A Man Out of Time

Donald Sidney-Fryer reads at the "Tentacle Sessions"

It would be remiss to consider poet Donald Sidney-Fryer without first exploring his literary lineage: As one of the last living West Coast romantic poets, his connection to belletristic history is nearly as vital as his own work, which has kept alive a poetic form long abandoned by modern writers.

In 1892, George Sterling, a writer who was later to greatly affect symbolist poets and the likes of Baudelaire, fell under the tutelage of one Ambrose Bierce, after Bierce published one of Sterling's epic poems in his Prattle column for the San Francisco Examiner. In 1926, shortly before Sterling swallowed a vial of cyanide that he had carried for some years, it was suggested by taste-maker H.L. Mencken that Sterling was the natural selection for America's poet laureate. Before his demise, Sterling took a protégé by the name of Clark Ashton Smith, a baroque writer of poetry and weird fiction (for which H.P. Lovecraft frequently expressed gratitude) who penned the unparalleled poem "The Hashish-Eater." Sidney-Fryer was Smith's pupil and the direct heir to a tradition of "pure poetry" that stretches back as far as Keats and Shelley.

Poet and performance artist Donald Sidney-Fryer extends his tentacles.
Poet and performance artist Donald Sidney-Fryer extends his tentacles.


Donald Sidney-Fryer reads at the "Tentacle Sessions" on Sunday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Blue Bar, 501 Broadway (at Kearny), S.F. Tickets are $5-10 (all proceeds go to the artist); call 981-2233.

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Overflowing with rich, Cimmerian images where emotions are like mountains and the bodily senses are a latticework on which to hang nightmares and heavenly apparitions, Donald Sidney-Fryer is a man out of time. And for that we are fortunate. Sidney-Fryer's intimate knowledge of his forerunners has made him the superlative editor of several collections of Clark Ashton Smith's work, as well as the horror and fantasy poetry of Ambrose Bierce. Tonight's reading will be in two parts: The first will feature "The Hashish-Eater" read in its entirety; the second will include selections from Sidney-Fryer's own resplendent work. Absinthe-drinkers and gothy goths take note -- this is a rare opportunity to touch the real thing.

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