Saturday, October 31, 2009

“The Bad Habit”

It’s All Hallows Eve tonight, & what more can you ask for from today’s Weekly Poem than that its author dedicated it to Edgar Allan Poe? This is the case with today’s poem, written by a poet I think should be more widely read, Charles Henri Ford.

Ford had a long career, beginning the lit mag Blues in the late 20s at age 16; not long after this, he moved to Paris & became a part of Gertrude Stein’s salon, where he became friends with a number of writers, including Djuna Barnes. He & Parker Tyler co-wrote The Young & the Evil, which Stein called, “the novel that beat the Beat Generation by a generation,” & he was the partner of dancer Pavel Tchelitchew until the latter’s death in 1957. Ford continued his work as poet, novelist, film-maker & general man of the arts practically until his own death in 2002.

Ford’s poetry is surrealist in nature, & he was aligned with the “capital S” surrealists as editor of the literary magazine The View. His poems certainly evoke the marvelous, with their uncanny imagery; they also often deliver a great deal of poignancy & feeling & the sense that the author is moved by the beautiful, even when the beautiful takes on truly strange forms.

Hope you enjoy today’s poems.

The Bad Habit

for Poe

Drug of the incomprehensible
engenders the freaks of desire.
The bleeding statue, the violin’s hair,
the river of fire:

the blood grows, the hair flows, the river groans,
from the veins, from the skin, by the home of the child
pulled and repelled by Bloody Bones;
renewal of the swoon

mastered, the raw egg of fear,
doped with mystery, the hooded heart:
perpetually haunted, hopeless addict,
herding unheard of cattle!

Rider on the bat-winged horse.

Charles Henri Ford


  1. A fine post; I did not know of Ford before now. I love the last line, "Rider on the bat-winged horse." Vivid imagery all.

  2. Hi Lizzy: Glad you liked it! Ford is pretty obscure.

  3. The next time I'm asked what historical figure I would like to have lunch with, I'm definitely going to say "Gertrude Stein." Can you imagine all the fascinating people who would stop by the table?

    Ford's poem makes me think of Chagall, maybe because of the violin. I like the way the poem starts out to be fairly formal, then seems to grab the reins and gallop off, while the poet just hangs on for dear life.

  4. A Good week's Post John.I will get Me A-reading!
    Say, Have you seen This Site?

  5. Love the imagery, especially "the raw egg of fear,/doped with mystery." When did he write this?

  6. Hi Sandra, Tony & K

    Sandra: I think it would be grand to have tea with Gertrude Stein! & I like your description of the poem a lot.

    Tony: Thanks! That looks like a great site.

    K: I don't know for sure, but if I had to guess I'd say early 40s. I'm pretty sure it's early work, which would put it very late 30s-early 40s.

  7. Thanks for the introduction. I'd have lunch wit stein if Charles came along. It's odd how the poem would have been impossible to understand except for those two little words, "for Poe" which make it completely, almost straightforwardly sensible. The swoon mastered, the raw egg of fear, rider on the bat winged horse. My favourite was "the hooded heart." When I was about eleven years old I hosted a summer story hour for the children in my neighbourhood and read nothing but Poe, just at the twilight hour, with the parents busy with their parent things. It was delicious. And it was never a problem to find the right breathless reading voice because i was always as terrified as everyone else. No-one ever missed a session.

  8. A great poem for All Hallows Eve.

    Do you get "trick or treaters" - or are you too far from your neighbours? My daughter, Amy, suggested handing out chocolate brussels sprouts (do you get brussels sprouts or are they purely european? Like a hard mini-cabbage that's only an inch or so across). Strip sprouts of outer leaves. Melt big bar of chocolate. Roll raw sprouts in it. Allow to set. Look great - until you bite them. Mean idea (I haven't the heart to try it) but I kind of like it.

  9. Hi Mairi & Dominic

    Mairi: Your twilight reading hour sounds fun! & I also like the "hooded heart." Great sounds in the poem (which is also Poe-like)

    Dominic: None so far; we usually don't get any. We do have some relatively near neighbors, but none of them have kids (they're all at the grandparent stage). I love brussel sprouts, especially with horseradish sauce, but chocloate covered--wow, that would keep kids from coming back (after they'd "toilet papered" your front yard--a charming Halloween "trick" here in the States).

  10. Ford is new to me. I really like "raw egg of fear". Perfect Halloween post.


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