Sunday, January 04, 2009

two favorite characters

The Times City Room has a blog and the January 2 entry was a piece about the recent donation of the books and papers of the famed bookstore, the Gotham Book Mart, to the special collections department of Penn's Van Pelt Library. Actually, a donor paid the bookstore a sum for its contents, whereupon the donor anonymously donated them to Penn. Penn announced this major acquisition back in mid-December, but now the City Room blog takes a broader look at this once-important literary watering hole and the context of its demise. And they run a great photo of some denizens, including writers who have long interested me, such as Horace Gregory and his wife Marya Zaturenska. Below is that photo. Here I want to point out two characters I find especially fascinating. One is Jose Garcia Villa, a Flipino-American poet who did some writing but also some editing in the modernist milieu. Some time ago I had something to say about his experiment with poems in which all words were separated by commas; see "why,can't,traditional,meter,be,an,effect,too?" Garcia Villa is the slight dark-haired fellow standing under the man on the ladder (who happens to be W. H. Auden). Another favorite of mine is the fellow sitting cross-legged on the floor: Charles Henri Ford, a novelist, poet, editor, photographer, collage artist and driving force behind the surrealist magazine View. He was born in Mississippi and I'm guessing he picked up the handle "Henri" in Paris. He had escaped to France pretty early, and ran his first periodical there, titled Blues and subtitled "A Bisexual Bimonthly." Returned to NYC in '34 and lived there with his long-time partner, the quasi-exiled neo-romantic painter Pavel Tchelitchew. My favorite Ford story: he typed Djuna Barnes' novel Nightwood for her, while visiting Morocco in 1932 at the suggestion of Paul Bowles.