. London: Anvil Press, 2001. Cowley, Malcolm. Exile’s Return: a Literary Odyssey of the 1920s. 1934. Reprinted. London: Penguin Books, 1994. Crosby, Harry. ‘House of Ra’. Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 1, no. 6 (1929): 159–62. Crosby, Harry. ‘Trumpet of Departure’. Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 1, no. 5 (1929): 130. Danto, Arthur C. Andy Warhol. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. Danto, Arthur C. The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981. Dimakopoulou, Stamatina. ‘Europe in America: Remapping Broken Cultural Lines: View (1940-7) and VVV (1942)’. In The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines, Volume II: North America 1894-1960, edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, 737–58. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Eliot, T. S. ‘Isolated Superiority’. The Dial 84, no. 1 (January 1928): 4–7.



Freud, Sigmund. ‘A note upon the “mystic writing-pad”’. 1924, 1925. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works: Volume XIX, edited by James Strachey, 227–34. London: Vintage Books, 2001. Garber, Eric. ‘A Spectacle in Color: The Lesbian and Gay Subculture of Jazz Age Harlem’. In Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past, edited by Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus and George Chauncey, Jr., 318–31. London: Penguin Books, 1991. Greenberg, Clement. The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 1: Perceptions and Judgments, 1939-1944. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1986. Greenberg, Clement. The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 3: Affirmations and Refusals, 1950-1956. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993. Greenberg, Clement. The Collected Essays and Criticism: Volume 4: Modernism with a Vengeance, 1957-1969. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1993. Guilbaut, Serge. How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983. Hall, Donald. Reminiscences and Opinions. New York: Harper & Row, 1978. Hamilton, Ian. The Little Magazines: A Study of Six Editors. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976. Hardie, Melissa Jane. ‘“That Man in My Mouth”: Editing, Masculinity and Modernism’. In Modernism and Masculinity, edited by Natalya Lusty and Julian Murphet, 38-52. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Haskell, Barbara. Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism, and Performance: 1958–1964. New York: W. W.Norton & Company, 1984. Herring, Scott. Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism. New York: New York University Press, 2010. Hoberman, Jim. ‘Introduction’. In Underground Film: A Critical History, by Parker Tyler, v–xv. New York: Da Capo Press, 1995. Hoffman, Frederick J., Charles Allen and Carolyn F. Ulrich. The Little Magazine: A History and Bibliography. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947. Hovey, Jaime. A Thousand Words: Portraiture, Style, and Queer Modernism. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006. Howard, Alexander. ‘Into the 1930s: Troubadour (1928–32); Blues (1929–30); Smoke (1931–7); and Furioso (1939–53)’. In The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines: Volume II, North America 1894-1960, edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, 347–70. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Howard, John. Men Like That: A Southern Queer History. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2001. Hunt, Sidney. ‘London, September 1929’. Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 2, no. 7 (1929): 39–40.



Isherwood, Christopher. The World in the Evening. 1954. Reprinted. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1999. Jaffe, Aaron. Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. James, David E. ‘Amateurs in the Industry Town: Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol in Los Angeles’. In Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker, edited by David E. James, 61–77. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005. Jameson, Fredric. A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present. London: Verso Books, 2002. Jameson, Fredric. ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’. In The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, edited by Hal Foster, 111–25. Washington: Bay Press, 1983. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. Jenkins, Oliver. ‘Confession’. Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms 1, no. 3 (1929): 131–2. Jones, Caroline A. Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005. Jung, Carl Gustav. ‘On the Psychology of the Unconscious’. In Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume Seven: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, edited by Herbert Read, 3–122. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953. Kane, Daniel. We Saw the Light: Conversations Between the New American Cinema and Poetry. Iowa City: Iowa University Press, 2009. Katz, Daniel. American Modernism’s Expatriate Scene: The Labour of Translation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007. Keller, Lynn. Re-making it New: Contemporary American Poetry and the Modernist Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987. Kennedy, David. ‘An Interview with Kenneth Koch, 5 August 1993’: http://www. (accessed 4 October 2014). Kenner, Hugh. A Homemade World: The American Modernist Writers. London: Marion Boyars, 1977. Kermode, Frank. Continuities. New York: Random House, 1968. Koch, Stephen. Stargazer: Andy Warhol’s World and His Films. London: Calder & Boyars Ltd, 1973. Koestenbaum, Wayne. Double Talk: The Erotics of Male Literary Collaboration. New York and London: Routledge, 1989. Korsmeyer, Carolyn. Making Sense of Taste: Food and Philosophy. New York: Cornell University Press, 1999. Latham, Sean and Gayle Rogers. Modernism: Evolution of an Idea. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.



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Index Abel, Lionel  90 n.9, 180 n.19 Abstract Expressionism  118, 119, 122, 124, 126, 142 nn.96, 101, 152, 155, 156, 161, 181 n.31, 194 aesthetic formalism  125 aesthetic transubstantiation  160, 183 n.69 Aldington, Hilda  66, 203 Allen, Charles  61 n.89 Allen, Donald  221 The New American Poetry 132 Anderson, Margaret  23, 24, 27 Anderson, Perry  4, 6 Andre, Michael  207–9, 212 Apollinaire, Guillaume  35 appropriation  183 n.69 cultural  25, 59 n.61 postal 87 syntactical 34 Aragon, Louis  105, 135 n.15 argumentation, notion of  127 Arnold, David  36 artistic authenticity  157–9 artistic modernism  4 Asako Kitaori  204, 218 n.52 Ashbery, John  132, 140 nn.67, 70, 221 A Nest of Ninnies  224 n.3 Auden, W. H.  94 n.45, 164 auratic art  158 auratic enchantment  196, 197 authorial self-presentation  171 automatism literary  96 n.69, 139 n.64, 140 n.67 Surrealist  140 n.66 autonomy  81, 131, 140 n.70, 199 desire for  117, 123 modernist 87 poetic  87, 88 avant-gardism  27, 53, 75, 94 n.49, 99 n.94, 101, 103, 108, 114, 115, 118, 119, 126, 139 n.58, 152, 170, 171, 172, 191, 203 Cubism and  124 historical 122–3

‘Modernist Painting’  142 n.96 Neo-  185 n.95 Bardo Matrix Press  71 Barnes, Djuna  5, 8, 64 n.123, 89, 153, 195 Barnett, Sarah  209 Baron, Jacques  109 Bashkirtseff, Marie  16 Bataille, Georges  170 Baudelaire, Charles  138 n.56, 215 Beckett, Samuel  5 Bell, Vanessa  94 n.45 Benjamin, Walter  157–8 Benstock, Bernard  215 Benstock, Shari   215 Berard, Christian  153 Bernstein, Charles  24 Berrigan, Ted  133 Betty Parsons Gallery  181 n.30 Beuys, Joseph  99 n.94 Bishop, John Peale  86 Blast  48, 63 n.114 Blom, Ina  99 n.94 Bloom, Harold  199, 208 Blues magazine  9, 11, 27, 31–55, 163, 190, 207–9 criticism at  134 n.2 first volume of  38 naming rationale of  59 nn.60, 62 origin of  21, 25–30 Blum, Irving  157 Boone, Joseph Allen  76, 80 Boultenhouse, Charles  14 n.35, 208, 221 Bourdieu, Pierre  58 n.43 Bowles, Paul  101, 207–8, 212 ‘Promenade des Anglais’  46 Boyle, Kay  40, 208 ‘Confession to Eugene Jolas’  41 Brainard, Joe  132 Braithwaite, Stanley  21 Brakhage, Stan  168, 186 nn.104–6 ‘The Seen’  186 n.106



Brancusi, Constantin  123 Braque, Georges  123 Bresson, Henri-Cartier  150, 89 Breton, André  102–17, 119, 121, 133, 137 n.34, 139 n.64, 140 n.71, 141 n.82, 181 n.29, 187 n.114 L’Amour Fou  104, 111 Les Vases Communicants (Communicating Vessels)  104, 111, 116, 117, 135 n.14 ‘Manifesto of Surrealism’  139 n.60 Position Politique du Surrealisme 111 Second Manifeste du Surrealisme 111 The White-Haired Revolver 223 Young Cherry Trees Secured against Hares 120 Britzolakis, Christina  19, 20 Broom magazine  40 Browder, Clifford  137 n.34 Bürger, Peter  185 n.95 Theory of the Avant-Garde 166 Burroughs, Edgar Rice  55 n.2 Burroughs, William S.  212 Butt, Gavin  105, 106 Byrne, David  189 Cage, John  166, 210 Calas, Nicolas  137 n.40 Calmer, Edgar  48 ‘Any Given Segment’  46–8 capitalist modernity  4 Carne, Marcel ‘Terrain Vague’ (film)  147, 175 Carnegie Library  16, 20 Carrington, Leonora  137 n.40 Caws, Mary Ann  96 n.69, 117, 140 n.66 Cézanne, Paul  123, 142 n.96 chainpoems, concept of  80–5, 88–9, 96 n.69, 97 n.72, 98 nn.79, 81, 99 n.94, 128 criticism of  86–7 Chauncey, George  68 Chicago Group  121 Churchill, Susanne W.  21 circularity, concept of  28–9, 70–1, 81, 85, 86, 89–90, 99 n.93 Clé bulletin  137 n.34 Cleto, Fabio  222

Cocteau, Jean  105, 106, 108, 109, 148 Codrescu, Andrei  212 Cohen, Ira  71, 219 n.66 ‘In Japan You Have The Right To Kill Someone Who Is Destroying Your Inner Space’  211 Cohen, Margaret  135 n.14 Cole, Sarah  94 n.46 collaborative poetic experimentation  79, 86–7, 93 n.41, 98 n.83 collagist mail art  88–9 Colvin, Sidney  15 Conrad, Joseph  78, 93 n.43 The Inheritors 77 The Nature of the Crime 77 Romance  77, 94 n.46 Cooke, Dorian  84, 85 Cookson, William  202 Cordier Ekstrom Gallery (New York)  164 ‘corpse language’  203–5, 207 Cowley, Malcolm  67, 91 n.10 Crane, Hart  44 creative handicraft  159 Crevel, René  108 Crosby, Harry  41–4, 195 ‘House of Ra’  40, 41, 43 ‘Trumpet of Departure’  38 Cubists 123–4 cultural appropriation  59 n.61 cultural capital  21, 58 n.43, 79, 109, 162 cultural exceptionalism  4 cultural production  7, 19, 58 n.43, 166, 217 n.37 avante-garde 172 Duchampian  185 n.95 modernist 168 postmodern  159, 160, 168 cultural renovation and revolution, distinction between  54 Cummings, E. E.  35–6, 129, 153, 165 Dalí, Salvador  89, 105–7, 109, 140 nn.66, 71, 153 Danto, Arthur C.  157, 162, 183 n.69 D’Arista, Robert  152 Davidson, Donald  29–31 demotic aesthetic  88 The Dial magazine  19–20, 26, 60 n.66 demise of  22

Index Dickens, Charles  15 David Copperfield  55 n.3 Dimakopoulou, Stamatina  118 Doolittle, Hilda  40, 89, 203 Dostoevski, Fyodor  16 Dowell, James  188 n.138 Sleep in a Nest of Flames 10 Duchamp, Marcel  119, 120, 141 n.82, 161, 170–1, 175, 183 n.69 Dylan, Bob  165 editorial intent, notion of  38 Edward, L.  57 n.28 Ekstrom, Parmenia  164 Eliot, T. S.  12 n.4, 62–3 n.106, 77, 78, 80, 127 ‘Gerontion’ 33 Eluard, Paul  103, 105, 109, 137 n.39 Emory, William Closson  64 n.120 ‘Environments, Situations, Spaces’ exhibition (New York)  155 epistolary exchanges  70, 73–5, 80, 83, 87, 89–90 expatriate solidarity  40–3, 46–7 Ezra, Don  17 Factory  161–3, 169, 184 nn.73–4 Faulkner, William  64 n.123, 78 Ferus Gallery (Los Angeles)  157 Fink, Peter  173 Fitzgerald, F. Scott This Side of Paradise  95 n.60 Ford, Charles Henri  7 ‘Ballad for Baudelaire’  138 n.56 chainpoem experiments of  80–4, 96 n.71, 97 n.72, 99 n.94 circularity and  28–9, 70–1, 81, 85, 86, 89–90 ‘Comedy of Belief ’  103, 135 n.14 conceptualization of poetic composition  127, 130 ‘A Course on Poetry’  131 on cultural groupings  182 n.37 ‘A Curse on the War Machine’  139 n.58 ‘denudation of tributes’ 71 ‘Duo No. 2’  82 Emblems of Arachne  190, 200, 205–7 ‘Expatriate Number’  39, 40 experimental films of  179 n.10

245 ‘The Garden of Disorder’  139 n.58, 225 n.17 at Greenwich Village  65, 67–8 from Hobo Peep perspective  108, 109, 136 n.26 ‘I Will Be What I Am’ (unpublished document)  15, 18, 56–7 n.27 Imaginationist Manifesto  117, 121, 128, 224 interaction with Ezra Pound  27–8 interaction with Harriet Monroe  22 interaction with Kathleen Tankersley Young  20–1, 25–6 interest in books  15–16 interest in poetry  16–17, 19 interview with Bruce Wolmer  105 letter to Boultenhouse  208, 221 letter to his father  65, 66, 68, 90 n.8 letter to Tyler  150, 152–4, 173, 222 Little Anthology of the Poem in Prose 131–2 marginalization of  11 The Mirror of Baudelaire  138 n.56 ‘n.b.’ 71 New Critics and  127 ‘Notes on “Camp”’  222 ‘Notes on Neo-Modernism’  115, 117, 121, 138–9 n.56 Om Krishna trilogy  190–9, 205–6, 217 n.31 organic conception of self-created form 130 The Overturned Lake  103, 223 plays of  180 n.19 ‘poem’ 71 ‘Poems wanted NOW’  169, 170, 172 poetic aspiration of  130–1 on postmodern  10 ‘Program’ 53 Public Haiku 190 Ransom’s letter to  129 ‘A Record of Myself ’  127–8, 130 sense of isolation  18 sexuality of  18 Silver Flower Coo  147, 173–5, 177, 195 Spare Parts  147, 148, 165–9, 171–4, 185 n.93, 193 ‘Suite’ 48



‘Thirty Images from Italy’  148 understanding of poetic metrical patterning 128 velvet authority of  172 and Warhol  162–3 Water from a Bucket: A Diary, 1948-1957  148–9, 151, 194 ‘What Happens to a Radical Literary Magazine’ 53–4 ‘why ears’  71, 72 The Young and Evil  74–7, 79, 80, 93 n.42, 96 n.65, 163, 195, 212, 223 Ford, Charles L.  57 n.28, 65, 66, 68, 90 n.8 Ford, Ford Madox  78, 93 n.43, 94 n.45 The Inheritors 77 The Nature of the Crime 77 Romance  77, 94 n.46 Ford, Gertrude Cato  56 n.27, 65 Ford, Ruth  137 n.40, 145 Fordographs, see poster poems formalism  125, 127, 130, 204 Frame, Allen  21, 57 n.29, 145, 163, 175, 188 n.132 ‘free verse’ movement  12 n.4 Freud, Sigmund  9, 13 n.33, 56 n.15 Wunderblock  13 n.33 Furman, Abraham The Interne  94 n.45 Fusco, Maria  165 Garber, Eric  59 n.62 Garner, Sky ‘Fin de Siècle’  212 Germain, Edward B.  9, 219 n.66, 223 Gildea, John Rose  90 n.9, 91 n.21 Ginsberg, Allen  132, 164, 165, 167–8, 212 ‘Psalm’ 131 Gold, Mike  134 n.2 Goodman, Paul ‘Proverbs’ 131 Gorky, Arshile  120 gossiping 105 graphipoem 166 Graves, Robert  33, 60 n.68, 93 n.40, 143 n.119 A Survey of Modernist Poetry  27, 32, 36, 52, 77, 94 n.45, 129 Gray, Whitely  22

Greenberg, Clement  102, 119, 122–5, 142 nn.96, 101, 156 ‘Abstract and Representational’  125 ‘“American Type” Painting’  126 ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’  122 ‘The Case for Abstract Art’  154–5 ‘The “Crisis” of Abstract Art’  156–7 dismissals of Surrealist aesthetic praxis 125 ‘Surrealist Painting’  124 ‘Towards a Newer Laöcoon’  123 Greenwich Village  65, 67–8, 90 n.9, 91 nn.10–11, 21 Gregory, Horace  62 n.97 Guggenheim, Peggy  181 n.30, 193–4 Guilbaut, Serge  107–8, 119, 121, 122 haiku poems  189, 205, 208, 218 n.52 Hall, Donald  219 n.70 Hamilton, Ian  31–2, 46, 61 nn.89–90 Hardie, Melissa Jane  93 n.42 Haskell, Barbara  156 Heap, Jane  23 Hemingway, Ernest  95 n.60 The Sun Also Rises 80 Hendry, J. F.  83 Herring, Scott  57 n.33 high modernism  5, 6 Hoberman, Jim  146 Hoffman, Frederick J.  61 n.89 Hoffman, Leigh  40 ‘A Great Day for a Little Man’  41 homophobia 104–6 homosexuality  51, 59 n.62, 76, 93 n.43, 104, 106, 108, 146, 222. See also queerness Hovey, Jaime  47 Howard, Alexander  12 n.5, 13 n.32 Howard, John  56 n.26 Howells, William Dean  94 n.45 Hugnet, Georges  40 Hugo, Victor  15 human behaviour and modernism  5–6 Hunt, Sidney  63 n.114 Hunt, Violent  94 n.45 Huxley, Aldous Eyeless in Gaza 5 Ibsen, Henrik  15, 16, 55 n.5 idealism  55 n.5

Index ‘illusionistic effect’  124 Imaginationism  115–16, 121 distinction with Surrealism  116 Imagism  202–5, 217 n.37 Institute of Contemporary Arts (London) 148 intimate bureaucracy  87, 89 Iolas Gallery (New York)  89 Isamu Noguchi  217 n.31 Isherwood, Christopher  94 n.45 The World in the Evening 224 Jackson, Brooksie  151 Jaffe, Aaron  78–9, 81 James, David E.  168 James, Henry, O.M.  24 Jameson, Fredric  3–4, 7, 78, 89, 159–60, 168 Jenkins, Oliver  30, 33, 34 ‘Portrait of a Crusader Giving a Heartto-Heart Talk’  33 Joans, Ted  212 John, Richard ‘Robert in Berlin’  48 Johns, Jasper  166 Johnson, Philip  10 Johnson, Ray  88–9, 98 n.89, 99 nn.93–4, 212 Jolas, Eugene  39, 40, 54, 59 n.64, 62 n.99, 102–3, 134 n.4 Jones, Caroline A.  125, 126 Joyce, James  16, 23, 78 Finnegans Wake 5 Ulysses 195 Jung, Carl Gustav  96–7 n.71 Kahane, Jack  74 Kandinsky, Wassily  123 Kane, Daniel  146 Katue Kitasono  86 Katz, Daniel  40 Keats, John  18 Keller, Lynn  36 Kenner, Hugh  24 The Kenyon Review 129 Kermode, Frank  138 n.53 Kimmelman, Michael  8 Kinnell, Galway  209, 210 Kirstein, Lincoln  151 Klee, Paul  123


Koch, Kenneth  132, 133, 221, 224 n.3 The Publications 132 Koch, Stephen  162 Koestenbaum, Wayne  77, 93 nn.41, 43, 95 n.50 Kolomvakis, John  188 n.138 Sleep in a Nest of Flames 10 Kooning, De  152 Korsmeyer, Carolyn  194, 195 Lamantia, Philip  132 late capitalism  159, 160 late modernism, see second-generation under modernism late poetry  189–91, 194–5, 197–200, 204, 214, 215 Latham, Sean  1 Laughlin, James  207 New Directions in Prose & Poetry 81, 131 Lawrence, D. H  16, 94 n.45 Lazo, Augustín  91 n.18 Le Clercq, Jacques  30 Le Clercq, Tanquil  151 Les Temps moderns (journal)  181 n.29 Leslie Tonkonow Gallery (New York) 188 n.132 Lewis, Wyndham  48, 63 n.114, 78, 80, 94 n.45 Lillie, Beatrice  93 n.39 Linze, George  40 little magazines, significance of  31, 39 The Little Review magazine  23, 27 Liveright, Horace  74 Locus Solus (journal)  224 n.3 London Bulletin 83 Lorca, Garcia  105, 106, 130 Lowenfels, Walter  40 ‘Antipodes’ 41 Loy, Mina  5 Lyford, Amy  135 n.15 Mac Low, Jackson  210 McCaig, Norman  84, 85 McKible, Adam  31 Macleod, Norman  33 ‘A Woman Swayed’  33 McMillian, Dougald  42 MacNeice, Louis  94 n.45 Maddow, Ben  90 n.9



Malanga, Gerard  145, 147, 163, 177, 179 n.2, 188 n.141 Malanga’s Life of Ford  178 Screen Tests/A Diary 177–8 Manet, Édouard  123, 142 n.96 Mansfield, Jayne  164 Mao, Douglas  2 Mariňo, Carmita  92 n.29 Markopoulos, Gregory  163 Marks, Peter  31 Marshall, Margaret  180 n.19 Martha Jackson Gallery (New York)  155 Mass, Willard  145 Matisse, Henri  123 Matta, Roberto  170, 171, 187 nn.113–14 Menken, Marie  145 metrics, importance of  127 Meyer, Moe  222 Michelson, Annette  168 Miller, Cristanne  91 n.11 Miller, Henry  113–15 ‘Open Letter to Surrealists Everywhere’ 113 The Rosy Crucifixion 114 Miller, Tyrus  5, 6, 43–5, 47, 63 n.106, 210 Miró, Juan  123 Mitchell Algus Gallery  8 Mitchison, Naomi  94 n.45 modernism 222. See also individual entries of American avant-garde cinema 186 n.104 Anglo-American 43–4 Anglophone  79, 94 n.45 association with expatriation  40 critical posterity and  78 in The Dial magazine  20 experimental 80 first-generation  19, 22, 34, 38, 45, 48, 51, 52, 67, 77–80, 82, 87, 127, 203 idealism and  55 n.5 logorrheic form of  47, 48 male  51, 77 queer writings and  47–9, 51, 56 n.26, 76–7 second-generation  5, 6, 10, 24, 27, 38, 44–8, 54, 63n 106, 69, 103 modernist imprimatur, nature of  79 modernist mastery, issue of  78

modernity 215 contemporary connotations of  3–4 modernization  4, 194, 203 Moi, Toril  55 n.5 Mondrian, Piet  123 Monroe, Harriet  21–4, 27, 28 Moore, George  94 n.45 Moore, Marianne  12 n.5 Moramarco, Fred  201 Morrissey, Paul  188 n.138 Motherwell, Robert  122, 152, 181 n.30 Mundy, Jennifer  103 Muñoz, José Esteban  88 Munson, Gorham  64 n.123 Murphet, Julian  217 n.37 The Museum of Modern Art (New York) 155 Myers, John Bernard  132–3 The Poets of the New York School 132 Nagao Hirao  86 National Poetry Foundation  10 Neiman, Catrina  118 New Apocalypse movement  83–4, 97 n.78 New Criticism  127, 130, 131 The New Masses (periodical)  134 New York Schools of poetry  105–6, 122, 131–3, 153, 221 New York Times 8 The New Yorker magazine  17 Newman, Barnett  122 Ney, Lew  65–7, 136 n.26 Nicholls, Peter  2 Nieland, Justus  76 non-normative regimes, of feeling  76–7 Norse, Harold  212 North, Jessica Nelson  62 n.97 North, Michael  59 n.61 Obelisk Press  74, 96 n.65 objectivism/objectivity  24, 181 n.31 O’Donnell, George Marion  86 O’Hara, Frank  132 Oişteanu, Valery  212, 213, 218 n.58 Oldenburg, Claes  179 n.11, 183 n.64 ‘The Store’  155–6, 159 Olympia Press  96 n.65 ‘on-sending’ practice  88 Owen, Grace Arlington  22, 24

Index Partisan Review  137 n.39, 222 paste-up poems, see poster poems Patchen, Kenneth  166 Pawlik, Joanna  136 n.20 Péret, Benjamin  103 Philpot, Clive  134 n.3 Picasso, Pablo  123 poetic intelligibility, idea of  128 Pollock, Jackson  122, 152, 153, 155, 181 n.30, 181–2 n.31, 194 Pop art  11, 118, 133, 147, 148, 155, 157, 159, 165–6, 169, 173–7, 179 n.11, 188 n.138, 212, 222 cultural and aesthetic impact of  174 postmodern 161 Warholian  159, 163, 185 n.95, 190 poster poems  164–5, 167, 169, 171, 173, 175, 178 posterity  78, 149, 213, 215 postmodern  3, 6, 9–11, 70, 102, 147, 159–61, 166, 168–70, 179, 191, 193, 212, 224 cultural production  168 historical moment  7, 208 proliferation 89 postmodernism  2, 6, 159. See also individual entries proto- 87 postmodernist aesthetics  159 Pound, Ezra  7, 10, 12 n.4, 16, 17, 24, 27, 30, 39, 52, 56 n.22, 60 n.71, 67, 69, 70, 77, 78, 80–3, 86, 89, 92 n.25, 128, 145, 149, 180 n.19, 190–1, 195–8, 200, 208–10, 216 n.15, 219 nn.65, 70 Cantos  5, 191, 198–200, 213–15 (see also Unmuzzled OX) Drafts and Fragments of Cantos CXCXVII  198, 200–6, 213–15 Guide to Kulchur 198–9 interaction with Ford  27–8 ‘Program 1929’  37, 213 Proust, Marcel  195 Pryor, Sean  200 psychoanalytical archetype  97 n.71 queerness  7, 18, 36, 47–9, 51, 54, 56 n.26, 57 n.33, 59 n.62, 68, 71, 76–7, 80, 88, 91 n.18, 93 n.41, 94 n.46, 95 n.64, 105, 107, 110, 161, 164, 173, 212, 222–4. see also homosexuality


Radnitzky, Emmanuel  190 Ransom, John Crowe  93 n.40, 102, 119, 127, 129–30 The New Criticism  127, 130 Rauschenberg, Robert  166, 187 n.129 Ray, Man  89, 105, 109 renga poetic forms  97 n.72 representational paintings  152, 154 Rexroth, Andrée  46 Rexroth, Kenneth  45, 46 Riding, Laura  33, 60 nn.67–8, 93 n.40, 143 n.119 A Survey of Modernist Poetry  27, 32, 36, 52, 77, 94 n.45, 129 Rigault, Estelle  190 Rimbaud, Jean Arthur  94 n.49, 195 Rocco, Joseph  90 n.9 Roditi, Edouard  120, 212 Rogers, Gayle  1 Rood, Karen L.  166 Rosemont, Franklin  121 Rosemont, Penelope  121 Rosenberg, Harold ‘The American Action Painters’ 142 n.101 Rosenquist, James  179 n.11 Rothko, Mark  122, 152, 181 n.30, 182 n.42 Royal Society of British Artists Galleries (London) 155 Ruppel, Richard J.  94 n.46 Saburoh Kuroda  86 St Mary’s Catholic University  65 Samelson, Harold J.  40 Samuel M. Kootz Gallery  181 n.30 Saper, Craig J.  87–8 Sartre, Jean-Paul No Exit 190 ‘What is Literature?’  181 n.29 Sawin, Martica  122 Schulyer, James  132 A Nest of Ninnies  224 n.3 ‘Two Meditations’  131 Scott, Shelley  137 n.40 Scott, Zachary  145 Secession 40 Sedgwick, Edie  184 n.74 Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky  51 See, Sam  95 n.64



Seigel, Eli  30 self-consciousness  27, 32–5, 44, 48, 60 n.68, 75, 80, 131, 149, 223 self-created form, organic conception of 130 The Sewanee Review  53, 54 Shaw, George Bernard  16 Sidney Janis Gallery  183 n.57 Silverberg, Mark  221 Sitney, P. Adam  186 n.104 Sitwell, Edith  151 Skinner, Mollie  94 n.45 Skira, Albert  110 Smith, Jack  145–6, 179 n.10, 225 n.8 Smith, Roberta  165 social capital  162 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York) 155 Sontag, Susan  222, 225 n.8 Soupault, Philippe  94 n.49 Spector, Herman  27, 28, 30, 69 Stable Gallery (New York)  183 n.57 Stein, Gertrude  7, 40, 60 n.71, 64 n.123, 73, 74, 80, 89, 95 n.60, 175, 208 Still, Clyfford  151, 181 n.30 Stone, Marjorie  93 n.41 Suárez, Juan A.  51, 76, 80, 162, 184 nn.78–9 subjectivity  34, 87, 104, 117, 125, 135 n.14, 181 n.31 pre-eminence of  168 Surrealism  8, 9, 81, 91 n.18, 96 n.69, 136 n.20, 137 n.39, 138–9 n.56, 140 nn.66–7, 71, 167, 170, 181 n.29, 204, 223, 224 Bretonian  139 n.58 distinction with Imaginationism  116 formalism and  125 orthodox 116 representational figuration and  124–5 subjective aspect of  125 in United States  102–33 Sylander, Gordon  85–6 syntactical appropriation  34 syntactical disjunction  35, 49, 169, 175, 177 Syuiti Nagayasu  86 Takesi Fuji  86 Tashjian, Dickran  109, 111, 113, 139 n.58

Tchelitchew, Pavel  8, 98 n.79, 108, 148–51, 153, 194, 196, 212 technological reproducibility  157–8, 160, 171, 197 The Tennessean 29 Thayer, Scofield  19 This Quarter magazine  40 Thoma, Roberta  216 n.16 Thomas, Dylan  98 n.83 Thompson, Judith  93 n.41 Thurman, Wallace The Interne  94 n.45 Tiffany, Daniel  203–5 Tillman, Lynne  67, 134 n.3, 148–9, 163, 179 n.14, 189 ‘Diary of a Masochist’  212 Toba Sojo  201 Toklas, Alice B.  74 transition magazine  103 Treece, Henry  83, 97 n.78 Trotter, David  5 Troubadour: A Magazine of Verse 22 Tuneo Osada  86 Tyler, Eva  69 Tyler, Parker  14 n.35, 48, 64 n.127, 67, 69, 71, 78–80, 83, 85, 91 nn.10, 21, 92 nn.28–9, 93 n.39, 95 n.60, 108, 110, 111, 129, 131, 136 n.26, 137 n.39, 141 n.82, 143 n.124, 146, 149, 151–3, 165–6, 170, 176, 179 n.10, 180 n.19, 181–2 n.31, 208, 212, 216 n.16, 225 n.8 ‘Charles Henri Ford: From Poet to Graphipoet’ (unpublished)  165 ‘Duo No. 2’  82 ‘For Some Pins’  71 ‘He the More, I the Less’  49–51, 71–3 ‘Imaginary Conversation between Mr E. E. Cummings and the Editors of BLUES’  35 ‘Instruction of the Sensibility’  71 letter from Ford  150, 152–4, 174, 222 ‘Program’ 53 ‘Sonnet’  34–7, 49, 51 ‘3 Poems’  48 Underground Film 146 ‘What Happens to a Radical Literary Magazine’ 53–4

Index The Young and Evil  74–7, 79, 80, 93 n.42, 95 n.60, 96 n.65, 163, 195, 212, 223 typographical proliferation  35 Ulrich, Carolyn F.  61 n.89 underground film  145–6 Unmuzzled OX 23 210 Unmuzzled OX Blues  209, 211–13 Unmuzzled OX Cantos 209 Unmuzzled OX magazine  191, 207–9, 211, 218 n.57 Vail, Laurence  40 ‘Meek Madness in Capri or Suicide for Effect’  41–3, 47 Van Gogh Pair of Boots 159 Verlaine, Paul  94 n.49 View magazine  9, 101, 112, 113, 117–20, 126, 132, 133, 134 n.3, 148, 151–2, 156, 184 n.71 Vogel, Amos  225 n.8 Vogel, Joseph  27, 28, 30, 51–3, 64 n.120, 69, 134 n.2 VVV magazine  113, 117 Waldman, Anne  212 Walkowitz, Rebecca L.  2 Warhol, Andy  8, 11, 90, 145–7, 157, 159–63, 165, 168, 169, 174–5, 183 nn.57, 69, 184 nn.71, 76, 185 n.95, 187 n.129, 197 Campbell’s Soup Cans portraits of  157 Diamond Dust Shoes  159, 160, 162 Flowers 173


Screen Tests/A Diary 177–8 Self-Portrait with Skull 197 Silver Clouds 173 Watney, Simon  184 n.76 Watson, Sibley  19 Watson, Steven  92 n.28, 96 n.65 White, Eric B.  58 n.39, 59 n.60, 65 Whiting, Cécile  161 Whitman, Walt  189 Widen, Luther, see Ney, Lew Wilcock, John  99 n.99, 163, 184 n.71 The Autography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol  163, 187 n.129 Wilde, Oscar  16 Williams, Bill  27, 28, 69 Williams, William Carlos  7, 10, 12 n.5, 29, 30, 46, 53, 62–3 n.106, 120, 130, 149, 180 n.19, 208, 225 n.17 ‘Bread and Caviar Again: A Warning to the New Writer’  52 ‘For a New Magazine’  40 ‘Introduction to a Collection of Modern Writing’ 44–5 ‘A Note on the Art of Poetry’  62 n.106 ‘Notes for a New Magazine’  45 Wilson, William S.  88, 89 Wolmer, Bruce  103, 105, 106, 118 Woolf, Virginia  78, 94 n.45, 195 To the Lighthouse 195 The Waves and Between the Acts 5 Yeats, W. B.  94 n.45 Young, Kathleen Tankersley  20, 25–6, 30, 58 n.39, 59 n.64, 60 n.66, 61 n.82, 62 n.97, 64 n.120, 65, 90 n.2, 91 n.21 Zukofsky, Louis  7, 27, 30, 62 n.97, 83