The Tentacle Sessions Tentacle Session #15
Sunday, April 16, 2000

Donald Sidney-Fryer

"The Hashish-Eater;
or The Apocalypse of Evil"
by Clark Ashton Smith

April's Tentacle Session brought flowers from the past, darkly. We welcomed Donald Sidney-Fryer, delivering a rare literary delicacy. Sidney-Fryer embodies a tradition whose specific, century-old tendrils are set inexorably in the Bay Area sub-terrain.

Poet and performing artist Donald Sidney-Fryer is the last in the great line of California Romantics that reaches from Ambrose Bierce to George Sterling and Nora May French, from Sterling to his protege Clark Ashton Smith, and from Smith to his pupil Sidney-Fryer. Carrying on the tradition of "pure poetry" of Keats and Shelley long after it was abandoned by the mainstream poetry establishment, the California Romantics created two monuments in verse in Sterling's epic "A Wine of Wizardry" and Smith's even more astonishing "The Hashish-Eater."

In a long career Sidney-Fryer has given dramatic readings from these poets around America and Europe. He has edited Clark Ashton Smith's Selected Poems as well as Smith's story collections "Other Dimensions", "The City of the Singing Flame", "The Monster of the Prophecy" and "The Last Incantation". Sidney-Fryer also assembled the mordant horror and fantasy poetry of Ambrose Bierce under the title "A Vision of Doom". His own first collection of verse, Songs and Sonnets "Atlantean", was the final book to appear from Arkham House under the personal supervision of that press's founder, August Derleth, one of the many people in the related arena of horror literature that Sidney-Fryer has known over the years.

Of the California Romantics, Clark Ashton Smith was the most successful in moving over into horror fiction, and today is famous as one of the major contributors to the high Gothic pulp pages of the legendary "Weird Tales" magazine, along with H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Smith was the only one of his peers whom Lovecraft held in something like awe. Smith's longest poem, "The Hashish-Eater", was once described by Lovecraft as "the greatest imaginative orgy in the English language."

After a brief intermission, Sidney-Fryer gave us a selection of his own singular, bejewelled poetry.

The producers of The Tentacle Sessions were proud to host the inimitable Donald Sydney-Fryer at the Blue Bar. The tradition that Sydney-Fryer represents is a grand one which we celebrated as we shared a strong dose of it.It was an evening for lovers of the beautifully crafted and evocatively performed Romantic Poem, appreciators of the dark eloquent impulses, and our regular Session audience who expect nothing less than eclectic excellence--another unmissable Session.

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