Complete Poetry

George Sterling, Author
George Sterling; edited by S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz. Hippocampus (www.hippocampuspress.com), $300 (1,317p) ISBN 978-1-61498-050-6
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A protege of Ambrose Bierce, a mentor to Clark Ashton Smith, and a friend of Jack London, H.L. Mencken, and Sinclair Lewis, George Sterling (1869–1926) was the unofficial poet laureate of San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. But, as Kevin Starr observes in his preface, Sterling had the bad luck to be working in the twilight of the Romantic tradition that had dominated 19th-century poetry just when modernism was dawning. The initial book in this three-volume set includes the full contents of his first two collections, The Testimony of the Sun and Other Poems (1906) and A Wine of Wizardry and Other Poems (1909). Sterling wrote formal sonnets on beauty, lyrics on love, and odes against war and militarism, all infused with imagery and allusions distilled from classical mythology and literature. The title poems of both collections are among the most fanciful of any written in the first decades of the century. "A Wine of Wizardry" sends the poetic Fancy on an odyssey through floridly described realms of sorcery and the supernatural. "The Testimony of the Sun" revels in a cosmology whose perspective on the puniness of human endeavor in the universal scheme of things would soon find traction in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft and other weird fiction writers: "I lift entreating eye to see/Gulf beyond gulf till sight relent,/Sun beyond sun till Time repent/Its question of Infinity." Sterling was never less than a competent craftsman, and his poems frequently succeed in transporting the reader to colorfully imagined worlds vibrant with an energy not found in contemporary verse. (Apr.)
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