Friday, December 23, 2016

Poisonous Nature

Above is ye newest illustration by Tom Brown for my forthcoming collection from Centipede Press. It combines two of my favourite things: eldritch Nature and old houses. I also adore ye feature, with its wicked claw-like tip inside a bottle of macabre ink. I love this illustration more than I can say. Lovecraft was unique, methinks, in his ability to convey the weirdness of sick and tainted Nature; and there have been many fine artists who have aided Lovecraft's fictive language with their own devilish depictions of scenes from H. P. Lovecraft's tales. Santiago Caruso's trees, pictur'd right, are especially delicious. Lovecraft's fiction reminds me that, no matter how humankind may want to think of itself as superior, we are naught but ephemeral nature, and to ye dust and mould we will return. 

Oh, my darlings, I am utterly enchanted with this new edition of Shakespeare from Oxford University Press. A team of textual scholars have worked on an entirely new study of the texts of the poetry and plays. There cannot be any real definitive text of many of the plays because we have them in such a variety of versions. I think there are at least two "main" versions of Lear and more than one of Hamlet. Many decades ago, when I first became an Oscar Wilde fanboy (this happened from watching the mini-series Lillie. in which actor Peter Egan portray'd Wilde), I discover'd--in ye library--a whole slew of books of biography and Wilde criticism. This new passion became a blaze of intoxicated study when I discover'd Shakespeare criticism. Thus I am delighted that PBS is celebrating ye 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death (how superbly morbid!) with Shakespeare specials. I am especially looking forward to to-night's program, Shakespeare Live! From the RSC, filmed at ye Bard's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avonand hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate, and featuring appearances by Judi Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joseph Fiennes, Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, and many others. Sometime in March we will have another new volume, the Authorship Companion, wherein the editors will discuss in intense detail matters of textual diversity and authority. So we Shakespeare nuts have much to look forward to and celebrate.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

10 Decembyr 1716

I've been spending ye past few days dipping into THE RIDDLE OF SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, an anthology of essays publish'd by Basic Books in 1962. I'm half-way through Stephen Spender's "The Alike and the Other", and then will devour "A Poetics of Infatuation" by R. P. Blackmur. Then comes Wilde's "The Portrait of Mr W. H."--an essay that I have read numerous times and always enjoy returning to. Whenever I read the sonnets of Shakespeare or H. P. Lovecraft I am tempted yet again to try my hand at my own sequence. My first sonnet sequence, Songs of Sesqua Valley, was compos'd with much enthusiasm yet little art. 

What is ye riddle of Shakespeare's sonnets? Happily, Shakespeare is a sphinx and does not tell; although plenty of scholars, poets, and lunatics have driven themselves to madness in their psychic investigations of the poems. Did Shakespeare write these for publication and distribution? If so, are they profoundly autobiographical and do they expose extreme romantic/sexual situations? Is the poet's love for the young man of the opening sonnets similar to a father's for his son, or a lover to his sexual obsession? We do not know, we cannot know; & therefore the books I love moft are the ones that discuss the art of the sonnets, my favourite
being ye book at left by Helen Vendler. 

Yet, as much as I can appreciate the sonnets on an artistic and intellectual level, so too can I relate to them emotionally; for I am one who has been self-subjected to the impossible love that dare not speak its name. I have suffer'd this madness keenly twice in life. The first time the fellow died in my arms after having snorted street smack and choking to death. The second time the fellow moved in with me, and is with me still. These boys drove me crazy, and happily that madness is now entirely a thing of the past. I see now that the insanity of obsessive love had nothing to do with the objects of my adoration but was entirely self-impos'd. It was a madness of the mind as much as an aching of ye loins. It has, I think, keenly influenced one of the huge themes of my weird fiction--the longing for the mystical and perhaps unattainable thing. It thrives in Sesqua Valley. 

I've been trying to write a "sequel" to "O, Christmas Tree," that old collaboration with Jessica Salmonson. But I think I have lost ye mood to do an actual sequel and now with to write an entirely original Yule tale set in Sesqua that has no connection to any previous yarn of mine. Thinking of my Sesqua tales of the past, they don't seem weird enough for all the possible potential the idea of the valley contains. Sesqua Valley is an invention that continues to deepen in my imagination, and I want to write tales of the valley that are truly weird fiction

And I want to write a new sonnet for whatever story I compose for the Christmas anthology to which I will be submitting this new thing.