Wednesday, 6 March 2013

POET OF THE MONTH #4: Ford Madox Ford



Yesterday I found a bee-orchid.
But when I gave it you you never raised your eyebrows.
'That a bee-orchid?  It's like neither bee nor orchid.'
Was all you said.  And dropped it amongst the tea-table debris,
And went on gazing out over the lake,
As once you dropped my letters into a Sixth Avenue garbage can
And went on gazing up West Ninth Street
Towards Wanamaker's.

                                Years ago
We boys went spread out over Caesar's Camp
With the Channel at our backs.  In the sun shone,
Across the strip of blue, the pink-blue cliffs of France.
And the wind whispered in the couch-grass
And in the heat of the sun the small herbs' scents were pungent
And sweet and stirring.
And one of us would find a bee-orchid.
From fold to fold of the Downs the cry would go;
'A bee-orchid!' 'Ho! A bee-orchid!' 'Hullo!  A beeorchid!'
And God promised us the kingdoms of the Earth, and a corner in France
And the heart of an Oriental woman.

Well, here is the corner of France.
The kingdoms of the Earth are rather at a discount,
We should not know what to do with them if we had them.
And you, you have no heart.

Buckshee: Poems for Haïtchka in France (1931)

The Poet:  Born Ford Madox Hueffer in the English county of Surrey in 1873, Ford Madox Ford –– as he was legally known from 1919 –– was the grandson of artist Ford Madox Brown and the preeminent (if most criminally undervalued) English man of letters of the first third of the twentieth century.  

A novelist, poet, essayist and editor of genius, Ford was also the friend of Henry James, HG Wells and Stephen Crane, the collaborator of Joseph Conrad (many critics believe Ford completed at least one monthly installment of his friend's 1904 novel Nostromo when Conrad became too ill to do so) and the discoverer of DH Lawrence, Ernest Hemingway and Jean Rhys (via his editorship of The English Review and its Paris-based successor the transatlantic review).  He once rolled on the floor shouting 'No, no, no!' while his friend Ezra Pound read him a new poem he'd been working on, causing Pound to completely re-think his approach to poetry –– a criticism which may have led, some believe, to the creation of Pound's Cantos if not to the birth of literary Modernism.  Ford was, in every sense of the term, a larger than life personality who believed that conveying 'impressions' – of people, places and events –– was a far more important task for a writer than the mere relating of dull dry fact, useful and even necessary though this sometimes was.  No writer of his generation did more to help his fellow writers and no writer of his generation was more reviled by them for doing so.  

In addition to publishing dozens of essays, articles, poems and book reviews, Ford was also the author of nearly eighty works of fiction and non-fiction, including the universally acclaimed masterpieces The Good Soldier (1915) and the Parade's End tetralogy, consisting of Some Do Not(1924), No More Parades (1925), A Man Could Stand Up (1926) and Last Post (1928)Once described by Anthony Burgess as 'the finest novel about the First World War,' Parade's End was successfully adapted for BBC Television by playwright Tom Stoppard in 2012.

Click HERE to read four more poems by FORD MADOX FORD at  You can also click HERE to read a generous selection of his work –– including his fiction, non-fiction, poetry and the complete Parade's End tetralogy –– as free-to-download eBooks. 

You might also enjoy: 
FORD MADOX FORD A Call: The Tale of Two Passions (1910)
WRITERS ON WRITING #40: Ford Madox Ford
WRITERS ON WRITING #50: Ford Madox Ford       

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