Monday, April 5, 2021

Boys Rob A Yellow-Hammer's Nest

Read "Boys Rob A Yellow-Hammer's Nest" at The Eldritch Dark:

As with the poem "Flight of the Yellow-Hammer" (which I blogged about last month), it seems that in "Boys Rob A Yellow-Hammer's Nest", Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is referring to Colaptes auratus, the bird commonly known as the "northern flicker".

It's not a great poem from CAS, but as part of his "Childhood" series of haiku, it definitely captures a spirit of youthful adventure in the natural world that reminds me of my own boyhood.

Saturday, April 3, 2021


Read "Water-Fight" at The Eldritch Dark:

Although I've generally enjoyed Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) works in haiku, this particular poem strikes me as one of his weaker efforts in that form.  This is mostly because the closing phrase "glad cries" reads awkwardly, and is not well-anticipated either sonically or conceptually by the rest of the poem.  

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Fight on the Play-Ground

Although this haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was included in his "Childhood" grouping of poems, it was not included in the selection from that grouping that was published in his omnibus Selected Poems (1971).  Likewise, it is not available on The Eldritch Clark, so here's the complete text:

Agonists with bloody noses,
How we slugged and mauled, 
Swore and squalled.

I like the transition that moves through the past tense verbs "slugged", "mauled", and "squalled".  When the poem is read aloud, the last of those verbs sounds like an amalgamation of "slugged" and "mauled", allowing for a very animated reading built around that wordplay.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Boys Telling Bawdy Tales

Read "Boys Telling Bawdy Tales" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) perfectly matches the impish humor of schoolboys with the earthy satire of Fran├žois Rabelais, particularly in his most famous work Gargantua and Pantagruel.  I've tried reading that long series of comic novels in English translation, but have to admit that I found it rough going and gave up.  Perhaps I'll re-visit it one of these days...

In any case, CAS' connection to the works of Rabelais seems to be a strong one, as Rabelais is often mentioned in his letters.  In February 1949 he wrote to August Derleth and mentioned Rabelais as being "among the forefathers of the genre" of science fiction, along with Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis and Lucian of Samosata.  A portion of that letter (with some typos!) is available on The Eldritch Dark:

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

School-Room Pastime

Read "School-Room Pastime" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is included in a grouping of eight poems called "Childhood".  It's a simple reminiscence of younger days, and certainly a preview of CAS' later evolution into a prolific visual artist in multiple media.

Monday, March 22, 2021


Read "River-Canyon" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is an interesting ten-part poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), where each of the ten sections roughly follows the haiku form.  

There is an evident structure to the complete work, as the first four sections each mention several plant species, while the fifth switches to focus on birds.  The next four sections (numbered VI-IX) follow the course of the river channel itself, and in the closing stanza CAS once again shifts his focus to resident avians.

Since "River-Canyon" contains so many specific details, I'd be fascinated to know the location of the journey that CAS describes in this poem.  I recently read Edward Abbey's classic work Desert Solitaire, which includes a chapter detailing a boat trip the author took down Glen Canyon before the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam, which inundated so many of the natural wonders that Abbey writes about.  Although CAS' "River-Canyon" details a land-based episode, I'd love to visit the location that the poet describes to see how many of the plants, birds, and other natural features that he describes are still present in that place.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Aftermath of Mining Days

Read "Aftermath of Mining Days" at The Eldritch Dark:

In this haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), I believe "broom" refers to Cytisus scoparius, better known as Scotch broom, an invasive plant that has become endemic throughout CAS' home state of California.  I live in Washington state, and Scotch broom is also an invasive species in these parts, as it is apparently up-and-down the west coast of North America.

The opening line "Monotonously rolled" seems to capture exactly that characteristic of this plant: its robust and ready fertility, and its ability to quickly colonize disturbed areas (such as after logging or construction).

All the same, CAS spares a thought for "its many-acred gold", acknowledging the plentiful bright flowers that make this plant so easily recognizable.