Friday, 29 January 2010

H.P. Lovecraft as poet

(Lord Bassington-Bassington would like to remind his readers that the online magazine Knokkelklang (Jingle Bones) is still fresh. He would also like to re-use a short text he wrote for that eminent publication, and some pictures he found of the town he grew up. Et voila: Blog post!)

In time, H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) has come to be regarded as the most important horror writer of the 20th century. The destitute writer has become a huge industry, the unknown has been hailed by Metallica and Michel Houellebecq. In short, he has become one of the cornerstones of modern popular culture.

Lovecraft is best known for his stories of cosmic horror, but for a long time, he wanted to be a poet – some of his earliest attempts stem from the age of seven.

Luckily for us, his readers, he largely gave it up. For, as anyone who has tried to delve into his poetic production quickly realizes, he was never a very interesting poet. At his worst, as in his “On the Creation of Niggers” he was among the most awful poets in history.

This doesn’t mean that Lovecraft’s poetry is without merits. Sometimes, it’s quite decent. But its main value is that it helps us understand his fiction better. Lovecraft’s very poetic prose, and especially his uncanny ability to conjure atmospheres at the drop of an adjective – this is surely a legacy from his attempts at poetry.

This cycle of sonnets (a short excerpt below), “The Fungi from Yuggoth”, is the most relevant for understanding Lovecraft’s horror stories. Not only does “The Fungi from Yuggoth” show his poetic abilities at their best, it also contains clues to his later fiction. The ”Fungi” of the title, for example, are identical with the Mi-go which later appear in “The Whispererer in Darkness”, one of Lovecraft’s best stories.

“The Fungi from Yuggoth” was composed between December 27, 1929 and January 4, 1930, and parts of the poetic cycle were published in a variety of journals over the next five years. They were not published as a collection until 1943, well after Lovecraft’s death.

Lord Bassington-Bassington

XXX. Background

I never can be tied to raw, new things,
For I first saw the light in an old town,
Where from my window huddled roofs sloped down
To a quaint harbour rich with visionings.
Streets with carved doorways where the sunset beams
Flooded old fanlights and small window-panes,
And Georgian steeples topped with gilded vanes -
These were the sights that shaped my childhood dreams.

Such treasures, left from times of cautious leaven,
Cannot but loose the hold of flimsier wraiths
That flit with shifting ways and muddled faiths
Across the changeless walls of earth and heaven.
They cut the moment's thongs and leave me free
To stand alone before eternity.


  1. Alexander Hacke's reading of excerpts from "Azatoth", in the "Mountains of Madness"-performance with the Tiger Lillies is a good way to start enjoying the poetry of H.P. Lovecraft. It was for me anyway, as Hacke's voice adds a new dimension to the words.

  2. What?! "On the creation of the Niggers" is one of the best poems ever. I'm proud to say that I've recited it publicly several times... without getting myself killed! ;-D

  3. Viktor: Thanks for the tips, I've never gotten around to checking out that Tiger Lillies thing. I guess I'll have to!

    My good mullah: We don't approve of such behaviour here at the Chronicles.

  4. I think it's the perfect way to introduce the audience to extreme politics found among genre writers, myself.

    As for the Tiger Lillies, if you haven't checked them out. Do it!

  5. Great 120th Birthday Presents to/from H. P. Lovecraft!

    Happy 120th. Birthday H.P.L.!

    Freebies released in celebration of H. P. Lovecraft's 120th. birthday on 20-August-2010, and to stir up excitement for the possible making of the Universal Studios 3D version of "At the Mountains of Madness" by Guillermo del Toro and James Cameron; and as a celebration by Will Hart of the 20th. anniversary of his being at Lovecraft's grave-side on his 100th. birthday.

    Released during the last few hours in MP3 Format on:
    (The audio companion to the CthulhuWho1 Flickr collections.)

    "Fungi from Yuggoth"
    H. P. Lovecraft's complete 36 sonnet set; in an all-new recording by William (Will) Hart; in single file, and multiple file versions. A dark poetry reading if there ever was one...

    "What If H. P. Lovecraft Had Lived Into The 1960's?"
    A 163 minute panel recording in six parts, of Professor Dirk W. Mosig, Professor Donald R. Burleson, J. Vernon Shea, Fritz Leiber, Jr., and S.T. Joshi at the 36th World Science Fiction Convention in Phoenix in 1978. A must-have for Lovecraftians!

    Plus, behind the scenes recordings including a live reading by Don Burleson of his darkly funny, "The Last Supper."

    And more audio goodies too!

    And there are now over 1200 Lovecraft, Cthulhu, and Providence related images for the taking at the CthulhuWho1 Flickr page at:
    (The image companion site to the audio site.)

    All of the above items (and more to come) were created in honor of H. P. Lovecraft; but since he’s not here with us, it’s up to you, and everyone you can share them with to enjoy them!

    Will Hart
    aka CthulhuWho1
    aka California Cthulhu