Letter on Clark Ashton Smith

Madelynne Greene

I'm glad to hear that the bibliography you've compiled of Ashton's writings will soon be published, and I wish the project every success.

Eric and I went over to San Rafael, to the Hill of Dionysus, late in December of 1966, shortly after we first met you. This visit brought back so many memories of the wonderful days Ashton, Eric and I shared on the Hill. Out of those wonderful times, out of the love that bound us together during those years when we first knew each other, Ashton created his last cycle of love poems, The Hill of Dionysus, which he dedicated to me. We always imagined the hillside had a Greek atmosphere about it, although at that time neither of the three of us had ever seen Greece.

We found ourself always returning to the same spot under a great oak tree. We would spread out on the ground our simple picnic lunch of bread and cheese and Ashton's favorite claret wine. Only after our paying our respects to the gods by pouring a libation on the leafy earth, would we begin to eat.

In the dappled shade, after lunch, Ashton and I would begin to work on our current sculptures and carvings. Eric often would read aloud to us from his own or other poet's work: the hum of bees and the faint sounds from the little town of San Rafael far below us would provide a background to his voice. Somehow "the moiling world of man" seemed very far away and a great peace surrounded us on all sides.

Ashton always carried a pocket knife and a small piece of the pale, pink, striped talc which he had brought from Auburn. It lent itself particularly well to his small sculptures. On his return home, after finishing one of these weird carvings, he would build a great hot fire in his ancient kitchen stove on which in the past his mother had cooked their meals, the fire burning until the old iron lids glowed from the heat. He would fill an old coffee can with the hot black ashes — he saved many coffee cans for this purpose — and would then bury the whole thing in the grate overnight until, the next day, he would rub the oil from his hands into the surface to bring a warm black glow to the nowalive, weird creature.

We all inspired each other in so many ways. Ashton always had a book or a story for me to read, a selection he would like to see done in dance form. Thus, "Witch's Sabbath" (a dance I created for recitals and concerts) came into being. Ashton used to make the trek from Auburn to attend and share in the performance. After it was over, we three would joyously trot off to Chinatown and relive the entire concert and hope for good reviews in the next morning's papers.

It all seems like a long time ago and yet as I write you time telescopes and everything connected with those far-off days becomes vivid and real once more.

I do hope this bibliography will help in bringing about the greater recognition that Ashton so richly deserves.


From: Emperor of Dreams: A Clark Ashton Smith Bibliography, Donald Sidney-Fryer. Donald M. Grant, 1978.

Top of Page