Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Robert E. Howard the Poet

Ever since my college education began back in 1984, I've loved poetry. Unfortunately, having been educated in Texas, poetry was not elevated to the same status as football. In fact, poetry was not elevated at all. I loved it nonetheless. I was fortunate to have a high school English teacher who encouraged my love for poetry. I even tried my hand at a few verses and was published in the 1985 American Anthology of Poetry (my sophomore year in college). Even so, I never gained a strong knack for writing poetry, but I spent my undergrad years collecting it, reading it, and researching and writing about various poets and their works.

Back then, I knew that Robert E. Howard had written some poetry. A few poems were included in various volumes of Conan stories I owned, or other collections of Howard's works. However, I never knew that Howard had written so many poems until a few years ago when I stumbled on the volume pictured below.

I attempted to purchase this volume from The Robert E. Howard Foundation blog site, but low and behold, it was sold out! Ugh! I was so upset I nearly cried. Not really, but I did vigorously pace my office trying to figure out how I could obtain a copy. To this day, I've yet to get my hands on one. Here's a HUGE "hint, hint" to the REH Foundation to run more pressings of this work! I did, however, manage to get my hands on this volume:

And, I'm glad I did. While the above volume is not as exhaustive as the Collected Poetry volume, it still contains some great poems. It is a shame that the general public is more familiar with Howard's character Conan than they are with the fact that he penned hundreds upon hundreds of poems. I've read Howard's prose many times and I think it is intense, vivid, and has a high level of charged imagination. Yet, at times his poems have a greater amount of intensity than his prose. Howard, often times, is much more emotive in his poetry than his prose. He can cut to the heart of deep seeded issues in a matter of words rather than lines.

Recently, Howard's poems have grabbed the attention of several Texas Poet Laureates: Larry D. Thomas and Alan Birkelbach. Both men have attended REH Days in Cross Plains, Texas in the past. Alan Birkelbach is serving as the editor of a forthcoming volume titled Dark Inspiration: Selected Poetry of Robert E. Howard. I've have heard rumors that it is slated to be published, hopefully, by TCU Press. 

For many, poetry is an acquired taste. For me it's like a fine wine that lingers on my tongue and makes me giddy in large amounts. I have not run into too many people who have a passion for it, which is a shame because poetry speaks volumes in brief words/sentences, and in a way that is, well, poetic. Having spent the last 28 years reading poets and their works, I think I can safely say that Robert E. Howard is one of the most underrated poets in literary history. This is due to the fact that he is unknown as a poet. That needs to change.

I, for one, am glad to see that scholars are now taking notice of Howard's poetry. I'll be the first in line to purchase Dark Inspiration. Moreover, Howard's poetry needs to be heartily cast into the literary arena for all to see it's true value and worth. There is so much brilliance in it. If you ever have a free afternoon, spend it reading some of Howard's poetry. You'll be glad you did.

Below is a video posted at YouTube by Ben Friberg (warriorphotog36) from the 2009 REH Days of Texas Poet Laureate, Larry D. Thomas, discussing and reading Robert E. Howard's poetry. This is an excellent video, enjoy.

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