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Great Weird Poets

The Weird Tradition

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Dec 13, 2011, 10:03pm Top

George Sterling and Clark Ashton Smith make the cut immediately.

Poe and Lovecraft each wrote poetry, but Poe's seems merely gothic without being sufficiently Weird, while Lovecraft's is ... not as good as his stories.

Aleister Crowley's top-notch verse is best represented in The Winged Beetle.

Ann K. Schwader has acclaim, but the one poem of hers I've read ("After Innsmouth" in The Innsmouth Cycle) was too slavish a transposition of HPL for me to get much out of it.

Is W.B. Yeats weird?

Other recommendations?

Edited: Dec 13, 2011, 10:12pm Top

Samuel Loveman is apparently a poet I should have known about before I got the Internet to cough him up a minute ago.

Dec 13, 2011, 10:51pm Top

If Yeats for "The Second Coming", then certainly Coleridge for "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". I'm looking forward to reading the latter in the near future, illustrated by Lee Brown Coye.

Dec 14, 2011, 2:57am Top

I have a book of William Hope Hodgson's poetry but I have yet to read it so I am unsure how Weird it is.

Edited: Dec 14, 2011, 10:38am Top

Alan Moore deserves a place on this list, I think. Examples are in Magic Words and littered throughout his comics. I know he's written a passel of song lyrics, and done spoken-word performances, but a quick search doesn't show anything like a volume of poetry as such.

Dec 14, 2011, 10:56am Top

Clark Ashton Smith's Odes and Sonnets is available on Internet Archive.

Dec 14, 2011, 11:51am Top

Leah Bodine Drake wrote excellent verse published in Weird Tales and by Arkham House

Dec 14, 2011, 11:51am Top

I've always enjoyed Darrell Schweitzer's poetry when I've run across it in a plethora of small-press publications. He has several volumes available:


BTW - have I mentioned what an absolutely terrific read his 2008 PS Publishing book Living with the Dead is? I'd so so far as to make it a Weird essential.


Dec 14, 2011, 11:53am Top

>1 paradoxosalpha:

CAS is absurdly underrated as a poet, even more than Arthur Machen is underrated as a prose writer (I know you all are so surprised to hear me say that ;) ). S.T. Joshi writes (in An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia) that Smith's verse is "scintillating" and"some of the finest formal poetry written by any American writer of the twentieth century"; I concur. The problem with Smith is that he was sticking with traditional forms while the poetry avant-garde was going elsewhere; literary critics tend to be especially unkind to artists who do this, I think. Fortunately, writers like Joshi and the Washington Post's Michael Dirda (no touchstone? really?) seem to be working toward raising awareness of Smith's work in the 21st century; let's hope the trend continues.

Dec 14, 2011, 1:54pm Top

My only exposure to Schweitzer's poetry is the filks he collected in The Innsmouth Tabernacle Choir Hymnal, which I like very much, thanks. But I don't know if they entitle him to laureate status.

Edited: Dec 14, 2011, 2:49pm Top

>10 paradoxosalpha:

Well, perhaps the jury is still out on Schweitzer as a "great" weird poet, but what about Robert E. Howard? The page at the following url points out that, with 35 poems published in Weird Tales, he's only behind HPL (43) and CAS (39), respectively, in quantity, if not quality:


A few REH examples:



I've always like Howard's poetry very much. How do you think he rates as a Great Weird Poet?

Edited: Dec 14, 2011, 2:32pm Top

> 11

That's such a useful reference for this thread, I'm copying it in:
Who Wrote the Most Poems for Weird Tales?
1. H.P. Lovecraft, 43 poems in 38 appearances
2. Clark Ashton Smith, 39, including 1 from Virgil Finlay's poetry series
3. Robert E. Howard, 35
4. (tie) Dorothy Quick, 24
4. (tie) Leah Bodine Drake, 24
5. A. Leslie, 23
6. (tie) Cristel Hastings, 17
6. (tie) Edgar Daniel Kramer, 17
6. (tie) Donald Wandrei, 17
7. (tie) Frank Belknap Long, Jr., 12
7. (tie) Alfred I. Tooke, 12
8. Clarence Edwin Flynn, 9

Edited: Jan 7, 2012, 5:23pm Top

I like Howard's poetry; the longer pieces more than the short ones.

The Romantic element of the Weird inclines its poets toward more traditional forms with regular meter and end-rhyme. Frankly, I appreciate that. In my own poetry, I find that formal structures free me to be more imaginative with the content.

I recently went to a "steampunk" event that focused on poetry readings, but all of the poetry was the latter-day sort of unstructured, imagistic spew with occasional lardings of emotional affect. None of it could have been written (or would have been tolerated) in the actual "steam" era.

Dec 14, 2011, 3:38pm Top

I'm quite fond of Howard's poem "Recompense":


Edited: Dec 14, 2011, 9:55pm Top

>1 paradoxosalpha:

What about Charles Baudelaire? I don't know how "weird" he is (not in the sense we're speaking of, anyway), but he's a key influence on both HPL and CAS; I think it's fair to view him as a bridge between Poe on the one hand and HPL and CAS on the other (poetically speaking, anyway).

ETA: Further research reveals that Baudelaire had at least three poems published in Weird Tales: Épigraphe Pour un Livre Condamné (March 1928), Spleen (February 1926), and Horreur Sympathique (May 1926). That's certainly a point in his favor, I'd say.

Dec 14, 2011, 10:17pm Top

An article (unsigned, as far as I can tell) in the Fall 1990 issue of Weird Tales about weird/fantastic poetry:


Dec 15, 2011, 8:52am Top

If Baudelaire for Les Fleurs du mal, then why not Lautreamont for his incredible Maldoror? Maybe we're getting away from true-blue weird poets here, and getting into their influences and inspirations, but I'm not so sure that we can't include Shakespeare.

Dec 15, 2011, 10:39am Top

>17 KentonSem:

If Baudelaire for Les Fleurs du mal, then why not Lautreamont for his incredible Maldoror?

I'm not familiar with Lautremont's work, quite honestly, but if you wanna include him in our canon, Kenton, that's good enough for me. 8)

Maybe we're getting away from true-blue weird poets here, and getting into their influences and inspirations, but I'm not so sure that we can't include Shakespeare.

Well, yeah - he is the fella who brought us the Weird Sisters, after all. :)

Dec 15, 2011, 10:53am Top

>5 paradoxosalpha:

Here's my favorite Moore poem (he had me at "Lovecraft"), as read by The Man Himself:


Edited: Dec 15, 2011, 12:57pm Top

>18 artturnerjr:

Maldoror was written in approx. 1868 and was a HUGE influence on the Symbolists and the original Surrealist group (and the band Bauhaus, whose 1982 album The Sky's Gone Out borrows some lines verbatim). The piece is basically a long prose poem and is really quite mad, and filled with imagery you won't forget.

>19 artturnerjr:

Right, Art! The Weird Sisters, the ghosts, the revenge from beyond the grave, the murder, the mayhem, the extreme gore! Wm. Shakespeare, a Great Weird Poet and the original splatterpunk!

Dec 15, 2011, 11:53am Top

> 19

A good one, and quite representative of his work. I actually prefer him as a poet to a comics writer these days. The best part of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1969 was the long poem which was essentially his version of the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil."

Dec 15, 2011, 12:17pm Top

>20 KentonSem:

Totally - something like Titus Andronicus has enough graphic violence to make Quentin Tarantino reach for a barf bag. Its only competition in pre-20th century literature that I'm aware of is the 19th chapter of Judges:


>21 paradoxosalpha:

The best part of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1969 was the long poem which was essentially his version of the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil."

Can't wait to read that one. LoEG was what got me on my latest weird fiction kick (which I'm still on, obviously) in the first place. 8)

Edited: Dec 15, 2011, 1:10pm Top

>19 artturnerjr:

that should have been "... a HUGE influence on the Symbolists and the original Surrealist group". Fixed.

>20 KentonSem:

Gruesome! Judges - do we have to include them too? It's a Weird World. Or, as Miss Lula Fortune so aptly put it, "This whole world's wild at heart and weird on top!".

>21 paradoxosalpha:, 22

I've only read the first volume of the LoEG series. I'll get to the rest eventually. Art, do you mean that LoEG is what steered you in the direction of the Weird Tradition?

I love the Stones from that period. I was listening to Let it Bleed the other day. "Gimme Shelter" gave me chills. That song has an even more sinister resonance today.

Dec 19, 2011, 9:03pm Top

>23 KentonSem:

I think works like Shakespeare's plays and the Bible serve to remind us how exceptionally lucky those of us who have lived in first world countries in the 20th and 21st centuries are. For everyone else, regular confrontations with extreme violence are generally the norm.


Art, do you mean that LoEG is what steered you in the direction of the Weird Tradition?

A rough chronology would go something like this:

2007(ish): Started to reread Moore's LoEG series; reminded of how much I love late 19th-early 20th speculative/weird fiction, I started reading that stuff pretty fanatically again

2008: I join LT

2011: The inevitable occurs and I discover the Weird Tradition group - the rest is history 8)


I love the Stones from that period. I was listening to Let it Bleed the other day. "Gimme Shelter" gave me chills. That song has an even more sinister resonance today.

"Let It Bleed is not only one of the most intelligent rock and roll albums ever made, but also one of the most visceral and exciting. It not only summed up its era as well as any recording has ever done, it has escaped its era, and sounds as direct and mysterious today as it did upon release in late 1969. It includes what may be the greatest single rock and roll performance ("Gimme Shelter") plus some of the most surprising ("You Got the Silver", "You Can't Always Get What You Want"). Let It Bleed is more than anyone could have expected from the Rolling Stones - more, in fact, than any fan could have hoped for. That kind of satisfaction is part of what rock and roll is all about."

Greil Marcus, citing Let It Bleed as his #1 rock album of all time in Rock Critics' Choice: The Top 200 Albums

Edited: Jan 6, 2012, 6:54pm Top

W.H. Pugmire has written a number of sonnet sequences inspired by Lovecraft and his prose poem collection, Some Unknown Gulf of Night, is a literary response to The Fungi from Yuggoth.

Jan 10, 2012, 12:42pm Top

>25 gryeates:

Will Hart's Cthulhu01 blog reports that Pugmire had a health scare at the end of November. The good news is that he was released and has been recuperating.


I'm not very familiar with Pugmire's Lovecraftian poetry, but he has had some pieces in the Weird Fiction Review from Centipede Press. The same publisher also released a collection of his short stories and poetry titled The Tangled Muse:


Edited: Jan 25, 2012, 1:59pm Top

Interesting page here about the poetry of George Sylvester Viereck. (In addition to the details given, Viereck also employed Aleister Crowley as the principal editor for The International: a rag that Viereck published in the US during World War I. Crowley claimed -- quite believably, if one consults the actual material -- that he was trying to undermine the German effort with an editorial policy that would exaggerate the pro-German contents beyond the point of American sympathy.)

May 1, 2012, 6:30pm Top

My friends, I offer you Jack Keroauc as weird poet (I'll let you decide whether he's great or not), based on the 211th Chorus of his Mexico City Blues:

The wheel of the quivering meat
Turns in the void expelling human beings,
Pigs, turtles, frogs, insects, nits,
Mice, lice, lizards, rats, roan
Racinghorses, poxy bucolic pigtics,
Horrible unnameable lice of vultures,
Murderous attacking dog-armies
Of Africa, Rhinos roaming in the
Vast boars and huge gigantic bull
Elephants, rams, eagles, condors,
Pones and Porcupines and Pills—
All the endless conception of living
Gnashing everywhere in Consciousness
Throughout the ten directions of space
Occupying all the quarters in & out,
From supermicroscopic no-bug
To huge Galaxy Lightyear Bowell
Illuminating the sky of one Mind—
Poor! I wish I was free
of that slaving meat wheel
and safe in heaven dead.

Sounds a bit like an ode to some Lovecraftian deity, does it not? Question is, which one? (My vote's for either Shub-Niggurath (The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young) or Azathoth (who reigns "in the spiral black vortices of that ultimate void of Chaos".)

May 1, 2012, 10:27pm Top

Lots of interesting names thrown about.

I'll have to add Crowley to Loveman and Sterling as poets to check out.

Clark Ashton Smith is excellent. I have the complete edition of his poems from Hippocampus Press with translations he did of Baudelaire.

Ann K. Schwader's poetry is good. I just discovered her recently. She's impressive, especially since she usually works in formal structures. (I'd say more about her new collection, but I have a review of it waiting publication at an online magazine.) Robert Price considers her and Richard L. Tierney the best poets today working in a Lovecraftian vein. However, I don't know his stuff and have never read any of Pugmire's poems. I do agree that, as a weird poetry, Lovecraft really wasn't that great. He shined at parody and attacks on people but not really as a weird poet.

I suppose a lot of Poe's stuff could be considered Gothic, but I think "The Bells" is genuinely weird as is "Ullalume". (See if you can find Jeff Buckley's reading of that poem. It's worth a listen.)

Edited: Jul 29, 2016, 7:13pm Top

Not weird per se, but I think there's more than a hint of Lovecraft's cosmic indifference here.


"The End Of The World" by Archibald MacLeish

Quite unexpectedly, as Vasserot
The armless ambidextrian was lighting
A match between his great and second toe,
And Ralph the lion was engaged in biting
The neck of Madame Sossman while the drum
Pointed, and Teeny was about to cough
In waltz-time swinging Jocko by the thumb
Quite unexpectedly the top blew off:

And there, there overhead, there, there hung over
Those thousands of white faces, those dazed eyes,
There in the starless dark, the poise, the hover,
There with vast wings across the cancelled skies,
There in the sudden blackness the black pall
Of nothing, nothing, nothing -- nothing at all.

Jul 29, 2016, 8:00pm Top

Oh, that's a good one. I agree it looks at the great Void, and the contrast with the prismed spectacle works quite well.

Sep 15, 2018, 1:24pm Top

This is a great collection of comments and material!

Group: The Weird Tradition

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