Remembering Charles Henri Ford on his 110th birthday
|Charles Henri Ford. 1933|
Had Charles been given the chance, he would probably have said yes to living forever because life was an exciting ride for him. Everything he dreamed of or hoped for seemed to come true eventually. On his birthday in 1927, he made a pledge to be famous in two years. And then on his next birthday, in 1928, he added up what he had achieved so far at the age of twenty. He had a poem published in The New Yorker, and he had a few poems accepted by smaller publications. It didn’t seem like much to him, but he still had a year left in his pledge. Charles was ambitious, and he was on his way to being famous. But he had one concern that wouldn’t exist today, and he put it down as a question in his diary: But how, how am I to know if I am famous on February 10, 1929? He then wrote: Plans should be formed, must be formed. Launching a poetry magazine would help immensely.
1928 was a time when meeting influential people was easier than it is now, even without the internet or reliable telephones or jet travel. Charles had a talent for sending letters to very famous people—such as Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein—and getting not just replies, but submissions to the poetry magazine he launched. And that little magazine, Blues, went a long way to helping him become famous—not in 1929 perhaps, but within his lifetime for sure. No twenty-year-old today would have to wonder how they would know if they were famous. All they’d have to do is look at their phone. But at the same time, it is not so easy to meet and befriend famous people now a days, the way Charles was able to 90 years ago just by writing a letter.
By the early 1930s, Charles was in Paris, living with Djuna Barnes and writing, surrounded by the most exceptional creative people his day.
On February 6th, 1933, just before his birthday Charles wrote to his mother from Paris:
You’re a lamb to send me the money for my birthday. It came this morning and I don’t know what I would have done had it not. Djuna is quite broke too since she didn’t plan to stay over here so long and no longer has her column in the Theatre Guild magazine. She is working on a story for The New Yorker, an article for the Theatre Arts Monthly on the French stage which is not as good as the New York stage…I have been working on the novel and it is just about completed.
At the Dome the other evening I saw James T. Farrell, a young writer from the University of Chicago—Kay Boyle introduced us but I had been the first one to publish him (in Blues) over two years ago and since then he’s had two novels accepted.
Charles had a lot to do with helping others have success over the years, by publishing their work in Blues, or later on in View, or by introducing people to one another. All of that made him very happy. I think his legacy, in addition to all of his art, is the lesson of perseverance. Keep working, keep trying, and eventually, usually, dedication pays off.
Happy Birthday Charles, wherever you are. You are not forgotten and missed every day.
|Charles Henri Ford, 1934 by Carl Van Vechten|
CHARLES HENRI FORD
February 10, 1908 – September 27, 2002
copyright © Indra Tamang 2018, all rights reserved.