Though his reputation was made as a poet, Ford's artistic interests took him in many directions--prose, the visual arts, even directing a feature film...moreThough his reputation was made as a poet, Ford's artistic interests took him in many directions--prose, the visual arts, even directing a feature film. But if the back cover of this volume, a decade-long expanse of Ford's personal dairies, is to be believed, Ford himself considered this to be his masterpiece. And having read a collection of his poetry concurrently, it's rather hard to disagree. Ford's background as a poet is obvious and serves him well, as the diaries are mostly long strings of short anecdotes polished to a sparkling epigrammatic brilliance--there's definitely a talent for diverting what could conceivably be a long digression and summing it up perfectly with a witty line or shrewdly recorded bit of dialogue. Famous names waft in and out of the pages--the Sitwells, Djuna Barnes (Ford's former lover), Cocteau, Genet, Capote, as well as the not-so-famous that made an impression on Ford during his many travels and international places of residence. It's also remarkably candid about his sexual adventures and misadventures, though in the end the entire thing can almost be characterized as an elegiac valentine to his longtime partner, the Surrealist painter Pavel Tchelitchew. Though Tchelitchew, fondly referred to throughout by his pet name Pavlik, often comes off as conflicted and unbearably cantankerous, Ford still manages to convey his great love and affection, and as the diary comes to a close by recording Tchelitchew's last days and painful death I found myself, unexpectedly, near tears. A particularly notable example of the personal diary as a work of art.
"Sometimes, one has to empty out oneself to feel the world's fullness."(less)
In the introduction of this collection of Ford's poems, an Edward B. Germain makes a grand pronouncement: "when he began publishing in 1929, Ford was...moreIn the introduction of this collection of Ford's poems, an Edward B. Germain makes a grand pronouncement: "when he began publishing in 1929, Ford was unique: America's surrealist poet. In retrospect, he is seminal." And yet he doesn't seem to have much a reputation these days (though, really, none of the American surrealists--with the possible exception of Joseph Cornell--managed to establish legacies on the level of their European counterparts), which is a shame, because he can be striking poet. Beginning as a self-made and self-conscious prodigy of sorts--he founded an important literary magazine after dropping out of high school--and a member of the European ex-pat community in the 30's and 40's, this collection spans Ford's entire body of poetry up to the early 1970's. It's a bit uneven (several late long poems dedicated to Edith Sitwell in particular are ponderous bores), and Ford works with rhyming much more than most of his contemporaries, but each poem holds at least a dazzling turn of phrase or two. At the very least. It's a shame more of his work isn't more widely available.
"What kind of poem would I like to write? One in which the images are new and yet fill one with pleasure, like a face that's strange but which we recognize with joy mixed with nostalgia."
"Although experimental in ways that seem typically Modernist, this fictional work bears little resemblance, by opposition rather than imitation, to Jo...more"Although experimental in ways that seem typically Modernist, this fictional work bears little resemblance, by opposition rather than imitation, to Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man." -Shari Benstock, Women of the Left Bank(less)