Sunday, January 23

Of Orchids and Other Things


New issues of two magazines have recently plopped on to the doormat: Tears in the Fence has a cover this time which hasn’t worked: it appears to be of a dark green dog stood in a dark green field at night, all printed on dark green card. Even seen with a flashlight it’s quite a lot of dark green. But that’s only the cover. Inside it’s the Fence’s usual intelligent mixture, although I have to say I’ve read very little of it as yet. No time. Writers include Peter Dent, Robert Sheppard, Norman Jope and K.M. Dersley. Anyway, it’s £6.00 from 38 Hod View, Stourpaine, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 8TN, and should be one of the magazines you don’t ignore.

I’ve read none at all of the new Ambit, #179, which arrived Friday. This is £6.50 from 17 Priory Gardens, London N6 5QY. Ambit must be one of the most long-lived poetry magazines in the UK. People in this one include …. oh, it’s me! Wow.


When I was in Brighton recently I bought a few secondhand books. I said I wouldn’t but I did. One was a novel by Ronald Firbank, called “Prancing Nigger”. Yes, it’s an unfortunate title. Apparently it was also published as “Sorrow in Sunlight”. I bought it because I had a vague recollection I’d come across Firbank’s name somewhere, and I think it was by way of John Ashbery, or James Schuyler, or someone from that area. Of course, I could be completely wrong. But somewhere in the recesses of my head I had him down as a stylist, and someone to at least have a look at. Otherwise, I knew nothing of him, and had certainly never come across any of his books.

“Prancing Nigger” dates from 1925. Firbank seems to hover around as some kind of link between the writing of the 1890s, about which I don’t know much but which I understand to be rather effete and dandyish, and the modernists of the 1920s, about which I know rather more. It’s an intriguing little book. I
called it a novel, but it’s only 70 pages long, so perhaps ‘novella’ would be more accurate. It has great elegance, and is primarily dialogue. That’s why I’m pretty sure of the Ashbery/Schuyler thing – Ashbery was an admirer of Henry Green, another master of the dialogue novel, and there’s also the Ashbery/Schuyler collaborative novel “A Nest of Ninnies” in a similar mould. There’s also a good deal of ellipsis of sorts (if that’s the correct term), which again is somewhat characteristic of all these writers. For example, there’s an earthquake happens, and you have to be paying proper attention to realise it. When you go back and re-read the less than a page in which it occurs, it’s so deftly done one can only admire. However, one of my favourite passages is about some flowers:

But in their malignant splendour the orchids were the thing. Mrs. Abanathy, Ronald Firbank (a dingy lilac blossom of rarity untold), Prince Palairet, a heavy blue-spotted flower, and rosy Olive Moonlight, were those that claimed the greatest respect from a few discerning connoisseurs.

I’ve since discovered a few things about Ronald Firbank. He had sunstroke as a child which left him a little frail. He spent a lot of time alone. He inherited money that allowed him to travel a lot. He wore a lounge suit, a bowler hat, and carried a cane and gloves. He painted his fingernails. It’s also alleged that he was afraid of eating, and drank only champagne, complemented by some flower petals and a single grape. I don’t know if this is true. I hope it is.


Jez and I have been to another movie. It was Team America: World Police. I am wondering how I can claim back my admission money. I thought it was going to be funny and politically cutting edge. It had one good joke in it, which was then ruined by going back over it again and again. As for politics, the film spent all its energy taking swipes at actors. Why? Who cares about actors? But don’t take my word that it’s rubbish. Go see it and find out for yourself.

Powered by Blogger

British Blogs. Listed on Blogwise Subscribe with Bloglines

Song Lyrics

Search Engine Submission and Optimization Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Get Firefox!