I just realized that, busily posting, I had committed the blogger’s cardinal sin:
Not to list my sources!
So, allow me to make up for it:
All the poems I posted that were written by Clark Ashton Smith, I took from the archive at http://www.eldritchdark.com, a singularly splendid resource for anybody interested in the author, his writings, and the genre of… Let’s call it mystery fantasy.
The perpetual problem with Mr Smith’s writing is that it is scarcely available in good, and at the same time cheap editions and collections. http://www.eldritchdark.com solves this, in that those good people have made most primary and secondary texts about the author available online, or at least have them indexed.
Very, very good work, and very much worth praise.
Now, some of you might ask, who is this Clark Ashton Smith? I myself hadn’t heard of him until maybe a few years ago.
I’ll let http://www.eldritchdark.com answer for me:
Image taken from Wikipedia.
Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961), perhaps best known today for his association with H.P Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos, is in his own right a unique master of fantasy, horror and science-fiction. Highly imaginative, his genre-spanning visions of worlds beyond, combined with his profound understanding of the English language, have inspired an ever -increasing legion of fans and admirers.
For most of his life, he lived in physical and intellectual isolation in Auburn, California (USA). Predominantly self-educated with no formal education after grammar school, Smith wore out his local library and delved so deeply into the dictionary that his richly embellished, yet precise, prose leaves one with the sense that they are in the company of a true master of language.
Though Smith primarily considered himself a poet, having turned to prose for the meager financial sum it rewarded, his prose might best be appreciated as a “fleshed” out poetry. In this light, plot and characters are subservient to the milieu of work: a setting of cold quiet reality, which, mixed with the erotic and the exotic, places his work within its own unique, phantasmagoric genre. While he also experimented in painting, sculpture, and translation, it is in his written work that his legacy persists.
During his lifetime, Smith’s work appeared commonly in the pulps alongside other masters such H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, and E. Hoffmann Price and like many great artists, recognition and appreciation have come posthumously. In recent decades though, a resurgence of interest in his works has lead to numerous reprintings as well as scholarly critiques.
Now, the follow-up questions might be, is he worth reading, and is he worth reading for Coleridgians in particular?
My answer is, find out for yourselves. For my part, I like him, but I already bring a fondness for the genre of Gothic fiction, and for the pulp magazine authors in particular.
Now, what makes CAS worth a second look is that he is doubtlessly more literate than most others that stem from his literary environment; in the works of his that I have read, I also think I see a deeper connection to the 19th century authors this blog usually focuses on.
That said, I am also going to be blunt. He is not the author of the century, either, and especially if you’re acquainted with Poe and Lovecraft, his works will hold little surprises. That said, the same way my personal guilty pleasure is a whole library of Tolkienesque fantasy novels, Clark Ashton Smith’s book have their place in every good genre bookshelf. So, go and read it! Start with Zothique, if you can find it!