Update 07/17/2018

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Poetic Forms, Poetry, Prosody, The Audient Void, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 17, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

With the rejection of my poem Black Hymeneal by The Audient Void, I think it is time for me to rethink my strategy here; I need to go back and hone my craft. I am going to take the rest of 2018 to study prosody and see if I can master at least a few poetic forms before attempting to submit anything else to the genre poetry journals. I still hope to privately publish some of my older pieces, but I am not going to bother submitting any of them to proper journals or magazines. I also have a few outstanding pieces, mostly stories, that I am awaiting some response on, but I must admit that my hopes aren’t high. I will of course keep you all informed of any developments.



Lin Carter’s “Dreams from R’lyeh”

Posted in Clark Ashton Smith, Cthulhu Mythos, Dreams from R'Lyeh, Fantasy, Fungi from Yuggoth, Gothic Poetry, H.P. Lovecraft, Lin Carter, Lovecraftian Horror, Merlin, Poetry, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Bloch, Speculative Poetry, the Xothic Legend Cycle: The Complete Mythos Fiction of Lin Carter, v, Weird Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

In my quest to bone up on my weird poetry knowledge I decided to pull my copy of Lin Carter’s Dreams from R’lyeh off my shelf and give it a fair shake. I bought it years ago, when I worked at HPB, and flipped through it, but it didn’t quite click with me, so I put it on my shelf and allowed it to gather dust. Going back now, however, I find that it truly is a work of genius. I loved the eponymous sonnet cycle, which the blurb on the dustjacket describes as “…an affectionate and knowing imitation of Lovecraft’s own “Fungi from Yuggoth” sequence, skillfully written and cleverly connected (through its introductory notes) to the central matter of Mr. Carter’s own additions to the Mythos.” and have been enjoying the remaining odd rhymes and poetic tributes to the forebears of the modern weird tale. Actually, the titulary sonnet itself could be said to be a tribute of sorts to all the progenitors of the Cthulhu Mythos. I recognized references in the sonnet cycle to the tales of Clark Ashton Smith, whom I know Carter was a big fan of. There was mention of Ambrose Bierce’s Hastur and Carcosa (respectively), which were later appropriated by Robert W. Chambers and referenced haphazardly throughout his tales in The King in Yellow (1895) then latterly introduced into Mythos canon by Lovecraft in his 1931 tale The Whisperer in the Darkness. Lastly, there was mention of Byatis, the serpent-bearded deity created by Robert Bloch for his 1935 tale The Shambler From the Stars then cultivated by Ramsey Campbell for his own 1964 Mythos tale The Room in the Castle.

“Dreams from R’Lyeh” by Lin Carter (1975, Arkham House, cover art by Tim Kirk).

When I first tried to read the sonnet cycle I was trying to follow the rhyme and was frustrated by the odd scheme, which, not being well schooled in such things, I cannot quite place. The opening sonnet, Remembrances, goes abba cddc effegg. I found, however, that if, instead of reading each line individually, I just read it like prose and followed the narrative, it flows perfectly.

I am New England born, and home to me

Is ancient Kingsport on the Harbour side.

When I was very young my Father died

And so I came to Arkham by the sea

Where uncle Zorad and his servant, Jones,

Lived in the old house. He, my guardian,

Was a strange, silent, melancholy man

Given to dark old books and carven stones.

[edit from I. Remembrances, Dreams from R’lyeh, by Lin Carter, 1975 Arkham House]

Dreams from R’Lyeh is a sonnet cycle which, like Lovecraft’s Fungi from Yuggoth, loosely tells a story through macabre vignettes. As in Lovecraft’s cycle, the narrator uncovers some forbidding tomes which contain “eldritch” knowledge that leads him to strange worlds peopled by dark deities and their depraved followers bent on benighting the world and squelching mankind.

The narrator in Carter’s story is a youth named Wilbur Nathaniel Hoag, an Arkham man and the last of his line. Apparently Hoag disappeared and was presumed dead, leaving behind no clue as to his fate, save these lines of macabre poetry, now kept in the Manuscripts Collection of the Miskatonic Unversity. That being said, a few knowing hints in Carter’s preface tell the savvy Mythos fan all he needs to know about the fate of the young poet who, among other things, was a distant relation to Obed Marsh of Innsmouth.

One of my favorite poems, appropriately enough, turned out to be the one about the Dark Young of Shub Niggurath, entitled the Spawn of the Black Goat. Which is so tenebrous and Gothic in it’s Mythos-laden content, I really felt it captured some of the dark genius of the old Rhode Island gentleman himself.

They ride the night-wind when the Demon Star,

Over the dim Horizon burns bale-red,

Come from charnel-pits of the undead,

Nadir of nightmare, where the shoggoths are.

Now, till the light of morning-litten east

Bids them return to the unbottomed slime,

Freely they roam the darkling earth a time

And from fresh grave abominably feast.

[edit from XXVIII. Spawn of the Black Goat, Dreams from R’lyeh, by Lin Carter, 1975, Arkham House]

The remainder of the slim volume is taken up by Carter’s poetic oeuvre which is either in the style of or dedicated to the progenitors of the Weird Tale. There are tributes to Lord Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, et al., all worthy of their dedicatees.

The sonnet cycle in particular made me curious as to what Carter’s Mythos fiction might be like, but from what I have read online about his Xothic stories, they’re purportedly just pale pastiches of Lovecraft & co.. Even so, if I ever see a used copy of the Chaosium collection The Xothic Legend Cycle in my travels, I may pick it up and give it a go.

The Xothic Legend Cycle: The Complete Mythos Fiction of Lin Carter (2006, Chaosium Inc.)



Update 06/28/2018*

Posted in Ashley Dioses, Fourteener, Poetic Forms, Poetry, Speculative Poetry, The Baneful Beldam, Weird Poetry, Weird Verse, Witch Poems, Witches with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Well, I have had one more rejection over the last couple of weeks, this time from Mirror Dance. It really made me question my poetic abilities, but many of my fellow poets have assured me that I shouldn’t let this shake my resolve to write and seek publication. After a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I snapped out of my funk and got back to the writing table and penned a new poem for Eye To the Telescope, an online journal which specializes in Fantasy poetry. Apparently they’re doing an issue featuring poems about witches and Ashley Dioses is the guest editor.

I submitted my poem with a message for Miss Ashley and hoped for the best. She responded soon after with a positive note saying she liked it but asked some technical poesy questions in regards to my intentions and I was completely lost. We then spent the next 15 minutes or so messaging back and forth over the technical aspects of my poem. Apparently, I had written most of the poem using a particular meter but was off on a few lines because of the stressing of certain syllables which threw off the flow. If I fixed this, she said the poem would be just right.

I worked on the revisions and sent my updated poem back. This time, I broke up the lines at what I thought were the caesurae so that I could turn the poem into a ballad. The lines had 14 syllables grouped in 8/6 and it is in essence a narrative poem so it had all the hallmarks of a ballad, making my choice seem valid. I was wrong. Miss Ashley explained to me that by breaking up the lines, I threw off the meter and there were still issues with the stress flow of certain syllables.

I tried to read up on  meter and syllabic stress both online and in The Book of Forms by Lewis Turco, which I have in my reference book collection. Unfortunately, it didn’t help much and I ended up pestering Miss Ashley with many technical questions, which she handled very calmly and with much  kindness and consideration. She recommended the book Poetic Meter and Form by Octavia Wynne, which she says is easy to follow. I ordered it, but only just, so it wasn’t of any help to me this time.


Poetic Meter and Form, by Octavia Wynne (Bloomsbury USA, 2016).

I racked my brain and spent my mornings rearranging the words in some lines, while replacing others so they fit the meter as well as the rhyme, quietly saying words to myself minding the stress of the syllables as I sipped my café au lait and nibbled my blueberry scone at the Copper Star Café where I go to every morning now that my beloved French Grocery has closed its doors forever (but I digress). Unfortunately, there were some words I needed to look up before I added them, but I had to wait until I came into work to get online.

I tweaked the poem in between calls, and after work I went online at the library and revised my word document, incorporating all the corrections I mentioned and returning the poem to its original fourteener form, which I then resent to Miss Ashley. She responded promptly with a positive reaction, saying that she knew I could do it. I thanked her for her faith in me. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I could do it, and am glad she pushed me to create something better than what I had originally envisioned, and I am grateful for that. Of course, her endorsement doesn’t guarantee my poem will end up in Eye to the Telescope, but even if it doesn’t, I have a quality poem that I can shop around to other venues.

The poem is called The Baneful Beldam and I will keep you all posted as to if, when, and where it will appear in the coming months.

*I started this post several days ago, but posted on the 4th of July.

Update 7/10/2018:

My copy of the Octavia Wynne book came in the other night. It is a lot smaller than I thought, almost the size of the photo on this page, and it is a hardback book with a dust jacket. As for the content, Miss Ashley was right. Ms. Wynne goes over every term in simple, easy to understand language and cites good examples then breaks down how they illustrate the point she is trying to make. Also, unlike the Turco book, she doesn’t bad mouth outmoded styles of poetry. I recall being very distraught when I first got the Turco book back in the early 2000s and saw a disparaging reference to Charles Algernon Swinburne, one of my favorite Victorian poets. No such snobbery here. Hopefully this slim volume will help me in my pursuit of the poetic muse.


Update 6/18/2018: Where did all the poems go?

Posted in Gothic Poetry, Poetry, Weird Poetry with tags , , , on June 18, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

It is with some regret that I have decided to pull down most of my poems from the Book of Shadows. I did this because it was pointed out to me by a friend who has experience in such matters that most publications will not take works that have been published previously or are available elsewhere, even if only on an obscure little blog like mine. Since I really want to get my work out into these journals where it might be seen by the appropriate audience, I decided not to take any chances and take down the ones I was considering sending out for consideration. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause anyone interested in my work.

Update 06/06/2018

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Clark Ashton Smith, Denisse Montoya, Gothic Poetry, Gothilocks, Grimscribe Press, Poetry, Self Publishing, Test Patterns: Creature Features, The Audient Void, The Fell Fête, Vastarien, Weird Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I have had a lot of stuff going on over the last month or so and many of my previous plans and aspirations have been put on hold till further notice. My friend Denisse, who was helping me put together Black Hymeneal has had some personal concerns which demand her time and attention so the work she was doing for me has been put indefinitely on hold, which may work out for me in the end since it has been suggested to me by some friends in the field that publishing a book before one has an audience to sell it to may be an unsound investment.

So, instead, I have been focusing on getting my work published. At present, there are five publications which I am waiting to hear back from. I have sent poems to The Audient Void, Vastarien, and Mirror Dance for consideration and I have also sent The Fell Fete to a UK publisher which is putting together a book in tribute to Clark Ashton Smith, and just last night I sent Gothilocks to the magazine Test Patterns: Creature Feature for their next issue. I’m not sure that I understood their requirements and may have just made a futile submission, but we’ll see what Fate has in store for me in that regard.

I have been thinking that I want to do some video recitals of my poetry for a proposed Youtube channel. In the interim, I have contacted my good friend Rand to see if he knows anyone who can perhaps shoot a video of a brief recital to post on here. I’d like it to be up close and personal, as if I were reading directly to the viewer and maybe even have a moody setting. I might even dress up a bit for it. We’ll see what we can pull off.

Update 6/14/2018:

Vastarien sent a very polite rejection notice recently for Moribond. I was surprised, since they emphasized their interest in poetry of the Park Barnitz persuasion, and Moribond is definitely within that charnel house genre, but I think my little poem may have less to do with the artful poesy of that doomed scribe and more to do with lurid Gothic broadside ballads. Either way, they didn’t take it.

The Dark Poetry Couple

Posted in Ashley Dioses, book review, Dan Sauer, Diary of a Sorceress (2017), Donald Sidney-Fryer, Grim Tidings, Hippocampus Press, K.A. Opperman, Mutartis Boswell, Obediah Baird, Poetic Blasphemies, Poetic Forms, Rhysling Award, Speculative Poetry, Steve Lines, The Audient Void, The Crimson Circle, The Crimson Tome (2015), The Dark Poetry Couple, Weird Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

As I have mentioned before, in my quest to find like-minded souls, I joined several forums on Facebook that focused on weird poetry, and I was bowled over by what I encountered there. These were not the Emo kids of the dark poetry forums I’d seen previously, writing overwrought doggerel about their oh-so-sombrous souls, but rather they were serious wordsmiths writing quality poems on divers topics within the realm of fantasy and horror using time honored poetic forms. I was admittedly intimidated, yet inspired.

It was within these forums where I met the Californian poetic duo of Ashley Dioses and K.A. Opperman, a/k/a The Dark Poetry Couple. I had seen their names before, and to be honest, was a bit peeved by how often; every time I pulled up a poetry journal it would have at least one poem apiece by them, if not two (for a current list, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/adarkpoetrycouple/). Who were these pretenders to the throne of Dark Poetry? I decided to find out, and sought out their work online, but found it near to impossible to find any poetry samples without purchasing one of the publications in which it had been published.

Around this time I was interacting with the folks on these forums and found that I was interacting a lot with Miss Dioses, who was very patient with my queries and comments on her posts. It was she who first told me about the sublime poetry of David Park Barnitz, and she also encouraged me to submit something to Spectral Realms and facilitated my communication with S.T. Joshi, which led to the publication of my poem Thalia. When I saw a post about their respective books, I asked what was the best way to pick up a copy for myself. She said that I could get signed copies from them, if I liked, but that at the moment only Mr. Opperman had copies handy to send out. I agreed to order one from him and in order to facilitate communication he added me to his friends list on Facebook.

“The Crimson Tome” by K.A. Opperman (2015, Hippocampus Press, cover art by Steve Lines).

I soon found that he and I shared many common interests so by the time I got my copy of The Crimson Tome (2015, Hippocampus Press) I considered him a friend. My book came with a nice note from Mr. Opperman, decorated with illustrations and marginal ornamentation by his hand, plus two postcards. One, a reprint of a vintage Halloween postcard (a shared interest) and the other was from a collaboration he did with artist Mutartis Boswell  for his poem Madame Krampus. Their partnership is called Poetic Blasphemies: “Home of the hybrid visual creations of UK artist Mutartis Boswell, and US poet K. A. Opperman. Hand-written calligraphy, paired with original illustrations.” They have a page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Poetic-Blasphemies-173435956622495/) where one may purchase prints of this and several other of their collaborative works.

“Madam Krampus”, poem and caligraphy by K.A. Opperman and artwork by Mutartis Boswell.

The book was a revelation. First off, I was struck by how similar our writing voice was. We have similar topic interests and we use a similar vocabulary. It was almost like reading the writings of my artistic doppelgänger. I was so impressed by this that I sent him three of my poems to show how similar they were to works on analogous topics in his book. There are some stylistic differences, however, like Mr. Opperman uses a variety of poetic forms in which he is seemingly adept, whereas I stick primarily to light verse and prose poems. He has even developed his own variation of the sonnet, featuring 15 lines instead of the customary 14, which he uses to great effect in his sonnet cycle The Land of Darkest Dreams.  Renowned poet Donald Sydney-Fryer explains in his introduction to the book:

“Before the petrifaction of the sonnet into fourteen lines, the term sonnet simply meant a “little song,” its literal meaning, and could include rondeau, rondel, and other short lyric forms. An unusual and innovative rhyme arrangement—featuring an octave followed by a septet (rather than the traditional sestet)—the basic rhyme scheme appears to be, more often than not, as follows:

a b b a c b a c (octave)

d c e d e d e (septet)

Reader, have no fear! This new sonnet form works as well as any other, and surely functions quite well for Opperman. “

[The Crimson Tome, 2015, Hippocampus Press]

Aside from the aforementioned thematic similarities, such as our mutual interest in the Gothic Romanticism of Poe, the cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft, or the belletristic sorcery of Clark Ashton Smith, there are a few subjects which he is more prone to write about than I. Most of the poems here fall within the umbrella of Dark Fantasy, with a penchant towards Tolkienian High Fantasy as well as eroticism with the occasional lash of BDSM. There are also several Halloween themed poems with a focus on jack-o’-lantern/pumpkin imagery, Mr. Opperman evidently being an enthusiast of the Cucurbita pepo, as I have come to know him through his amusing and informative posts on Facebook.

“Ashiel” illustration by Steve Lines (2015).

One of the last sections is dedicated to poems about his ladylove, Miss Ashley Dioses, whom he refers to here as Ashiel. These are really great paeans to his muse. These are accompanied by a lovely illustration by artist Steve Lines (who did the cover art and whose illustrations provide an added aesthetic treat throughout the book), based off of a photo from Miss Ashley’s blog, www.fiendlover.blogspot.com. The book ends with some clever and heartfelt tributes by Miss Ashley and other poet friends from the Hippocampus roster.

“Diary of a Sorceress” (2017, Hippocampus Press, cover art by Steve Santiago.)

Around the time I had finished absorbing The Crimson Tome, Miss Ashley had responded to my query in regard to an available copy of her book The Diary of a Sorceress (2017, Hippocampus Press). She asked “Do you want it just signed, inscribed, and/or kissed?” To which I replied “Any and all of the above!” The book arrived with a nice inscription and with a lipstick kiss on the title page. It also came with 2 business cards, one for her and one for The Dark Poetry Couple.

Dark Poetry Couple business card logo. Calligraphy by K.A. Opperman and ornamentation by Mutartis Boswell.

Miss Ashley’s book is presented in sections, like Mr. Opperman’s, each representing the personal journey of the titular sorceress. The book begins with what appears to be the story of her courtship with Mr. Opperman as seen through the filter of the character of the sorceress. There are several poems in fact, like these, which might fall under the genre of Paranormal Romance, but as the book progresses, the subject matter changes and one begins to see tributes dedicated to classic weird works and their authors, like Edgar Allan Poe, Robert W. Chambers, H.P. Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. There is a section featuring vampire themed poems, two of which are based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s infamous vampire tale, Carmilla (1871), as well as a couple on Erzsébet  Báthory, The Blood Countess.

Illustration by Steve Santiago for the poem Lover’s Witch from Diary of a Sorceress.

One of the most impressive poems I found was one entitled Witch Lord of the Hunt, which was nominated for 2017 the Rhysling Award for best short poem.

Illustration by Steve Santiago for Witch Lord of the Hunt from Diary of a Sorceress.

I also liked a little poem called Bat in the Boiler Room, which introduced to me a great word I’d never heard before, obtenebration, an archaic word for darkness.

Obtenebration of the lone black bat,

Though tiny, flickered, twirled, as flames let fly

Defiant embers at stone walls nearby.”

[excerpt from Bat in the Boiler Room by Ashley Dioses, from her book Diary of a Sorceress, 2017, Hippocampus Press]

After being slightly intimidated by the poetic adroitness from Mr. Opperman’s work, I was a little reassured by the poems in Miss Ashley’s book, which, although no less accomplished than Mr. Opperman’s, tended toward forms that I could handle. Again, her use of language is skillful and her topics varied and unusual, though most of her work seems to fall within the genre of lyric poetry.

Her book also ends with some lovely tributes from the same crowd that honored Mr. Opperman, who himself offers up a nice poem for his inamorata, My Lady of the Nightshade Flower.  All of the tributes are actually quite good, as were the ones for Mr. Opperman, and sparked an interest for me in the work of these other poets. Included are Adam Bolivar, Michael Fantina, and D.L. Myers, all poets from the Hippocampus roster. Bolivar and Fantina both have their own collections published by Hippocampus and Myers has been featured in Spectral Realms, the journal in which I shall be making my publication debut in July. Incidentally, within the weird poetry community, Dioses, Opperman, Bolivar and Myers are known collectively as The Crimson Circle, renowned for their focus on dark poetry. Grim Tidings has a podcast featuring The Crimson Circle as well as Obediah Baird and Dan Sauer of The Audient Void:


As for the Dark Poetry Couple, I cannot claim to know them personally, only as well as anyone can know someone through social media, but what interactions I have had with them have always been pleasant and they have been polite and supportive of a total stranger, and I truly appreciate that. Their work is inspiring to me and gives me hope that, with some hard work and personal enterprise, I too may get a book of my own work published professionally, and gain a seat among the lofty lords and ladies of weird verse.








Barbara Steele: Queen of the Italian Gothic Film

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 11, 2018 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Sometime back in the 1990’s I read an article in the Boston Globe about the original scream queen, Barbara Steele. I had never heard of her before then and was intrigued by the description they gave of her unusual beauty. For the next several months I scoured the video stores for her films but was hard pressed to find much. Fortunately, a co-worker had a laser disc of “Black Sunday” (original title La Maschera del Demonio, 1960) which he taped for me onto VHS so I could see it. I was overwhelmed by Mario Bava’s Gothic vision and by Steele’s preternatural beauty. But she’s not just a pretty face! She could hold her own alongside the big boys of the Horror film genre. In many of her films she would even play two roles, one of a put-upon heroine, and in the other her evil doppelgänger, as in Black Sunday where she plays both Princess Asa Vajda and her evil ancestor, the vampiric witch Katia Vajda

black sunday

Promo photo of Barbara Steele as Princess Asa Vajda in Black Sunday (1960).



That said, what a face she has; with her large eyes, pronounced cheekbones, and pouty, sensual, mouth she looks like a cross between a death’s head and a kewpie doll. Even so, she has a powerful sensuality about her that makes it difficult to take one’s eyes off of her whenever she is on screen. Hollywood dyed her lush ebon locks a peroxide blonde and unsuccessfully tried to cast her as an ingénue in an Elvis Presley film, which she promptly ran away from to seek her fortune in Italy. The Italian directors saw her potential, however, and made good use of her sepulchral pulchritude and featured her in several Gothic Horror films, the most celebrated of which is Black Sunday.

Black Sunday_1960_poster_Italian

Italian poster for “La Maschera del Demonio” (a/k/a “Black Sunday”, 1960).

Other significant films in which she starred are “The Horrible Dr. Hichcock” (L’Orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock, 1962); “The Ghost” (Lo Spettro, 1963); “The Long Hair of Death” (I lunghi capelli della morte, 1964); “Castle of Blood” (Danza Macabra, 1964) and “Nightmare Castle” (Amanti d’oltretomba, 1965).


Steele menaces Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s adaptation of “The Pit & the Pendulum” (1961).


Oddly, in her most significant English speaking genre role, Roger Corman’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” (1961) starring opposite Vincent Price, her voice was dubbed by another actress, which is a shame because she has a very distinctive British accent. In fact, most of her early roles seem to have been dubbed by other actresses. I myself never heard her real voice until I saw her appear in the 1990’s reboot of the Gothic soap opera “Dark Shadows”, where she resurrected the role of Dr. Julia Hoffman with much aplomb.


Barbara Steele as Dr. Julia Hoffman in the 1991 reboot of Dark Shadows.


She has appeared in many other TV shows and films over the decades, including Fellini’s “8½” (1963), “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1961) and “The Winds of War” (1983) but is mostly known for her Gothic Horror films of the 60’s. Although aged 80 years at the time I am writing this, she is still active and most recently had a supporting role in Ryan Gosling’s dark fantasy thriller, “Lost River” (2014).

On a final note, in a perfect world, the young Barbara Steele would have made an excellent Azraelle. With her haunting looks and her uncanny charisma she would have brought an enticing terror to the Litch Queen as she has in all of her best roles. Do yourself a favor and check out one of her classic films and prepare to be bewitched.


Tribute to Black Sunday by artist Bryan Baugh (2015)