Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Guest Blogger - Poet Cardinal Cox

Getting away with Genre Poetry
Im Cardinal Cox and I fully understand if youve never heard of me, after all, Im a poet. I have been published in both Britain and North America, won a couple of prizes and had a couple of residencies. The reason though why Sam kindly asked me to be a guest contributor to her blog is that Im also a genre poet, writing a lot of verse in the Lovecraftian tradition. (I also write steampunk poetry and Ive lectured English degree students on SF poetry at my local University centre, but those are subjects for different articles). Again, Ill understand if you dont immediately think of poetry when you consider Lovecraftian fiction, but Ill argue that is essential if you want to fully appreciate the weird fantasy of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle.

Indeed, let me start by quoting something to you:-

Lo! Death has reared himself a throne
In a strange city lying alone
Far down within the dim West,
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best
Have gone to their eternal rest.
There shrines and palaces and towers
(Time-eaten towers that tremble not!)
Resemble nothing that is ours.
Around, by lifting winds forgot,
Resignedly beneath the sky
The melancholy waters lie

That is from the poem The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe and I contend that it is the major source for Lovecrafts image of Cthulhu and Rlyeh. Poe was heavily influenced by Byron (going as far as to emulate his heros swimming feat) and in turn influenced the French poet Charles Baudelaire and thus the whole decadent movement of the end of the nineteenth century and thence the surrealists of the early twentieth. Just as importantly (in my opinion) is the influence of Poe upon Lovecraft and his circle.

Between Poe and Lovecraft though there were other poets in the weird fantast field, for instance both Ambrose Bierce and the Anglo-Irish author Lord Dunsany had volumes of poetry published.

H.P. Lovecraft had a large number of poems printed in Weird Tales and it is possible to find collections of his verse. For instance Halloween in a Suburb published by Stanza in 2010. Other members of his circle of fellow writers were also active poets including Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard (both of whom also had volumes from Stanza) and Frank Belknap Long. Subsequent authors in the field who have penned verse include the Brits Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley.

Looking back at my own interest in H.P. Lovecraft I started reading him in the late 1970s and in the early 1980s my then band recorded on a demo-cassette somewhere a track called When The Space Gods Come. Forward to 2003 when I was the Council-appointed Poet Laureate for my home city (Peterborough) a couple of the projects I wrote included a cycle of poems for the local comic-shop (The House on the Borderland, now only trading on-line) and as Poet-in-Residence of a mad Victoriana-convention in Ireland (They Came and Shaved Us, guests included Robert Rankin and David Lloyd). Both of those included overtly Lovecraftian poems.

Since 2009 Ive been writing Lovecraftian verse regularly and produced a handful of pamphlets that have picked-up good reviews in Britain and North America. So there is a small specialist market for these, but dont discount the more mainstream market if you too write such poetry. Depending on what you write, you can get published in those too (though its not easy) if youre willing to claim the mood pieces are either metaphors or ironically post-modernist.

As I said, Ive had a couple of residencies, including for a local cemetery (the audience wasnt great, but they never walked out on me, but I did get a piece in the Times Saturday Magazine out of it) for three years and Im currently a third of the way through a year-long post at a 15th Century Gothic church. In both of these posts, although I seldom have need to discuss in rhyme the gibbering madness that lurks in the outer darkness, I feel my poetry is all the stronger for having an unseen foot (possibly cloven) in the terrible shadows.

If you have an interest in genre verse, be it Fantasy, SF or Horror, check out the lists of previous winners and nominees for the award given by the Horror Writers Association
and have a look at the website of the SF Poetry Association
If you live in Britain, consider sending an SAE for information to either (or both) Data Dump c/o Hilltop Press, 4 Nowell Place, Almondbury, Huddersfield West Yorkshire HD5 8PB and Handshake c/o Dunnock Press, 5 Cross Farm, Station Road North, Fearnhead, Warrington WA2 0QG.

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