Archive for January, 2016

Poe and Lovecraft

Posted in Edgar Allan Poe, Harry Clarke, hp lovecraft, The Best of Poe [Pendulum Press], The Tomb and Other Tales with tags , , , , , , on January 19, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Today, January 19th, is the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, whose influence on my own work is tremendous, and he is the spiritual granddaddy of all of the other authors whose work I admire most.  I was first introduced to Poe by my mother sometime around 1980-81. I had always been interested in the macabre, and one day as I was ordering chapter-books from a Scholastic catalog, my mother recommended I select a little book called “The Best of Poe”. The book was part of a series by Pendulum Press which was a bit of a knock off of the Classics Illustrated comic books, conspicuously titled “Illustrated Classics”, which took classic novels and adapted them into comic books for educational purposes. I got several titles, including Dracula, and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, all of which I enjoyed, but the Poe book had a profound impact on me. I loved that book! The stories it contained were simplified versions of “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, adapted by Naunerle Farr and illustrated by Gerry Talaoc.

"The Best of Poe", 1977 Pendulum Press.

“The Best of Poe”, 1977 Pendulum Press.

Soon after, however, I was introduced to the original stories in one of the myriad reprints of the 1922 edition of “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”, which featured the sublime illustrations of Irish artist, Harry Clarke, and I never looked back.

Cover art for the original edition of Poe's "Tales of Mystery & Imagination", illustrated by Harry Clarke.

Cover art for the original edition of Poe’s “Tales of Mystery & Imagination”, illustrated by Harry Clarke.

Even so, certain images stuck with me. When I began trying my hand at watercolor painting in the 1990’s I did a rendition of the scene from “…Usher” when Madeline rises from her tomb. Looking back at the comic now, I see a slight resemblance to the same scene as depicted by Talaoc, at least in the stance and attitude of the revenant lady. Unfortunately, my parents, to whom I had given the painting, seem to have misplaced it, so I cannot show you all what I mean.

Another image which stuck with me and which I used to find an online copy of the chapter-book I once had, was the image of the narrator of “The Pit and the Pendulum” being rescued by General Lasalle as he teeters on the brink of the pit.

Final page of the "Pit and the Pendulum", featuring the aforementioned image.

Final page of the “Pit and the Pendulum”, featuring the aforementioned image.

The rest, as they say, is history. In recent years I have tried to remember what the title of the chapter-book was so I could give it proper credit for introducing me to my literary mentor, but it wasn’t until just a few days ago that I finally found it. I must give credit, where credit is due, so I am putting out a thank you to Professor H’s Wayback Machine, which contains a plethora of scanned comic book adaptations of Poe’s work. To see the post containing “The Best of Poe”, follow this link:

Poe’s short stories and poetry are the model for everything that I do. I know that I will never attain his level of artistic greatness, because I lack his basic genius, but I share his longing for love and his melancholy aesthetic of charnel house romance. By his example, I write the most beautiful words I can find to describe the most horrible things in life.

The next fortuitous recommendation was by my old high school chum, Gilbert Weatherbee. One day, as we strolled down the sunny sidewalks on a busy street in Mexico City, ol’ Gilbert grew weary of my chatter about how much I loved Poe, and he burst out with “Have you ever heard of H.P. Lovecraft?” I replied in the negative and he explained that he was sort of like Poe. I made a mental note of what he’d said, and when I got back to the States I picked up a copy of “The Tomb and Other Tales”. The artwork by Michael Whelan caught my eye, but the stories inside were unlike anything I had read before, even Poe. Poe’s influence was evident, but this was a whole other can of tentacles. I was intrigued by Lovecraft’s use of conceptual continuity, the Gothic Horror element, which was less romantic than Poe and more horrific to boot; the references to Old New England Witchcraft, his impossible monsters and his black books and his pantheon of terrible deities all sparked my imagination.

"The Tomb and Other Tales" by H.P. Lovecraft (Del Rey 1987).

“The Tomb and Other Tales” by H.P. Lovecraft (Del Rey 1987).

In the years to come, I would develop a style of my own which combined many of the elements I found in these respective mentors, along with my early interest in fairy tales and fantasy, which would find expression in my poetry, short stories and fairy tales. I do not claim to be an heir apparent or successor of these geniuses, but I acknowledge that without them, there would most likely not be a me–at least not as I am today.




Fragments for the Griff

Posted in Hydroxia, love poems, Poetry with tags , on January 16, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Fragment #1

My hummingbird heart races in my chest, where you lay your ivory cheek

I take in the heady fragrance of your titian crown and respire slowly to slacken my pulse

As I look across the darkened room to the flickering light on an adjacent chair

I make note of this perfect moment and exhale a happy sigh

Fragment #2

I miss her hair, I miss her face

I miss her awkward gangling grace

I miss it all, but of all the misses

The thing I miss most are her fairy kisses

Fragment #3

I just want to set the world on fire

In tribute to  my love which smolders on a funeral pyre

Then I’ll fiddle and play as it burns away, with my congeries of untapped desires

I just want to set your heart on fire

With the ardor of my gambol and gyre

Fiddling out woe on my heart-strung bow, as the devil joins in on a lyre

This is a drawing I did back in 1991, which I call "Pelirroja con araña", or "Redhead with spider". Whenever I see it now, it reminds me of my friend Hydroxia.

This is a drawing I did back in 1991, which I call “Pelirroja con araña”, or “Redhead with spider”. Whenever I see it now, it reminds me of my friend Hydroxia.

Goodbye 2015

Posted in 2015, Planet Poe, Year End Review with tags , , , , , on January 1, 2016 by Manuel Paul Arenas

2015 was an odd year for me. Some very big things came up, but never quite came to fruition as it were. Most of my accomplishments and failures revolved around my book, “Black Hymeneal”.

With the help and guidance of my good friend Michele Bledsoe, I put together the content and layout for the book, which I had been talking about making for twenty years or so. We arranged to have the fund raiser, through Indiegogo, but didn’t even come close to reaching our goal of $2,000. Now, we are changing our original plans and seeing how we can cut costs and use the money we do have. It will still be published, it just won’t be the hardcover art book I hoped it would be, and it may take longer than I’d hoped to get it done.


Michele Bledsoe’s portrait of me for the “Black Hymeneal” book cover.

Michele is looking into other options, even electronic, which might get us more distribution and still allow us to use our collected funds for a few books for the folks who contributed to the fundraiser. A new goal for 2016, I guess…

come hither.jpg

“Come hither, my little darkling…” one of the many great pics from the Black Hymeneal photo-shoot by Hydroxia.

Also associated with “Black Hymeneal” was when I asked my good friend Hydroxia to do a photo-shoot promoting the book. In our travels to find the appropriate props and costume for the shoot, we realized that we had a strong connection, which blossomed into a very promising relationship, which unfortunately went awry and eventually imploded. As fraught with drama and high emotion as it was, however,this proved to be the closest I have come to a real reciprocated love relationship. I acknowledge that my inexperience in such things, added to my social anxiety,  probably sparked my friend’s misgivings about the whole affair, which translated into her slowly but surely pushing me away until I couldn’t deal with it and hastily put an official end to everything; but I still feel that not all blame should fall on me, as she was a bit impatient with me and also did not follow through on many heavy proclamations she made at the start of things, which gave me expectations that I fret over (perhaps too much, admittedly) when not realized. Even so, there’s no use crying over spilled milk as they say. What’s done is done and if I had my druthers now, I would have forgone the failed romance to save the friendship. She is a smart, beautiful, talented, fun, young lady and I miss her terribly.


Me and Hydroxia at the Planet Poe show in May of 2015.

In my attempt to process what I was feeling, I tried to write some poetry about it. However, the memories hurt too much for me to get much done, so all I have are fragments of poem ideas which I shall share at the end of this post. The only good which I consider having come from this is that I have some great photos, some great memories, and now know what not to do or say to a prospective partner if and when I get another chance at love.

Part the Second

Drummer Geoff Chse’s cover art for the follow-up Dark Young album, “Part the Second”, featuring a Posada print.

2015 was also the year that my old band the Dark Young finally released the long-awaited follow-up to our 1994 debut album. It is composed of recordings made in several different countries over 20 plus years, and it sounds at home along side of the original album. I wish we could have had a reunion gig to promote it, but we all live in different states now and our saxophonist lives in India at the moment, so that wouldn’t be practical.

Last, but not least, 2015 was the year I joined the Planet Poe theatrical troupe, run by Robert X. Planet, and which specializes in dramatic recitals of various works by Edgar Allan Poe. I have done two shows so far, and have enjoyed it immensely. I love the work and my companions are wonderful people, from whom I have learned a lot about the art of acting. We have plans to do another show in the Spring, so keep an eye out for more news on that in the future.

A snapshot of me, in costume, with the skeleton prop from "The Oval Portrait", taken by fellow troupe member, Joy.

A snapshot of me, in costume, with the skeleton prop from “The Oval Portrait”, taken by fellow troupe member, Joy.

Anyway, I did not quite meet my goals for 2015, but I got close and learned a lot. Hopefully 2016 will prove to be the year I finally realize some of these dreams. I wish you all much joy and prosperity in 2016. See you all next year!

As promised, here are the fragments for Hydroxia: