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This article is taken from PN Review 226, Volume 42 Number 2, November - December 2015.

The Way Grass Grows: Janice Biala, Ford Madox Ford and Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos Mary Maxwell
Ezra Pound was the reason for Ford Madox Ford’s first meeting with the American painter Janice Biala. In 1930 Biala had gone to one of Ford’s ‘Thursday afternoons’ in Paris to meet the famous (and even then, somewhat infamous) poet whose work she much admired. Instead she met Ford and – despite his being thirty years her senior – that, as they say, was that. Ford and Biala were essentially inseparable until Ford’s death in 1939. Though the two were never legally married, for a period she referred to herself as Janice Ford.

Ford is a more noteworthy figure in American poetry than is generally acknowledged. For though there is recognition of Ford’s personal importance to the careers of William Carlos Williams and Robert Lowell, his influence extends well beyond a small circle of Poundian acquaintances and protégés. As Basil Bunting observed in 1974, ‘Without knowing where it originated, hundreds of poets in England and American began to write in ways which would hardly have been possible unless Ford had shown [Pound] how.’ ‘It is no secret’, wrote Pound himself, ‘that I learned more from Ford than from anyone else.’ Biala’s painting, I will argue, may also be seen as the visual manifestation of certain aspects of Ford’s teaching.

Certainly Biala remained in communication with both Williams and Lowell through the nineteen-sixties (the latter wrote the introduction to Buckshee, Ford’s posthumous collection of poems published in 1966). And in post-war New York she and her second husband Daniel Brustlein were friends with ...

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