Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 21

ISHS Page 17/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

Ecstasies & Odysseys:

The Weird Poetry of Donald Wandrei

(c) Leigh Blackmore


Donald (Albert) Wandrei’s (1908-87) literary achievements were

numerous. He was an important horror and science fiction writer of the pulp
period, who published in the slicks such as Argosy and Esquire as well as in
the major pulps such as Astounding and Weird Tales. It was he who placed
Lovecraft’s major stories “The Shadow Out of Time” and “At the Mountains
of Madness” with Astounding Stories and it was largely due to his insistence
and efforts that Lovecraft’s correspondence was gathered into five volumes
for publication by Arkham House, the firm he co-founded (with August
Derleth). Although he thus made a contribution integral to the development
of the modern fantasy movement, he declined the Life Achievement Award
conferred on him in 1984 by the World Fantasy Convention.

Wandrei was many things - hunter of wild mushrooms, photographer,

soldier (he was a Batallion Sergeant-Major with the 65th Infantry Division
during the Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns in WWII), advertising
copywriter, stock market follower, playwright, fictioneer and traveller. In his
signed inscription in a copy of Ecstasy, he described himself thus: "Donald
Wandrei--a bachelor, a babbit, a millionaire, one of God's chosen, or all four, if
he had not taken matters into his own hands and walked into the Garden in
preference to problematical installation into a future gilded vault." He must
also be acknowledged as one of the great weird poets – John Clute to the
contrary (Clute dismisses Wandrei’s poetic oeuvre as “some unremarkable
verse”) (Clute/Nicholls: 1296).

Within the specialised field of weird literature, the practice of writing

weird or supernatural verse is a field yet more specialised, and the
recognition it receives is accordingly diminished. That today, weird poetry is
almost a forgotten genre amongst critics does not obviate the fact that it forms
a noble element of literature across a wide range of time periods and

That there is a long and honourable tradition of weird verse within

Western culture, is testified by August Derleth’s two landmark anthologies of
macabre poetry, Dark of the Moon (Arkham House, 1947) and Fire, Sleet and
ISHS Page 27/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

Candlelight (Arkham House, 1961). Dark of the Moon charts much of the history
of weird poetry with its selections from Blake, Robert Burns, James Hogg, Sir
Walter Scott, Coleridge, Thomas Moore, Goethe, Keats, Thomas Hood,
Thomas Lovell Beddoes, Longfellow, Poe, Tennyson, Bell Scott, LeFanu,
William Allingham, the Rossettis (Dante Gabriel and Christina), James
Thomson, William Morris and many others of the 19th century and earlier; and
presents selections by such modern craftsmen of the genre as Walter de la
Mare, Robert Frost, Vincent Starrett, HP Lovecraft, the deliciously named
Robert P. Tristram Coffin, Clark Ashton Smith, Stephen Vincent Benet, Frank
B. Long, Francis Flagg, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, Mary Elizabeth
Counselman, Leah Bodine Drake , Coleman Roseberger and many more. A
large selection of Wandrei’s “Sonnets of the Midnight Hours” also appeared
in this volume. Fire, Sleet and Candelight focuses on poems written between
1947 and 1961, and so represents the modern weird poets: the inevitable CA
Smith, Joseph Payne Brennan, the underappreciated Texan Lilith Lorraine,
Harold Vinal, Raymond Roseliep, Sydney King Russell, Joseph Joel Keith and
many others. If we think of weird verse in modern times we must also think
of writers such as William Scott Home, G. Sutton Breiding, perhaps of Tom
Piccirilli and Jeff Vandermeer, of such Australians as Christopher Brennan,
Kenneth Slessor and Phillip A. Ellis, and even of Thomas Ligotti (with his
Death Poems). Amongst this varied company, Donald Wandrei looms large.

Born in St Paul, Minnesota, on April 20, 1908, son of a socially

prominent attorney, Wandrei was a gifted juvenile talent, writing one of his
greatest stories, “The Red Brain” when he was “a lanky lad of 16” (Schwarz:
10). It was a story that set the tone for most of his best work, which partakes
of a sense of cosmic horror locatable in the work of only a select coterie of
horror writers. Some of the poems in his first collection Ecstasy (such as
“Valerian”) were composed during his first visit with H.P. Lovecraft when
Wandrei was but eighteen, and he told Don Herron that the poems in the
collection were composed from roughly the time he began work on “The Red
Brain” at age 15 until they were published when he was 19. (Herron, “Last
Cosmic Master”: 18). His first two volumes of verse, the bulk of the work on
which his poetic reputation rests, were issued before he was twenty-three
years of age.

It is sobering to realise that Ecstasy (published 1928) appeared in print

three quarters of a century ago, effectively making it a volume from a
different age – one where classical education, taste and intelligence in
literature were more valued than they are today, and when authors prided
themselves on being able to make classical allusions with ease. Wandrei’s
verse exemplifies this old-fashioned elegance.
ISHS Page 37/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

Wandrei himself wrote of his early tastes in literature and poetry as

focussing on the unearthly and the supernal: “in my own earlier years
dreaming was to me the breath of life and something more than life, the realm
of the mind my abode, and world-making my occupation always…There is a
mighty music in a certain kind of prose; there are poems haunted by a wizard
imagery; and this was the prose and poetry that I sought. I was not studying
prose values, of course, nor did I then know that the greatest prose and poetry
ever written was that completely removed from life in its ordinary physical
forms, that which was timeless; it was instinctively that I rejected the most
powerful literary myths. The authors I read were Poe, and Bierce, and
Machen, Swinburne, Clark Ashton Smith, Park Barnitz, and Baudelaire,
Thomson, Blake, Keats, Saltus, these and all such others that I could find.
Their work was pure literature, prose and poetry in their highest and most
enduring forms. I did not realize it then, but I did realize that their writings
gave me an ineffable pleasure. (“Lotus and Poppy”, in Rahman & Weiler
(eds), Don’t Dream: 355).

It is interesting to compare Wandrei’s youthful precocity when he

began to compose poetry, with the similar precocity of Clark Ashton Smith
and H.P. Lovecraft. Smith began to write fiction around age 11 and poetry at
13, and to publish stories at age 17 and poetry at 19 (when he was hailed as
“the Keats of the Pacific” by San Francisco critics). Lovecraft was the earliest
prodigal, writing juvenile fiction and poetry at the age of seven. Juvenilia
such as “The Beast in the Cave” and “The Alchemist”, stories written by HPL
in his teens, did not appear in print until he was in his late 20’s. He started to
publish his poetry in his teens, but Lovecraft’s verse was poor stuff compared
to the quality of the material that Smith and Wandrei were producing. In this
light we can see that Wandrei is much more on a par with Smith than with
Lovecraft, for his early verse endures even today.

Donald Burleson (in a review of Wandrei’s Collected Poems, 1998) has

written that in the course of his poetic career, “Wandrei’s command of the art
ascended to astonishing heights”. (Burleson: 40). Burleson contends that
Wandrei “clearly deserves to be recognised as an important poet of our time
and an outstanding figure in the American Gothic tradition”.

S.T. Joshi considers that “whatever place he ultimately occupies, his

flawlessly chiselled poetry, old-fashioned as it is by current standards, will
surely continue to live as a vital and central component of his collected
works” and that “among the Lovecraft circle Wandrei had no peer as a poet
save Clark Ashton Smith” (which speaks volumes, for Samuel Loveman, for
one, was no mean poet). (Joshi, “Poetry”: 34). Joshi’s view is that “Wandrei’s
verse is the most consistently meritorious branch of his literary work” and
ISHS Page 47/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

that “it is entirely possible that [Wandrei] will ultimately be remembered

principally for his poetry) (Joshi, “Poetry”: 9). This seems likely given that
many of his science fiction stories are weakened by the fact that Wandrei had
little scientific background, leading David A Drake to conclude that “the bulk
of Wandrei’s work is flawed, but there is some merit in the worst of it.”
(Drake: 769).

The consistent quality of his poetic output is the more remarkable

given that most of his verse was written in what Joshi has aptly termed “the
white-hot fire of ecstatic youth” (“Poetry”: 34). As D.H. Olson has remarked,
Wandrei’s writing career suffered severe setbacks in the late 1930s due to
“editorial changes in his primary markets and his distraction with non-
remunerative projects like the Lovecraft letters and his attempts at
playwriting.” (The jacket of his novel The Web of Easter Island, Arkham House,
1942, mentions that he is “currently at work on a play”, and this had been
going on since the 1930’s; Olson mentions that he “was also attempting to
forge a new career as a Broadway playwright”). Olson says that: “By the time
he entered the Army in 1942, he had largely stopped writing both fiction and
poetry and, upon his return to civilian life in 1945, his professional efforts
were geared towards comics and Hollywood films, neither of which brought
him any notable success” (Olson, in Joshi/Dziemanowicz: 1173). Ruber
considers that writing for “a strong of comic book publishers” was “a pursuit
far below his intellectual abilities” (Ruber: 68). One would be tempted to
reach the conclusion that Wandrei said all he had to say in the poetic mode by
the time he had reached his mid-twenties – that he had, as it were, burnt
himself out creatively in this sphere – were it not for the fact that late in life he
wrote four new poems which he circulated to friends and colleagues, and
which are among his best work. (They first appeared in Necronomicon Press’
edition of Collected Poems). Joshi calls these poems “as finely polished as those
of his youth” (“Poetry”: 9).

Wandrei took his B.A. at the University of Minnesota, decided against

continuing it as a PhD because there were no academic jobs available during
the Great Depression (Ruber: 66), but later taught English at the university for
two years, before going to become advertising manager of Dutton Publishing
Co at the youthful age of 20. After two years of that he became a public
relations man. During his years at the University of Minnesota Wandrei wrote
(often anonymously or pseudonymously) for virtually all of that school’s
student publications including The Minnesota Daily, for which Wandrei served
as both editor and regular columnist, and the campus humour magazine, Ski-
U-Mah. A number of the poems and short essays were rediscovered and
published in A Donald Wandrei Miscellany. (Most of the originals reside in the
Wandrei papers at the University of Minnesota Historical Society). They
ISHS Page 57/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

include a plangent memorial to George Sterling, the poetic mentor of Clark

Ashton Smith. The rediscovered poems are minor humorous pieces; but this
little volume includes at least one memorable poetic item in the prose poem
“To One Who Died”, which ends on a note of cosmic wonder and awe:
“And I listened while the mute stars stared from all around, and
turned toward the spaceward flowing windows of night, and into the
measureless and labyrinthine abyss I followed again the unknown trail that
lost itself among the stars, vaguely and vainly seeking solution of cosmic
mysteries.” (A Donald Wandrei Miscellany: 11).

Wandrei suffered (or benefited, depending on how one looks at it)

from dreams and nightmares which haunted his entire adult life. In his story
“The Lady in Grey” he tells of “a man plagued since childhood by
nightmares, for whom the hours from sunset to sunrise…have been
oppressive with fear.” “This was Wandrei’s plight. Throughout his life he
suffered from vivid, fantastic, inexplicable, often terrifying nightmares.”
(Behrends, 23-24). Don Herron points out that many of Wandrei’s eeriest tales
(“The Crater”, “Nightmare”, “A Fragment of a Dream”) were literal
transcriptions of his haunting dreams. (Herron: 449). These nightmares may
have ended in relation to a peculiar epiphany that Donald and Howard
Wandrei experienced in 1956. The Arkham House stocklist for 1973 makes
mention of a work called Circle of Pyramids which consists of correspondence
between Howard and Donald. Whatever revelation came about, the catalogue
description of this book (never issued) says that it “ended forever a siege of
terrifying nightmares”. (This work is extant, and may someday be published).

Wandrei infused the images from his dreams into his poetry as well,
particularly in the cycle or sequence known as “The Sonnets for the Midnight
Hours”. He may be, like H.P. Lovecraft and Jorge Luis Borges, one of the
great literary dreamers of the twentieth century. The imagery presented in the
“Sonnets” is bizarre and fantastic in the extreme, and if Wandrei truly
dreamed all these dreams, his sleep was haunted indeed.

The “Sonnets for the Midnight Hours”, of which there are 26 in the
sequence that Wandrei chose to preserve, were all individually inspired by
dreams of Wandrei’s (see Joshi: Sixty Years: 68). The sonnets were composed
in 1927 and initially appeared in Wandrei’s first volume of verse, Ecstasy and
Other Poems (1928), published by W. Paul Cook’s The Recluse Press on the
advice of H.P. Lovecraft. Twelve of the sonnets were published by Weird Tales
between May 1928 and March 1929 (Mysteries p. 204)

Herron contends that Wandrei’s sonnet series inspired Lovecraft’s own

sonnet sequence “The Fungi from Yuggoth”. Joshi and Schulz don’t mention
ISHS Page 67/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

this in the entry on the “Fungi” in An HP Lovecraft Encyclopedia; however,

Joshi writes elsewhere that “The immediate influence on the Fungi, however,
clearly seems to be Wandrei’s Sonnets of the Midnight Hours, which Lovecraft
read no later than November 1927.” (Joshi, HPL A Life: 463.) HPL himself does
not appear to admit directly to the influence; in a letter of June 30, 1930, he
writes to Wandrei: “Wright has nothing of mine on hand save some verses
called “Fungi from Yuggoth”, which will appear in a series like your “Sonnets
of the Midnight Hours”. (Mysteries, p. 253). This could have been HPL’s
opportunity to acknowledge Wandrei’s influence upon his own cycle. We
should read too much into the fact that he did not take it. It seems clear that
Herron’s and Joshi’s assertions of Wandrei’s influence in this regard are

“Sonnets for the Midnight Hours” consists of least 28 poems

altogether; Joshi notes that “Wandrei excluded two that had earlier appeared
in Weird Tales, perhaps because he was not satisfied with their quality”.
Joshi’s judgment on Wandrei’s cycle is that it is “very powerful, but does not
seem to me quite as polished or as cumulatively effecting as Lovecraft’s.
Nevertheless, Lovecraft clearly derived the basic idea of a sonnet cycle from
this work, even though his differs considerably from it in actual execution”
(HPL A Life: 463).

There are 36 sonnets in Lovecraft’s sequence. Lovecraft’s sonnets

(written in late 1929), as noted by Joshi & Schultz are mostly “a hybrid form
combining elements of the classic Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet
forms, contrived to provide an element of surprise in the final line”. (Joshi, An
HPL Encyclopedia: 95). Wandrei’s did not keep exclusively to a particular
sonnet form throughout the sequence, and the individual sonnets vary in
their internal rhyme schemes. This could be considered a drawback if one
favours consistency, and as compared with such epic sonnet sequences as
Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “The House of Life” (100 sonnets all in the same
form), Wandrei’s cycle is both shorter, and more varied; but this factor is
perhaps outweighed by their unity of inspiration (one cannot say unity of
theme, for each has a different subject, from metal gods to torturers to hungry
flowers to disembodied eyes.

Joshi points out that Wandrei’s poems of the “Sonnets” are “unified by
the fact that they are all derived from Wandrei’s dreams and by their
narration in the first person” (A Subtler Magick: The Writing and Philosophy of
H.P. Lovecraft. San Bernadino, CA: Borgo Press, 2nd ed 1986: 234) as contrasted
with “utter randomness of tone, mood and import” in Lovecraft’s “Fungi”.
One could readily envisage writing a critical piece about the sequence on this
basis called “The Continuity of the Sonnets of the Midnight Hours”. This quality
ISHS Page 77/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

of thematic unification strengthens Wandrei’s claim to be the foremost

versifier of weird sonnet cycles; he was the first both to conceive of such a
cycle, and to actually execute such a conceptually unified cycle. Certainly, on
this basis, Wandrei’s “Sonnets” are undeservedly overlooked compared to
Lovecraft’s more famous “Fungi” sequence.

As pointed out by Joshi/Schultz, “the central image of “Fantastic

Sculpture”, one of his Sonnets of the Midnight Hours – a figure whose head is a
tuft of slender tentacles” – resembles the coachman of HPL’s dream”
(Mysteries of Time and Spirit: 190). This was HPL’s famous dream of the
motorman with the cone-like face, related to Wandrei in HPL’s letter of 24
Nov 1927 [SL II: 306].

In a letter of Dec 19, 1927, Lovecraft advised Wandrei “Your technique

is improving rapidly – more & more of mature swing & phrasing appears – so
that I would now hesitate to advise you as exclusively towards prose fantasy
as I did a year ago. Develop the two streams side by side as Poe did – for you
certainly, if I am not too old to have an opinion of my own, possess genius of
the most authentic sort in both lines”. (Mysteries of Time and Spirit: 192.) In a
letter of Sept 1928 Lovecraft confessed himself “very anxious to have a
complete collection of your weird poetry in book form” (Mysteries of Time and
Spirit: 228). Lovecraft did ultimately own copies of both Wandrei’s early
volumes of verse, Ecstasy and Dark Odyssey (Joshi, Lovecraft’s Library: 141-42.),
both presented to him by Wandrei.

By Jan 14, 1928, Wandrei had sent Cook the final proofs for his first
collection of poetry. At that time he planned to issue a second volume of
poems to be called The Midnight Hours which would have included the sonnet
cycle. However, this proposed volume did not appear. His second collection
of poems, Dark Odyssey (1931), did not contain any of his “Sonnets of the
Midnight Hours”, which ultimately were collected in Poems for Midnight
(1964). (Mysteries of Time and Spirit: 198-99).

We must acknowledge Wandrei’s cycle as the forerunner of such weird

sonnet cycles. It must be regarded, then, as not only inherently valuable as
pioneering a new sub-genre within weird verse; but especially significant for
its influence upon Lovecraft. “The Fungi from Yuggoth” is probably the
greatest cycle of poems in weird verse; and in penning “Sonnets from the
Midnight Hours”, Wandrei in effect provided the antecedent for the form.
Only one or two others have attempted it. Lin Carter, in his Dreams from
R’lyeh (Arkham House, 1975), achieved a weird sonnet cycle of 31 poems.
Richard L. Tierney’s Collected Poems (Arkham House, 1981) contains 48 weird
ISHS Page 87/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

sonnets, but Tierney did not designate any such numbered sequence as
Wandrei, Lovecraft and Carter.

C.A. Smith, Lovecraft and R. E. Howard have often been referred to as

“The Three Musketeers” of Weird Tales due to their prolific output and their
common membership of the Lovecraft Circle. But there is another triumvirate,
formed of Lovecraft, Smith and Wandrei – a triumvirate of writers who
shared what can be termed ‘the cosmic attitude’. Wandrei’s philosophic and
aesthetic attitudes were closely similar to those held by Smith and Lovecraft,
and this makes them, in effect the “Three Cosmic Weirdists” of Weird Tales.
(William Hope Hodgson is another writer of the weird much of whose, for
example his novels The Nightland and The House on the Borderland demonstrate
the cosmic attitude). In a letter from H.P. Lovecraft to Clark Ashton Smith of
21 Jan, 1927, Lovecraft wrote: “you no doubt have my postal commenting on
Wandrei's work. I was really immensely taken with it, & believe that he has a
more truly cosmic & fantastic vision than anyone else I know with the solitary
exception of yourself. There is a quality of genuine bizarrerie in his
perspective…I noticed the tense & convincing atmosphere of nightmare in
'the Door of the Room' That piece more than any other made me think of your
landscapes. 'The Messengers' is indeed very much like your 'Envoys' &
illustrates the essential parallelism of the fantastic imagination in different
individuals- a circumstance strongly arguing the existence of a natural mental
world of the weird with a common background & fixed laws, out of which
spring a literature as authentic in its way as the realistic literature which
springs form mundane experience”. (Lovecraft, SL II: 98-99).

Wandrei was an early appreciator of the work C.A. Smith and wrote an
ardent appreciation of it, “The Emperor of Dreams,” which appeared in
Overland Monthly 84, No 12 (Dec 1926), (reprinted in 1988 in the journal
Klarkash-Ton). This essay was an ecstatic paean of praise to Smith’s work, but
it is also highly revealing of Wandrei’s own attitudes to fantastic poetry. “A
poet cannot live on visions, on dreams, on a prospect of future fame. He must
live on something more material. And one cannot write when it is necessary
to earn a sustenance”. “There is no place in contemporary prose and poetry
for genius”. These could be aphorisms representing Wandrei’s general point
of view, and feelings about his own poetic endeavours, not just about Smith.

Wandrei continues his expressions of approbation of Smith: “Some

writers have skill and ability but desire wealth or immediate fame; their work
has not so great a popularity but endures longer. A very few have what is
called “genius”. They write primarily for themselves, or with a certain small
group of people who know literature in mind. They are artists, word artists;
and they fashion their prose or poetry with care and labor. They are seldom
ISHS Page 97/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weird

appreciated in their lifetime, and never have widespread popularity, but the
highest minds of every age enjoy their work. These are ones who speak to us
across the ages, who will speak across the ages to come”. If it be so, then
Wandrei himself may be placed in this category. His verse is carefully
fashioned, form being one of his chief considerations in addition to a
concentration on the outré and the bizarre. Wandrei continues, of Smith’s
poems: “They would have been accomplishments for a man of maturity, for
one who had long written poetry, as the work of a youth they are remarkable
achievements…it was a world-weary youth wise beyond his years who wrote
these poems beautiful, fantastic, sometimes bitter and more than once
inexpressibly terrible in their suggestion.” We cannot fail to see how Wandrei
himself was “a world-weary youth wise beyond his years” – this is certainly
borne out by a reading of his letters to Lovecraft (Mysteries of Time and Spirit).

Who but a fellow poetic soul could have written thusly of Smith: “Here
and there may be found a poppy-flower, an orchid from the hot-bed of Hell,
the whisper of an eldritch wind, a breath from the burnings sands of regions
infernal. The wizard calls, and at his imperious summons come genie, witch,
and daemon to open the portal to the haunted realms of faery; and their
wonder is transmuted so that those who can open the door my listen to the
murmuring waters of Acheron, or watch the passing of a phantom throng;
and the fen-fires gleam; and the slow mists arise; and heavy perfumes, and
poisons, and dank odors fill the air. A marble palace rises in the dusk, a
treasure-house of gold, and ebony, and ivory; soft lutes play within; fair
women, passionless and passionate, wander in the corridors; silks and
tapestries adorn the walls, and fuming censers burn a rare incense” And on
goes the ‘review’, praising Smith in terms which (if lavish) are nonetheless
found to be no exaggeration by connoisseurs of the weird who appreciate
Smith’s exotic and ultramundane worlds.

The influence of both Smith and of his poetic mentor, George Sterling,
are evident in Ecstasy and Other Poems. Yet Wandrei retained a voice all of his
own. Wandrei made explicit his debt to Sterling with the exquisite “In
Memoriam: George Sterling”, a poem written after Sterling’s suicide (Nov
“He walks where none can know or see,
Alone and far,
A lonely traveller on another star,
A dreamer in eternity,
Whose dream of old is gone
Before the greater dream whose dawn/is night”.
ISHS Page 107/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

The poem “Valerian” is dedicated to Clark Ashton Smith, and its

imagery is perhaps the most Smith-esque of any of Wandrei’s poems:

“Thy purple eyes, Valerian,

Have known the fungi of the moon,
Have travelled lands Hesperian,
Have seen the blood-red plenilune.”

One can’t help wondering whether Lovecraft was struck by the phrase
“fungi of the moon” and whether it may have partially inspired the actual
title of his “Fungi from Yuggoth” sequence. The cosmic view of Sterling and
of Smith, with their visions of the oblivion of worlds, is represented here:
“They gazed on stars that now are dust,
They gorged on wonders vanished, dead
They saw Mercurial cities rust
Beneath twin moons of livid red.”

In the second-last stanza of the poem Wandrei writes:

“Valerian! Thine eyes are old

beyond the age of any sun;
Their secrets will remain untold
until the last oblivion.”

“The Last Oblivion” was, of course, a sonnet of Smith’s from his 1925
collection Sandalwood, (a volume which Wandrei assisted Smith to finance) so
this is a nice homage from Wandrei.

Wandrei’s known poetic output numbers somewhat less than 150

poems. 141 were collected in Necronomicon Press’ Collected Poems (1998). This
is admittedly a somewhat slender quantity of poems on which to base a
reputation. Clark Ashton Smith wrote many more poems – there are some 500
lyrics gathered in his Selected Poems alone – yet perhaps what matters is
quality and not quantity; and as the output of a few youthful years, this
oeuvre of Wandrei’s is by no means shabby. Wandrei painstakingly revised
many of his poems in later years , re-publishing stronger versions of them in
Poems For Midnight, and if one examines individual poems and their revisions,
one can see how Wandrei’s care for his craft extended to subtle nuances
which might have escaped lesser poets.

Wandrei’s poem “The Unknown Color” (one of the Sonnets) may have
anticipated Lovecraft’s story ‘the Colour Out of Space”, with its theme of a
prismatic sentience of unknown origin:
ISHS Page 117/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

“Whence came that unknown color? was its source

Beyond the violet, within the red?
Impalpable, a brain-shaped thing of dread,
A glowing form, it drifted on a course
Malefic, purposive, with alien force…”.

Other critics on the sources of this Lovecraft tale, attribute other

influences - Will Murray, for instance, sees Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned
as a major influence, and Robert M. Price has found a Biblical antecedent (see
References). Lovecraft’s story was written in March 1927, and appeared in the
Sept 1927 Amazing Stories. It is possible that both writers independently
conceived the idea of an alien colour, but if HPL saw the manuscript of
Wandrei’s poems early enough that poem may well have influenced his tale.
Indeed, we know that he saw the proofs of Wandrei’s first book as early as
November 1927, for he wrote of them to Frank Belknap Long: “ “I never want
to do a bit of proof-reading again – although I shall, as a matter of fact, read
Wandrei’s page proofs, which Cook will soon have ready. This reminds me to
exclaim anent the excellence of Wandrei’s recent poetry. The child is certainly
making astonishing strides – as the Sonnets of the Midnight Hours shew in
particular” (Lovecraft, SL II: 186). It would be a tribute to Wandrei indeed, if
his poem could be said to have inspired (even partially) the tale of Lovecraft’s
which he regarded as his favourite, and which marked the beginning of
Lovecraft’s welding of horror with science fiction that distinguishes most of
his later work. There is another curious similarity between Lovecraft’s tale
and one of Wandrei’s. Wandrei’s story “The Crystal Bullet” (Weird Tales,
March 1941) tells of a glowing projectile with strange qualities which
descends from space and lands on a farmer’s property, a scenario which
rather recalls the glowing alien lifeform in the form of a meteorite which
descends on Nahum Gardner’s place in the Lovecraft tale. But since
Wandrei’s tale written eighteen years after Lovecraft’s, the theme may simply
be a faint echo of Lovecraft’s, with a different outcome.

Colour often features as a theme in Wandrei’s work. From the story “The Red
Brain” to the sonnet “Nightmare in Green”, to “The Five Lords” with its five
colours of doom, Wandrei found colour a potent theme. In the poem “Red”,
the poet’s fascination with the single phenomenon of redness verges on the
monomaniacal fixation of the narrator in Poe’s “Berenice”.

Pagan images abound in Wandrei’s verse. Two poems deal with

Bacchus, the Greek god of wine and freedom also known as Dionysus: “After
Bacchus, Eros” and “Bacchanalia”. The first is brief yet poignant:
ISHS Page 127/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

“For song and laughter, now the wind’s regret;

For youth, a ravished poppy’s petals blown”

“Bacchanalia” is a song of pagan passion as wild and yearning as

anything out of Swinburne, Aleister Crowley, or Kenneth Slessor:

“Who cared? Once more immortal Pan was playing

His pagan pipes for semigod and maid;
And body to body, drunken forms were swaying
In the glade.”

“At the Bacchic Revel” is brief yet lusty:

“A drunken girl where the revellers whirl –

Flesh and the grape and a wreath of vine!
A girdle that slips from a maiden’s hips—
Lust, and the red, red wine!”

“A Drinking Song” is another tribute to the virtues of the grape:

“For the grape’s red juice there is just one use –

Song and the Devil and Wine are good!”

Other pagan poems include “The Morning of a Nymph”, “Witches’’

Sabbath” and the prose poem “Paphos”. The latter demonstrates that
Wandrei was as capable of Lovecraft and C. A. Smith at writing in this
rarefied form, which occupies the space between fiction and poetry. As well
as the imagery of Pan, of naked maidens, of nymphs and centaurs, of wine
and deathless Greece that occur in this poem, there is effective alliteration,
and a drowsy, dreamy cadence that conjures an atmosphere of amorousness
and beauty:

“The roses scented the warm night air, the violets grew in bower and
glade, the fabulous poppies of Paphos budded and bloomed; the maidens
wove garlands of the flowers and put wreaths on their brows; the maidens
wove violets in their hair and strewed petals to the winds and the night and
the great gods Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite”.

While there is no reason to suspect that Wandrei was familiar with

them, there are echoes here of the cadences one finds in the great cycle of the
Hymns of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess also known as Ishtar. One feels that
Wandrei had immersed himself in the knowledge of ancient cultures, and that
(like C.A. Smith particularly), he was drawn to write paeans (over-
ISHS Page 137/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

romanticised, perhaps) to those more innocent, and yet more sexually

liberated times of ages past.

Some of his fiction could also be seen in terms of extended prose

poems. Steve Behrends, for one, has referred to the stories “The Red Brain”,
“The Messengers” and “The Woman at the Window” as prose poems rather
than fiction (Behrends, 22-23).

The narrator of “Somewhere Past Ispahan” is, like des Esseintes, the
anti-hero of Huysman’s Against the Grain, inured to the luxuries that his rich
and decadent lifestyle provides him. Ispahan or Esfahan is an ancient city of
central Iran; at its zenith, under the Safavid dynasty in the 17th cent., Esfahan
had a population of c.600, 000, making it one of the world’s great cities of the
time. The poet is sunk in ennui – indeed, he is even sick of ennui itself:

“Now I am bored with all things brief and transitory,

With love, and life, and death, and even with ennui;
Now no things interest me,
And I am sick alike of passion and of glory,
Of days and nights that are an old and tiring story,
And dreams that can not be.”

Strangely, although it seems Wandrei never married, (the jacket of his

1965 story collection Strange Harvest describes him as a bachelor, by which is
probably meant “a confirmed bachelor”), his descriptions of women in poems
such as this are at least as lush, if as over-romanticised, as those found in
those of the womanising C.A. Smith:

“And if you charm me not, and I grow weary of

The kohl that shades your eyes, your breasts with henna tipped,
And your mouth poppy-lipped,
And if your kisses, like most kisses, mean not love,
Rubies I yet will place in that jet hair above
Your body slender-hipped”.

The world-weary narrator of this Islamic world of houris and dream

caravans, of incenses and stuporous drugs, desires only:

“to leave behind me all the weary works of man

And take the caravan
To heart’s desire that only I and Allah know,
The outer-lands where all’s a dream, and dream-winds blow
Somewhere past Ispahan”.
ISHS Page 147/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

Wandrei’s relations with women are something of a mystery. In a 1934

interview with Fantasy magazine, when Wandrei was aged 26, he declared
that he was not married, and “emphatically asserts that he never will be!”
(Schwarz: 10). Rickard relates an incident in which Wandrei was repelled by
the spectacle of fellow sf and fantasy writers thumbing through adult
magazines at a meeting at Forrest J. Ackerman’s house in Los Angeles
(Rickard, 5). Yet much of his poetry has an erotic tinge, and we know from
Dennis Rickard that Wandrei “once alluded to being in an intense
relationship when he lived in New York, but of it he only said, “I will never
talk about it.”” (Rickard, SIWF 3: 6). Perhaps his experience of women was
slim; nevertheless Wandrei was still more than capable of penning some
sensitive and sensual lyrics, such as “My Lady Hath Two Lovely Lips” :

“I’d be missing
Joys that pass and youth too fleet,
Springtide waning, Beauty sweet,
If I thus forgot to meet
Duty, in her lips caressing!”

and “To Lucasta, On Her Birthday”:

“Her step is lighter than the summer breezes

That stir the wakened rose;
She walks in charm, adoring nature pleases
to worship where she goes.”

S.T. Joshi has aptly pointed out that the central them of Wandrei’s
poetry is that “beauty must die” (a line from “Let Us Love Tonight”.) It was
Poe who, contending that the most powerful emotions to be triggered by
poetry (and art in general) are the joy experienced in perceiving something
beautiful and the sorrow connected with the thought of death, suggested that
the most poetic of all possible subjects was the death of a beautiful woman.
The influence of Keats on Wandrei has often been remarked, and the
Romantic source of this sentiment, may be clearly seen in Keats’ “Ode to
Melancholy”, which concludes:

“Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,

Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty – Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure night,
ISHS Page 157/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:

Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil’d Melancholy has her Sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine;
His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung”.”

Of course, in the light of more modern sensibilities, such sentiments can be

seen as objectifying women, with the poet projecting shallow appreciation of
her – that is, that beauty if the physical symmetry of form and not of inner
spirit & character which increases with age and experience. While recognising
Wandrei as the inheritor of an approach which originated with Poe and the
other Romantics, we ought also to recognise that the emotions expressed in
such verse are one-dimensional, implying that the poet wants the woman for
pleasure without real relating or responsibility.

The theme of Death, especially death in or underlying life, permeates

Wandrei’s poetry. In poems like “Chant to the dead”, “The Corpse Speaks”,
“The Dead Mistress”, “Death and the Poet: A Fragment”, “In Memoriam: No
Name”, “Let Us Love Tonight”, “Death and the Traveller: A Fragment”, “The
Voice of Beauty” and “The Worm King” (the latter to some extent reminiscent
of both Poe’s “The Conqueror Worm” and such tales of C.A. Smith’s as “The
Kingdom of the Worm” and “The Coming of the White Worm”) Death and its
‘illimitable dominion over all” (to quote Poe) is the inescapable, omnipresent
force in Life. In this he was influenced by Thomas Lovell Beddoes, whose
Death’s Jest Book he acclaimed as “my favourite” (Mysteries of Time and Spirit:
102) and by Park Barnitz, the author of The Book of Jade (see Joshi, “Poetry of
DW: 13, Note 3).

One of the poems from Barnitz’ book had appeared in The Overland
Monthly where Wandrei had published his appreciation of Clark Ashton
Smith, and Wandrei may have seen this. Certainly he sought out The Book of
Jade at the John Hay library when he visited Lovecraft in 1932. But he had
access to the volume long before this, for he lent it to Clark Ashton Smith in
1925, as we know from Smith’s comments in his letter to Wandrei of July 10
that year: “Dear Mr. Wandrei, I am greatly indebted to you for the loan of the
Book of Jade, which I will return to you in a week or two. You are right about
the mortuary poems being the best: some of them, such as the 'Sonnet of the
Instruments of Death,' 'Sepulchral Life' etc. are truly impressive, and, it seems
to me, very original. There is a tremendous idea in the 'Grotesques,' also, in
the second of the 'Fragments.' In the first section, the sonnet 'Ennui' impressed
me as being perhaps the best, or at last, the most perfect. Ennui and sheer
ISHS Page 167/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

corruption are both extremely difficult subjects to handle. If I am ever in a

position to edit an anthology, I will certainly include at least half-a-dozen of
these poems.

It is scarcely possible to write a piece on Donald Wandrei without at

least touching on the work of his younger brother Howard Wandrei, a
brilliant macabre artist. (The ‘fantastic’ Wandreis also had an older brother,
David, and a sister, Jeanette, who did not venture into the domain of the
macabre). If Donald Wandrei is still unjustly neglected today, at least he is not
as overlooked as his brother Howard, despite the recent appearance of three
volumes of Howard’s stories from Fedogan and Bremer. Like Donald, he was
multi-talented. According to Clute and Grant, Howard Wandrei is estimated
to have “produced nearly 200 stories” (Clute/Grant: 995). Most of Howard’s
exquisitely detailed linework has never appeared in print, (although Donald’s
Collected Poems, 1998, reproduced about eight pieces in black and white that
had earlier appeared in Dark Odyssey and Poems for Midnight, and some thirty
pieces appear in The Eerie Mr Murphy, Fedogan and Bremer, 2003. The three
F&G jackets give a hint of the gorgeous and luxuriant riot of colour that must
be a feature of his work in general; and the new volume Sanctity and Sin
includes numerous illustrations by Howard to accompany Donald’s poems).
The main obstacles to the publication of the bulk of Howard’s artwork
include access to the extant originals, and the enormous potential expense
involved in photographing and reproducing the work.

Howard Wandrei appears to have had some visionary or esoteric

insights in the course of his studies of William Blake. His late art features
“Radial Symbolism”, a style which apparently helped him map out his story
plots but is also extremely suggestive in its use of motifs from Blake. Judging
by his later art, Howard may have undergone some sort of visionary
experience similar to that of Philip K. Dick, who had extensive Gnostic
visions. Yet the nature of these esoteric insights will remain a puzzle until the
works referred to in that 1973 Arkham House stocklist – Radial Symbolism and
Catalogue Index, and the mysterious Circle of Pyramids correspondence, can be

Astoundingly, Howard Wandrei doesn’t even rate an entry in Robert

Weinberg’s extensive volume on science fiction and fantasy artists (see
References). Until a volume collecting all of Howard Wandrei’s art appears,
his true legacy will not be discernible. Donald’s poem “September Hill”,
though, is a touching tribute to his brother:
“Here on the hillside by the great gnarled boughs
Of oak the leaves fall in autumnal haze
ISHS Page 177/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

While over us the wind at twilight soughs,

And past the winding river’s end you gaze,…” (A Donald Wandrei
Miscellany: 30).

A portion of Donald’s fiction and his poetry was directly inspired by

Howard’s art, which has been called “The best miniature work since the
Middle Ages”. “The Woman at the Window” was one such tale. The
compelling weirdness of the poetry may owe much to the like weirdness of
his brother’s art. Nevertheless, Donald’s knowledge of literary technique, the
breadth of his erudition and his instinctive feel for the appropriate forms for
his outré subject matter are the factors which (despite whatever inspiration he
drew from Howard’s work) enabled him to encapsulate his horrific vision in

Whether Wandrei’s first two volumes of verse garnered any reviews is

not clear. As is often the case with poetry collections, only an extremely small
number of the obligatory slim volumes was printed. Ecstasy had only
(according to some sources) 332 copies. Jack Chalker and Mark Owings in The
Science-Fantasy Publishers say of it “350 copies printed, but evidence suggests
no more than 250 were bound." Dark Odyssey had only 400 copies; and even
Poems for Midnight had only 700 copies according to its colophon, although
Derleth, Jaffery, Joshi (Sixty Years) and Nielsen all give a figure of 742 copies
as the true number. (No contemporary reviews of the latter volume are
known). This makes for a grand total of well under 1500 copies of Wandrei’s
three major collections of verse. Wandrei also published two stories and eight
poems in an anthology called Broken Mirrors (Minneapolis: Avon Press, 1928)
but as the edition only ran to 82 copies, that publication scarcely served to
increase Wandrei’s poetic fame. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the
critical reception of this aspect of his work has been muted until recently.

In his later years (on his return to Minnesota after WWII), Wandrei’s
life was apparently a mix of uneventfulness and difficulty. Lovecraft had died
in 1937. Donald’s brother Howard died in 1956, his mother sometime later,
and his sister in 1972. His mother and sister had long been confined to
nursing homes and Wandrei had often visited them while they were live.
Clark Ashton Smith died in 1961. Wandrei seems to have missed his family,
and his old literary companions. Marc Michaud declares that “there simply
were not any more like them who could offer to him the intellectual and
artistic stimulation he needed”. (Michaud: 21). In these later years, in which
he became withdrawn, many thought him a shadowy character, and some
believed him dead. A tall, gaunt figure, he lived alone in his home, virtually
the last of his literary species. Klein says he was “reclusive, eccentric and
notoriously difficult” (Klein: 35). He seems to have been a gloomy personality
ISHS Page 187/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

in later life: “He seldom looked at the person he was speaking to and barely
raised his voice above a whisper.” (Ruber, 65).

Yet although he was increasingly involved with literary feuds, and a

protracted bitter lawsuit against Arkham House, (for details see the
Afterword to Don’t Dream), and that he kept a list of literary enemies which
included former pulp writer cronies like Carl Jacobi, Wandrei could still be
genial and garrulous with visitors to his home such as literary agent Kirby
McCauley and T.E.D. Klein. His friendship with August Derleth last for forty-
four years, and taught Derleth to hunt for the elusive morel mushroom – a
practice they continued for many years together as an annual ritual. Some go
so far as to say that Wandrei entertained “a never-ending stream of visitors
and house-guests” (Ruber: 67).

In 1982 Wandrei underwent a serious beating at the hands of a burglar

who broke into his house. He suffered the indignity and pain of having his
hands broken by the intruder (Behrends: 23) and also a fractured pelvis
(Rickard: 21). He underwent a long convalescence and needed to walk
thereafter with the aid of a cane. He talked of issuing a three-volume
autobiography, but this may never have been begun (Rickard: 7).

A dozen or so prose poems appear in the posthumous collection Don’t

Dream. Space prohibits us from discussing these here, but enthusiast of
Wandrei’s poetry need to possess this volume for these poems, as well as for
the many fantastic stories collected therein. Suffice it to say that in works like
“Black Flame”, “The Shrieking House”, “The Phantom City”, “The Kingdom
of Dreams and “Dreaming Away My Life”, there are memorably touches of
the bizarre and the outré.

S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz have written of CA Smith’s poetry that
“the likelihood that Smith will ever attain widespread recognition for his
poetry is, to be sure, not great. Most members of the literary community have
become so unaccustomed to the lushness and complexity of this kind of
poetry that they are likely to pass it off unthinkingly as either esoteric or
passé” (Joshi & Schultz, The Last Oblivion: 11). The same can be said of
Wandrei. But if we find in Smith compressed brilliance, imaginative range,
and verbal and metrical panache, the same can very much be said of Wandrei.
Wandrei himself, writing of Lovecraft correspondent J. Vernon Shea, said “No
one can predict judgments of the future, either the accolades or the oblivion of
time”. (Afterword, Shea, In Search of Lovecraft). The obscurity into which his
work fell for many years began to be mitigated in the late 1980’s with the
republication of most of his best stories in three volumes from Fedogan and
ISHS Page 197/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

Bremer, and with the publication of the letters between him and Lovecraft in
2002 by Night Shade Books.

Can Wandrei be said to be the equal of such masters of cosmic verse as

Clark Ashton Smith and George Sterling? Brian Stableford considers that
“Wandrei never quite succeeded, in his poetry or his prose, in his attempt to
cultivate an ornamented style comparable to the one that was the hallmark of
his first idol, Clark Ashton Smith” (Stableford: 621). Certainly his vocabulary
was not as exotic as Smith’s (could anyone’s be?). And Wandrei never
produced a single work that could rival in epic majesty such imperishable
classics as Smith’s “The Hashish Eater”, or Sterling’s “Wine of Wizardry” or
“The Testimony of the Suns”; although ‘Somewhere Past Ispahan”, his
longest poem, may also be his crowning poetic achievement. On the other
hand, such long poems as “Ecstasy”, “Sanctity and Sin” and ‘Dark Odyssey”
are brilliant exemplars of their type. If Wandrei cannot be said to be in the
very first rank of weird poets, he produced in a few short years a consistent
body of work united by its focus on themes of the macabre, the weird and the
elegiac. The variety of his forms, the pureness of the weird element in many
of the poems, the cosmic outlook and sweeping scale of at least some of them,
the ofttimes mordant and sardonic tone and the poignant mixture of beauty
and death which feature in his work, and the focus on themes of intrusion
from the unknown, must combine to make us acclaim Donald Wandrei as not
simply a unique talent, but as one of the most distinguished poets in the
weird field.

[Barnitz, Park]. http://www.bookofjade.com/
Barnitz, Park. The Book of Jade. London: Durtro Press: 1998. Expanded
reprint of the scarce 1901 edition of decadent poetry, includes a ten-page
introduction by Mark Valentine, and a four-page afterword by Thomas
Ligotti titled ''Thoughts Concerning A Decadent Universe''. (300 numbered
copies printed.)
Behrends, Steve. “Something from Above: The Imaginative Fiction of Donald
Wandrei”. Studies in Weird Fiction 3 (Fall 1988).
Burleson, Donald. Review of The Collected Poems of Donald Wandrei. Studies in
Weird Fiction, 3, (Fall 1988).
Chalker, Jack and Mark Owings. The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A
Bibliographic History, 1923-2001. Westminster, MD: Mirage Press, 1991.
Clute, John and John Grant. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. UK: Orbit/Little
Brown, 1997.
--- and Peter Nicholls (ed). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. UK: Orbit/Little
Brown, 1993.
ISHS Page 207/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

Derleth, August. Thirty Years of Arkham House 1939-1969: A History and

Bibliography. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1970.
Drake, David A. “Donald Wandrei” in Curtis C. Smith (ed). Twentieth Century
Science Fiction Writers, 2nd ed. London/Chicago: St James Press, 1986.
Herron, Don. “Donald Wandrei” in Jack Sullivan (ed).The Penguin
Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural .NY: Viking/Penguin, 1986.
---“The Last Cosmic Master”. Studies in Weird Fiction 4 (Fall 1988)
Hughesdon, Helen Mary. “Introduction” (Rahman and Weiler, eds, Don’t
Jaffery, Sheldon. The Arkham House Companion: 50 Years of Arkham House.
Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1989.
Joshi, S.T. “The Poetry of Donald Wandrei”. Studies in Weird Fiction, 3, (Fall
--- Sixty Years of Arkham House. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1999.
--- H.P. Lovecraft: A Life. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1996.
---Lovecraft’s Library: A Catalogue, 2nd ed. NY: Hippocampus Press, 2002.
--- and David E. Schultz. The Last Oblivion: Best Fantastic Poems of Clark Ashton
Smith. NY: Hippocampus Press, 2002.
---and David E. Schultz (eds). Mysteries of Time and Spirit: The Letters of H.P.
Lovecraft and Donald Wandrei (San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2002).
Klein, T.E.D. “A Haunted House”. Studies in Weird Fiction 3 (Fall 1988)
Lovecraft, H.P. Selected Letters II (1925-1929). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House,
Michaud, Marc A. “Donald Wandrei: An Appreciation”. Studies in Weird
Fiction 3 (Fall 1988).
Murray, Will. “Sources for “The Colour Out of Space”. Crypt of Cthulhu 4, No
3 (WN 28), (Yuletide 1984).
Nielsen, Leon. Arkham House Books: A Collectors’ Guide. Jefferson, NC:
McFarland, 2004.
Olson. D.H. “Donald Wandrei” in Joshi, S.T. and Stefan Dziemanowicz (eds).
Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood
Press, 2005 (3 vols).
--- “Of Donald Wandrei, August Derleth and H. P. Lovecraft” (in Rahman and
Weiler, eds, Don’t Dream).
Price, Robert M. “A Biblical Antecedent for “The Colour Out of Space”.
Lovecraft Studies 25 (Fall 1991)
Don't Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy Fiction of Donald Wandrei.
Minneapolis, MN: Fedogan & Bremer,1997.
Rickard, Dennis. “A Wanderer in Cosmic Voids”. Studies in Weird Fiction 3
(Fall 1988).
Ruber, Peter. “Donald Wandrei 1980-1987” in Peter Ruber (ed). Arkham’s
Masters of Horror. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. 2000.
ISHS Page 217/03/2009 Blackmore – “Ecstasies & Odysseys: The Weir

Schultz, David E. and Scott Connors (eds). Selected Letters of Clark Ashton
Smith. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 2003.
Schwarz, Julius and Mortimer Weisinger. “Donald Wandrei” (interview).
Fantasy magazine (May 1934).
Stableford, Brian. “Donald Wandrei” in David Pringle (ed) St James Guide to
Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. Detroit, MI: St James Press, 1998.
Tierney, Richard L. “Introduction”, Colossus: The Collected Science Fiction of
Donald Wandrei. Minneapolis, MN: Fedogan & Bremer, 1999 (2nd expanded
Wandrei, Donald. “Afterword”. J. Vernon Shea. In Search of Lovecraft. West
Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, 1991.
--- Collected Poems. Edited by S.T. Joshi. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon
Press, 1988.
--- Colossus: The Collected Science Fiction of Donald Wandrei. Minneapolis, MN:
Fedogan & Bremer, 1999 (2nd expanded edition).
--- Dark Odyssey. St Paul, MN: Webb Publishing Co, 1931.
--- A Donald Wandrei Miscellany. Edited by D.H. Olson. Minneapolis, MN:
Sidecar Preservation Society, 1991; 2nd edition Dec 2001 (100 numbered
---Don’t Dream: The Collected Horror and Fantasy Fiction of Donald Wandrei.
Edited by Phillip J. Rahman and Dennis E. Weiler.
Minneapolis, MN: Fedogan & Bremer, 1997.
--- Ecstasy and Other Poems. [Athol, Mass]: The Recluse Press (W. Paul Cook),
--- “The Emperor of Dreams”. Klarkash-Ton: The Journal of Smith Studies 1 (June
--- Poems for Midnight. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1964.
--- Sanctity and Sin: The Collected Poems and Prose Poems of Donald Wandrei.
Edited by S.T. Joshi. NY: Hippocampus Press, 2007 (forthcoming).
Weinberg, Robert. A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Artists. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Acknowledgments: I am grateful to S.T. Joshi for permitting me to examine

the text of Sanctity and Sin prior to publication, and to Steve Behrends for
providing a copy of the Schwarz and Weisinger Fantasy magazine interview
with Wandrei. Many thanks to Dwayne H. Olson for answering my questions
and advising me on the complicated pre-publication history of Circle of
Pyramids. Many thanks also to Danny and Margaret Lovecraft, and to my
partner Margi Curtis, for proofreading and editorial work on this piece.