Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Future Meeting

Read "Future Meeting" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) seems to have much in common with "Tryst At Lobos" (which I read a few days ago) as both poems speak to anticipated rendezvous, presumably with a loved one.  

In "Future Meeting", I particularly like the speaker's intention to "question" his partner's "shoal-green eyes", as it suggests a non-verbal communication that seems quite appropriate to an encounter bathed in moonlight.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Mountain Trail

Read "Mountain Trail" at The Eldritch Dark:


Although this haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is quite simple, it's also quite touching in that the speaker and his companion hold hands "In the steepest mile" of their path.  This is an obvious metaphor for weathering challenges together, and while it's not a thought original to CAS, he does express it with admirable directness.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Tryst At Lobos

Read "Tryst At Lobos" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) re-visits the setting of "Pool At Lobos", which I looked at in an earlier blog post.  

What captures my attention is the unusual noun "balsams" in the last line.  The word most often refers to sap that is exuded by some plant species, such as the cypress trees that are mentioned in the poem.  However, it can also describe something that has healing or soothing properties, as in the Oxford English Dictionary's illustrative quote from Tennyson's "Becket":

     Was not the people's blessing as we past
     Heart-comfort and a balsam to thy blood?

That usage gives "Tryst At Lobos" a wonderful sense of fond remembrance, even while prompting the unnamed partner to contemplate a future meeting somewhere in the spectacular landscape of Point Lobos.  Who could resist such an invitation?

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Night of Miletus

Read "Night of Miletus" at The Eldritch Dark:


The title of this haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) refers to one of the great cities of the Classical Greek period, which is now part of Turkey.  By extension, it likely also refers to Aristides of Miletus, who set his tales in that same city "which had a reputation for a luxurious, easy-going lifestyle" (according to Wikipedia).

Compared to many of his other works in the haiku form, "Night of Miletus" feels rather slight, with no significant poetic techniques at work and with a rather straightforward visual component that doesn't really inspire a "haiku moment".

Friday, February 26, 2021

Love in Dreams

Read "Love in Dreams" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is one of five poems that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) arranged together under the group title "Pulse-Beats of Eros", although that heading was not maintained when these verses were included in the omnibus Selected Poems (1971).

"Love in Dreams" makes wonderful use of consonance (built around the letter "n") in combination with end rhyme, concluding with the supremely beautiful phrase "The night-found rose."  Even while working in the short form of haiku, CAS was capable of the verbal magic that distinguishes his very best poetry.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Old Limestone Kiln

Read "Old Limestone Kiln" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is another example of the poet taking liberties with his chosen form, given that haiku in English are usually rendered as three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables.

In "Old Limestone Kiln", CAS has instead used three lines of seven, five, and four syllables, with the last two lines sharing an end rhyme.  This structure works very well for what the author is describing, since the poem ends with a phrase built on a strong verb ("Oaks drop their fruit") which is not typical of English haiku.  

The direct, single-syllable words in that last line end the poem with a hard stop, providing a sense of animation, indicating that the abandoned kiln may be idle, but has acquired new life from the plants that have colonized it. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Indian Acorn-Mortar

Read "Indian Acorn-Mortar" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) includes the non-standard word "asterick", which some dictionaries identify as a case of metathesis, where the recognized word "asterisk" can be rendered in spoken English to sound like "asterick" or "asterix".  

Given that CAS had an extensive vocabulary, and was very careful with his diction, the choice of the transposed form of the verb was almost certainly intentional.  So why did CAS make this particular choice?

I suspect it is simply a case of the poet seeking to maintain the flow of language in "Indian Acorn-Mortar".  Even for a native English speaker, "asterisk" is a bit of a tongue-twister, and enunciating that word tends to result in an awkward hard stop at the end of the last syllable.  

CAS needed a verb to activate the phrase "Lichens <something> the pestle", and his choice of a transposed form of "asterisk" retains the lucid specificity of that word while helping to maintain a more natural reading that avoids an unwanted pause in the middle of the last line of "Indian Acorn-Mortar".