Goto Thread: PreviousNext
Goto:  Message ListNew TopicSearchLog In
Goto Page: Previous123456AllNext
Current Page: 5 of 6
Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 28 September, 2020 03:31PM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Please anyone who is reading this thread feel free
> to suggest specific poems from CAS that we should
> discuss. I have my favorites, but I'm really
> interested in learning which of his poems have
> appealed to other readers!
>
> For the time being, I'll suggest "Desert Dweller",
> my personal favorite among all of CAS' poems:
>
> [www.eldritchdark.com]
> sert-dweller
>
> Unfortunately, the version of the poem here on The
> Eldritch Dark does have a couple of significant
> typos, which I noted in a related blog post:
>
> [www.desertdweller.net]
>
> I'm curious if anyone else is as moved by "Desert
> Dweller" as I am? I really think it's one of the
> most accomplished poems in English that I have
> ever read, exemplified by the powerful closing
> stanzas:
>
> For them, the planted fields, their veriest boon;
> For me, the verdure of inviolate grass
> In far mirages vanishing at noon.
>
> For them, the mellowed strings, the strident
> brass,
> The cry of love, the clangor of great horns,
> The thunder-burdened ways where thousands pass.
>
> For me, the silence welling from dark urns,
> From fountains past the utmost world and sun...
> To overflow some day the desert bourns...
>
> And take the sounding cities one by one.

I take this to be a poetic way of CAS telling us that he marches to the beat of a different drum--and that ultimately, it may not even be a drum, such as we know them.

That would be the central theme, I believe.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: The Sojourner of Worlds (IP Logged)
Date: 30 September, 2020 09:09PM
Yes, Desert Dweller is definitely among those favourites. And yes, 'For me, the verdure of inviolate grass/In far mirages vanishing at noon' resonates as much as any verse I've ever read. It's also very much in line with Smith's occasional tendencies to prefer the comfort of a pleasurable illusion over the uncomfort of an unpleasurable reality. I suppose all dreamers are like that, in one way or another.

And in this case, the illusion provides not only pleasure but also certain purity, making it preferable on another, deeper level.

Even more do resonate the opening lines. 'There is no room in any town (he said)/To house the towering hugeness of my dream'. The whole poem is just a paean to the soul.

It's interesting that Oldjoe sees both Desert Dweller and The Prophet Speaks as being about a conflict between art and the Mammondom while to me it's about the individual versus the community, the society, the throng. This too is very much in line with both Smith's personal life and preferences, as well as his more than occasional tendencies to place the blame for the corruption of an individual on his evil, rotten, decadent surroundings rather than the individual himself. There's a very strong anti-communal undertone to his writings.

Steven Behrends said he had a poetic image of himself as a solitary sorcerer. Much of it is leaking into his work.

Speaking of art and Mammondom, you might be interested in the Elder Sign episode dedicated to The Planet of the Dead. They go a bit into this topic, the role of a poet in a capitalist society, etc. Story itself is one of Smith's finest, and he draws some really interesting analogies and contrasts.

[www.claytemplemedia.com]

Another thing. You sound like an artist, Oldjoe. Are you an artist? Anything you'd like to share with us?

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 1 October, 2020 10:50AM
The Sojourner of Worlds Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It's interesting that Oldjoe sees both Desert
> Dweller and The Prophet Speaks as being about a
> conflict between art and the Mammondom while to me
> it's about the individual versus the community,
> the society, the throng. This too is very much in
> line with both Smith's personal life and
> preferences, as well as his more than occasional
> tendencies to place the blame for the corruption
> of an individual on his evil, rotten, decadent
> surroundings rather than the individual himself.
> There's a very strong anti-communal undertone to
> his writings.

You're quite right Sojourner to pick up on the "anti-communal undertone" present in many of CAS' writings. That's an aspect of his personality and his work that I do often think about when reading both his prose and his poetry. Steve Behrends has written an entire essay on that theme:

[www.eldritchdark.com]

I don't agree with all of Behrends' conclusions, but it's an interesting analysis all the same.

> Speaking of art and Mammondom, you might be
> interested in the Elder Sign episode dedicated to
> The Planet of the Dead. They go a bit into this
> topic, the role of a poet in a capitalist society,
> etc. Story itself is one of Smith's finest, and he
> draws some really interesting analogies and
> contrasts.

I used to listen to the Elder Sign podcast fairly regularly, but haven't been able to keep up with them recently. However I am very interested in hearing them discuss "The Planet of the Dead", so thanks for linking to that!

> Another thing. You sound like an artist, Oldjoe.
> Are you an artist? Anything you'd like to share
> with us?

I used to write a bit, but in the last few years I've been focusing more on music (classical guitar). I did have a poem published a couple of years ago in the Spectral Realms journal from Hippocampus Press. And in fact, that poem was a tribute to none other than CAS!

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 1 October, 2020 12:48PM
Interleaved, below:

Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The Sojourner of Worlds Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > It's interesting that Oldjoe sees both Desert
> > Dweller and The Prophet Speaks as being about a
> > conflict between art and the Mammondom while to
> me
> > it's about the individual versus the community,
> > the society, the throng. This too is very much
> in
> > line with both Smith's personal life and
> > preferences, as well as his more than
> occasional
> > tendencies to place the blame for the
> corruption
> > of an individual on his evil, rotten, decadent
> > surroundings rather than the individual
> himself.
> > There's a very strong anti-communal undertone
> to
> > his writings.
>
> You're quite right Sojourner to pick up on the
> "anti-communal undertone" present in many of CAS'
> writings. That's an aspect of his personality and
> his work that I do often think about when reading
> both his prose and his poetry. Steve Behrends has
> written an entire essay on that theme:
>
> [www.eldritchdark.com]
> clark-ashton-smith%3A-cosmicist-or-misanthrope%3F
>
> I don't agree with all of Behrends' conclusions,
> but it's an interesting analysis all the same.

I found this to be a concretely supported and well-reasoned assessment of what informed CAS's outlook on life.

We have to face facts: very many CAS readers tend towards the ill-defined "touchy-feely" response, and this is to be expected among people who are drawn toward imaginative and dreamy reading material. But Behrends attempts to define with specificity the attributes of cosmicist and the misanthrope. He used HPL and CAS as concrete examples of each. Having read both authors really quite a bit, I think he captured the essence of HPL's view of mankinds's place in the cosmos, and with Smith, he got me to consider that he may have been an active misanthrope.

Personally, I'd like to see a bit more of this sort of analysis on ED. I know that many of us enjoy the dreamy aspects of CAS's narratives and poems--we get off on that which he so effectively evokes, but unless we attempt to identify what he does and how, we are in deep danger of having ED slide inexorably into yet another fan-boy site: you tell me how you felt on reading Poem A, and I'll respond with how I felt, and naturally since our emotional response if largely (and necessarily) private and individual, we'll simply be talking *at* each other, smiling and nodding in contented, but ill-defined fandom.


>
> > Speaking of art and Mammondom, you might be
> > interested in the Elder Sign episode dedicated
> to
> > The Planet of the Dead. They go a bit into this
> > topic, the role of a poet in a capitalist
> society,
> > etc. Story itself is one of Smith's finest, and
> he
> > draws some really interesting analogies and
> > contrasts.
>
> I used to listen to the Elder Sign podcast fairly
> regularly, but haven't been able to keep up with
> them recently. However I am very interested in
> hearing them discuss "The Planet of the Dead", so
> thanks for linking to that!
>
> > Another thing. You sound like an artist,
> Oldjoe.
> > Are you an artist? Anything you'd like to share
> > with us?
>
> I used to write a bit, but in the last few years
> I've been focusing more on music (classical
> guitar). I did have a poem published a couple of
> years ago in the Spectral Realms journal from
> Hippocampus Press. And in fact, that poem was a
> tribute to none other than CAS!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: The Sojourner of Worlds (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2020 07:27PM
I don't see the need to go as far as misanthropy. I'd be more inclined to say that for Smith humans only work in small doses.

I mentioned The Planet of the Dead. Two lovers on one side and the rest of the planet on another.

Or, in a poetic form:

[www.eldritchdark.com]

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2020 09:37PM
CAS and his relationship with humanity is a bit complicated by my understanding. He didn't seem to hate humans as much as he hated what he viewed as rampant problems with civilization. Such things as arrogance, intolerance, bigotry, materialism, and what he viewed as an over-reliance on science and technology. His stories and poems certainly exist to poke a hole in the self-inflated ego of humans, and he often depicts humans at their ugliest and pettiest, but there also exist characters who he clearly identified with, or characters that are portrayed as a little more right than others (and not so much hateful as wistful or lonesome), and a whole lot of ambiguous situations.

He isn't easy or fair toward humanity either, and he has strong moments of misanthropy, but his work focused so much on beauty, horror, romance, and relatable feelings that they don't ooze with overwhelming hatred like I expect from a misanthropic artist, who would be a lot less fair. Some of his poems are a bit heavy-handed in their hatred or dismissal of humans, but I sense this is derived from a mix of frustrations he wanted to vent and an emphasis on his belief that human society isn't the center of the world, not so much a display of a definite human-hating philosophy.

As I understand it, CAS spent some portion of his life as a pariah among the judgmental, gossipy townsfolk where he lived, especially in his youth. That oughta spark some resentment and bitterness from time to time.

I'm not in the mood to search, but I recall calonlan (CAS' friend) explaining that CAS enjoyed spending time with friends, even laymen at a bar, but he wasn't fond of crowds. Of course, this was from CAS' married days, so who knows what he was like before that. Maybe he was a devoted misanthrope at some point, I just don't think so based on what I've seen.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 October, 2020 09:48PM
The Sojourner of Worlds Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I don't see the need to go as far as misanthropy.
> I'd be more inclined to say that for Smith humans
> only work in small doses.


How so?

What does "humans work in small doses" mean, specifically?

>
> I mentioned The Planet of the Dead. Two lovers on
> one side and the rest of the planet on another.
>
> Or, in a poetic form:
>
> [www.eldritchdark.com]
> stlude

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: The Sojourner of Worlds (IP Logged)
Date: 3 October, 2020 03:28PM
Two things.

First of all, the circumstances of his upbringing meant he was never socialised to the extent most of us were. He never learned to conform, to comply, because he had no need to fit in. He wasn't instructed to fit in.

This is not to say he was a special snowflake, of course, but he developed his own preferences and stuck with them. Those preferences weren't necessarily in line with what was popular back then, over there, and he, as is to be expected, felt a certain... disappointment. Most of his resentful comments towards mankind are barely anything more than grievances of a frustrated artist.

The other thing is that the reason for all this goes back to agoraphobia he suffered from as a child. It's what turned him into an autodidact and probably informed, in one way or another, a large part of his creative output. Whether that influence was direct, whether he rationalised his agoraphobia into a life philosophy, is hard to say. But one way or another, it's there.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 3 October, 2020 05:53PM
OK, I see, thanks.

It meant that Smith needed to have direct contact with people only for limited times and in limited circumstances, right?

Yep. Makes sense.

There's some similarity to my own early years, ages birth to six, when my younger brother was born. Not as isolated by any means, but no daily contact with people other than my mom and dad. I lived out in the country, too.

I still tend to be a loner, probably based on my early default expectations, so all you say makes sense to me.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: The Sojourner of Worlds (IP Logged)
Date: 3 October, 2020 08:45PM
I moved away from the brutalist centre of a former communist capital to its rural periphery. I don't think I became any less social, just that my contacts with other people became more private, more personal, more intimate. No mellowed strings, no strident brass, no cry of love, no clangor of great horns, no thunder-burdened ways where thousands pass.

Just four eyes and a howl of wind.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 4 October, 2020 11:05AM
Sojourner's point about CAS' agoraphobia rings much truer to me than the misanthropic qualities that Steve Behrends' discussed in his essay (referenced above). This point came home to me over the last couple of days as I was reading CAS' poem "Bacchante", inspired by his friendship with the poet Eric Barker and his wife, the dancer Madelynne Greene. I blogged about that poem this morning:

[www.desertdweller.net]

What is striking about that work is the genuine depth of feeling CAS expresses in tribute to Greene. It's hardly the work of a misanthrope. Greene herself has written movingly of their friendship:

[www.eldritchdark.com]

CAS was no social butterfly, but neither was he someone who was incapable of connecting with other people, as Hespire and Sojourner have reminded us with their thoughtful comments above.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 October, 2020 04:11AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> We have to face facts: very many CAS readers tend
> towards the ill-defined "touchy-feely" response,
> and this is to be expected ...
>
> many of us enjoy the dreamy aspects of CAS's narratives and
> poems ..., but unless we attempt to identify what he
> does and how, we are in deep danger of having ED
> slide inexorably into yet another fan-boy site
>

I much prefer the fan approach, to the scheduled academic college curriculum approach. I don't want to pluck apart art and literature, like dissecting some dead frog or rabbit in science class. It destroys the magic and mystery. I am not interested in presenting a full report, for the teacher's approval, to prove myself, and be able to say, see how good I am, I got an A. I prefer supernatural and fantastic literature to retain its aura of mystery.

Occasionally I may participate in academic discussions, when there is a subject of particular interest, or when there is something completely blocking my understanding, something I should be familiar with but which incidentally is missing in my set of reference. But generally I like to just intuitively muse over what I am reading, and reach for associated rich images that will increase the magic and illusion even further.

I don't mind reading a practical book about grammar and writing, or take a class in drawing. But ultimately I like to respect the created illusions of artists and magicians.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 October, 2020 03:50PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> >
> > We have to face facts: very many CAS readers
> tend
> > towards the ill-defined "touchy-feely"
> response,
> > and this is to be expected ...
> >
> > many of us enjoy the dreamy aspects of CAS's
> narratives and
> > poems ..., but unless we attempt to identify
> what he
> > does and how, we are in deep danger of having
> ED
> > slide inexorably into yet another fan-boy site
> >
>
> I much prefer the fan approach, to the scheduled
> academic college curriculum approach.

However, there are other approaches.

You might do it like comparing restaurants, and how they prepare and serve signature dishes. This has nothing to do with academia and everything to do with recognizing what it is, specifically, that impressed you and describing it.

Then, if curious, figuring out *why* it appealed.

The academic approach includes letters, the writings of other savants, etc. I seldom am interested in what others tell me I should like, and why. What I want to know what *I* like, and how it is I came to like it.


> I don't want
> to pluck apart art and literature, like dissecting
> some dead frog or rabbit in science class.

I could also be that I've coded for too long and it tend to think in terms of knowable cause and effect. But not everyone is curious about how and why, I've come to realize.

> It
> destroys the magic and mystery. I am not
> interested in presenting a full report, for the
> teacher's approval, to prove myself, and be able
> to say, see how good I am, I got an A.

Does that happen here?

> I prefer
> supernatural and fantastic literature to retain
> its aura of mystery.
>

> Occasionally I may participate in academic
> discussions, when there is a subject of particular
> interest, or when there is something completely
> blocking my understanding, something I should be
> familiar with but which incidentally is missing in
> my set of reference. But generally I like to just
> intuitively muse over what I am reading, and reach
> for associated rich images that will increase the
> magic and illusion even further.

It's hard then to see what there is to discuss. It will be one person saying that he likes a certain thing, and another saying he likes another certain thing. Occasionally someone will agree with someone else, which constitutes a popularity contest and little else.

>
> I don't mind reading a practical book about
> grammar and writing, or take a class in drawing.
> But ultimately I like to respect the created
> illusions of artists and magicians.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 October, 2020 06:59PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Knygatin Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> > It destroys the magic and mystery.
>
> Does that happen here?

That is for each one to ask oneself. I don't allow it to happen to me. I participate in the information I like and need, and reject superfluous information I feel is pulling me in the wrong direction.


>
> It's hard then to see what there is to discuss. It
> will be one person saying that he likes a certain
> thing, and another saying he likes another certain
> thing. Occasionally someone will agree with
> someone else, ...
>

Sounds pretty much like the correspondence between CAS and Lovecraft, when they recommended stories to each other.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 5 October, 2020 08:42PM
While we are on the subject of misanthropy, here is my favorite epigram by CAS:

“The real objection to the Darwinian theory is that man has not yet evolved from the ape.”

I think the human intellect is gravely overestimated. Our perception, understanding, and analysis of our surroundings, is very limited. We can perceive only a small part, and this is twisted in perspective by our peculiar nerve sensory setup. We like to think of ourselves as rational and objective. We fool ourselves. We are animals. Our whole outlook, our judgment, and taste in art and literature, all of our decisions, are really controlled by our emotions and instincts. Much of intellectual discussion, and progressive analysis, is wasted time. That is my experience. It has led me only very slowly forward in wisdom. It is essentially empty. I feel, that the best way we can use our intellects, is through creativity. That gives the greatest satisfaction, and then we stand closest in harmony with God and the Cosmos.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 5 Oct 20 | 08:46PM by Knygatin.

Goto Page: Previous123456AllNext
Current Page: 5 of 6


Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
Top of Page