Elder Signs is a website dedicated to the Cthulhu Mythos in general and the Book Collector in specific. The Book Collector is a creation of G. W. Thomas, a dark detective who seeks out the arcane books of the Mythos for his employer, the mysterious Telford.

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WEIRD SITES: THE HELLFIRE CLUB

MALCOLM M. FERGUSON

Weird Tales Author

C. Hall Thompson: Lost Opportunities

The Ghostbreaker Mythos

Why Write Horror?

The First Deep Ones

The Avon Fantasy Reader Covers

Michael May's Adventureblog

"The Door to Infinity"

"The Graveyard Rats"

 

DARK POETS: THE BARDS OF WEIRD TALES

I would describe Marvin Kaye's Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies (1988) as an anthology for people who hate Weird Tales. Despite his loving intro where he describes how he discovered the magazine as a kid, his choices all seem very reluctant or almost counter to what the magazine really was. No Mythos, no Jules de Grandin, no Sword & Sorcery, no Hamiltonian Science Fiction. Despite this there are some great stories in the book ("Ghost Hunt" by H. Russell Wakefield, "Eena" by Manly Banister, "The Damp Man" by Allison V. Harding, "The Weird of Avoosl Wuthoqquan" by Clark Ashton Smith, for example) but Kaye delivers the coup de grace when he says: "I always like to include weird poetry in my anthologies, but alas I cannot work up much enthusiasm for the verse that ran in Weird Tales. Mea culpa." No poetry? But the poems in Weird Tales were as individual as the artwork by Boris Dolgov, Lee Brown Coye or Hannes Bok or those wonderfully cheesy covers by Margaret Brundage. To leave it out is simply to rewrite what the whole WT experience was.

What you consider "good" poetry may depend on what you expect of it. Weird Tales poetry harkens back to another time, Victorian or older, formal, and most importantly, weird. To compare it to anything modern is silly. It was written to create a chill, to evoke a dark image, to fascinate in the manner of the John Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", or Poe's "The Raven". These poems were never trendsetters but as hoary with age as the ghost stories of August Derleth (who wrote a lot of very old-fashioned ghost stories, besides Cthulhu Mythos pastiches). And yet, Marvin Kaye includes one of Derleth's ghost stories, "Mr. George" (a good one but still, noting new) without any dismissive slights. Horror is an old genre, poetry even more so.

Several of the poets of Weird Tales are amongst my favorites. Again, a matter of personal taste. Perhaps Kaye prefers Robert Frost to Robert E. Howard, but I do not. Robert E. Howard (1906-1936) is best remembered as the creator of Sword & Sorcery and Conan the Cimmerian. Despite writing all kinds of Pulp, Howard was a prolific poet as well. Howard's poems range from heroic ballads like "Cimmeria" to poems about death and suicide. These are not surprising since Howard killed himself at the age of 30. His poetry ran from "The Song of Bats" (May 1927) to "The Hills of Kandahar" (June-July 1939). REH summed my poetic leanings up perfectly in a poem called "Musings" (Witchcraft & Sorcery #5, Jan-Feb. 1971)

The little poets sing of little things:
Hope, cheer, and faith, small queens and puppet kings;
Lovers who kissed and then were made as one,
And modest flowers waving in the sun.
The mighty poets write in blood and tears
And agony that, flame-like, bites and sears.
They reach their mad blind hands into the night,
To plumb abysses dead to human sight;
To drag from gulfs where lunacy lies curled,
Mad, monstrous nightmare shapes to blast the world.

Some of the best poets to do this in WT were Howard as well as Clark Ashton Smith, Leah Bodine Drake, Dorothy Quick, Stanton A. Coblentz, and of course, H. P. Lovecraft. Let's look at each in turn:


H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) has been declared the most important horror writer of the first half of the 20th Century. This is largely based on his fiction but he did explore horror poetry as well. He wrote a 36 sonnet cycle called "The Fungi From Yuggoth" and many other poems. After his death, in particular, Weird Tales wanted any Lovecraft they could get so his poems were an easy way to get his name on the cover. HPL actually got the cover of Weird Tales, September 1952 for his poem "Halloween on the Suburbia". Nobody else ever did that.


Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961) began his career in poetry, being part of the San Francisco crowd that named him "the Keats of the Pacific". His acquaintances included George Sterling, Ambrose Bierce and Jack London. He published his first book The Star-Treader and Other Poems at only nineteen. The Great Depression and the need for money drove him to the Pulps. He wrote about 100 stories for Weird Tales and other magazines. "A Fable" was his first poem in WT (July 1926) and his last "Sonnet for Psychoanalysts" (January 1952), spanning almost the entire original run of the magazine.


Stanton A. Coblentz (1896-1982) Despite a Masters degree in Literature, Coblentz is remembered largely as a Pulp writer of satiric Science Fiction, beginning with the Gernsback magazines and "The Sunken World" (Amazing Stories Quarterly, Summer 1928) as well as Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Weird Tales.


Dorothy Quick (1896-1962) When only eight years old, Dorothy Quick became friends with Mark Twain. The writer took her under his wing and there was little doubt little Dorothy would become a writer. Now I don't know what Twain would have thought of Weird Tales. Quick would become the most prolific poet for the magazine, beginning with "Candles" (January 1934) and ending with "This Night" (September 1954).


Leah Bodine Drake (1914-1964) began her Weird Tales entries with "In the Shadows" (October 1935). Writing two dozen poems, she is second only to Dorothy Quick. She published in many publications including The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post. Her poem "Ballad of the Jabberwock" won the Stephen Vincent Benet Ballad Contest in 1946. She worked on newspapers in Indiana and West Virginia as well as the poetry editor for The Atlantic Monthly. She died of cancer at only 50. In her lifetime she published three books of poetry: A Hornbook for Witches (Arkham House, 1950), The Tilting Dust (1955, which won the Borestone Mountain Poetry Award and was a finalist for the National Book Foundation poetry award) and Multiple Clay (1964).



 

THE DIARY OF A MAD MAN: GUY DE MAUPASSANT

DR. STYX: FIRST MYTHOS COMIC?

MONSTERS ON MY MIND: HOW TO BECOME A MYTHOS ICON

MORE ABOUT THE BOOK COLLECTOR STORIES

MY CTHULHU STORY PART 1

MY CTHULHU STORY PART 2

ARTISTS OF THE CTHULHU MYTHOS

THE FUTURE OF LOVECRAFTIAN HORROR

WRITING THE MYTHOS & OTHER ADVICE

MYTHOS LINKS

 

 

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