Archive for July, 2018

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.