Recontextualising Klarkash-Ton

Phillip A. Ellis

The last oblivion: best fantastic poems of Clark Ashton Smith (New York : Hippocampus Press, 2002) ISBN 0-9673215-5-7 $15.00

It is a rare, and welcome, event for a major volume of Clark Ashton Smith's verse to be published: this is one such event. Although slim, at 160 pages of poems, it contains what are undeniably among the best of his weird verse. The problem when considering Smith is, however, along the lines of an embarrassment of riches: looking at the bulk of his Selected poems reminds one that Smith remains not only prolific, but also undeniably consistent in his excellence. So, then, the question becomes less than choosing immediately apparent examples of his best, than of choosing among a wide body of similarly excellent verses carefully.

That the editors have achieved this basic principle should be obvious. They had a difficult task to fulfill, and they have done so. In addition to selecting widely from Smith's published books, they have chosen other verses from chapbooks, and even among those still unpublished.

In doing so, they have abandoned the context of Smith's books, and the arrangement of his Selected poems. Instead, they have chosen to recontextualise the poetry by dividing them among seven broad thematic groups, with only one, the magnum opus The Hashish-Eater, considered outside this. The editors themselves admit in their introduction that such a grouping must remain, by definition, and in their own words,

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