Poetry of the Gods
Poetry of the Gods is a very unique tale. With 13 tales under our belt so far, we can already start to get a handle on how Lovecraft writes. His fluid use of archaic vocabulary that sort of flows in and out in a rhythmically tidal cadence becomes so common place in his writing that when you sit down and read Poetry of the Gods, it strikes you as out of place. As well it should. Poetry of the Gods was actually co-written with Anna Helen Crofts in 1920. Very little is known about this woman, so I can’t really fill you in on who she was or what kind of writing she did prior to this tale. But it is apparent that she had her own unique style to add to the growing suspense genre because her hand in writing this tale is certainly obvious. In fact the first time I read this story, I wasn’t sure that HPL had a hand in it at all, and that it was a pastiche written by Crofts separately. That isn’t the case however.
|Illustration by Jeff Powers © 2012|
The differences are immediate however. Not just the change in writing style and vocabulary, which are still Lovecraft-esque, but Crofts’ writing comes off as a little more sexy than sinister. But the most striking feature is that the protagonist of the tale is in fact a woman. A woman struggling with the ugliness of the world. She finds solace in the poetry of others, escaping her world into a world of lush beauty. As she drifts into the dream world that the poems evoke, Crofts gives us descriptions that drip with a romantic beauty that HPL couldn’t write about. HPL’s descriptions of beauty are often built up through the combination of the wonderful and the horrible. His descriptions tend to typify the idea of the grotesque, that even in absolute abhorrent strangeness there is a bewildering beauty that comes from our primal curiosity. This is what lends this story better to the pen of Crofts rather than ‘craft, as she can write about real apparent beauty that can suck us in, without the suspicion of the horribleness that always lies beneath.
Poetry of the Gods also holds within another seed of the slow creation of HPL’s Mythos stories. While we still haven’t had a true mythos story yet (a few have come close), we can see in these early stories how the central ideas of those stories came into being. In Poetry we see a crucial part of the mythos: the revelation that the gods are real, they are not dead but merely sleeping somewhere, waiting for their time to come again. They send dreams to those who are willing to receive them, and they will tell the horrible things that will come upon their return. This idea plays a central part in later stories like Call of Cthulhu and At the Mountains of Madness. So while this story stands apart from the other solo Lovecraft works, this collaboration is still rather important in the larger scheme of things. And that is the whole point of Lovecraft 101, to look at each work to find what lead to the greater, well known mythos works.
You can read the full text here: HPL andAnna Helen Crofts’ The Poetry of the Gods