Hallowe'en in a Suburb & Others collects all of H P Lovecraft's poetry that was published in Weird Tales, into one neat little hardback volume, beautifully produced (as are the other Stanza Press books), and topped off with an illustration by Virgil Finlay. Coming to this volume from reading the Robert E Howard
one, I was struck first of all by how Lovecraft's poetry is generally less rhythmically emphatic (in REH's, you can almost hear the pounding of barbarian drums), though this does not make it lesser poetry. Particularly in the "Fungi from Yuggoth" sonnets (27 are included in this volume), which are really compressed weird tales or story-sketches, the metre can be quite loose and almost conversational. Occasionally this can make for a stumble in the reading (though it usually falls into place on a second go), but as often as not the variance in rhythm makes for a less formal feel -- not something you'd expect from the usually rather formal Lovecraft. (You won't find any of his 18th century affectations in the poems collected here.) Something like "The Well" reads with the ease of prose, while nevertheless fitting neatly into the sonnet form, and of course also being a creepy little horror tale. ("Nyarlathotep" and "Azathoth" are the most Lovecraftian of the "Fungi", I think. Both present here.) There are, though, some more word-driven, musical poems, such as "Nemesis", "Yule-Horror", and "Hallowe'en in a Suburb", which prove Lovecraft can do something more incantatory and less story-driven, also.
As well as the "Fungi from Yuggoth" sonnets, and some other verses, there are two long poems, "Psychopompos" (a rather folk-ish yarn of Lycanthropy), and "Alethia Phrikodes", which is Lovecraft's own extract from his longer poem, "The Poe-et's Nightmare". "Alethia Phrikodes" means "Frightful Truth", and the poem is an intense vision of Lovecraft's cosmicist viewpoint, that humankind is nothing but an "aspiring race of mites/And mortal vermin", a speck of nothing in an immense cosmos. Throughout the verse, of course, you encounter the same themes as you find in Lovecraft's prose tales, though usually with a different emphasis. So, for instance, we have the longing to enter the world of dreams, or to return to an idealised past (the past and dreams are almost interchangeable in Lovecraft's world), though in only one of the poems ("The Window") does the narrator actually manage to reach "All the wild worlds of which my dreams had told". More usually, the attempt proves to be forever blocked, or turns to horror, or results in the realisation that the past was never the thing the narrator's nostalgia would have it be, as in "The Ancient Track": "Too well I saw from that mad scene/That my loved past had never been". It is really this theme -- of loss and alienation, of a permanent, irrevocable break with the past -- that is the most poetically powerful in Lovecraft's verse. The horror we find in Lovecraft's tales is still here, often neatly delivered in the final couplet of each "Fungi from Yuggoth", but it never has quite the impact of the more elegiac "loss and longing" poems, such as "Continuity" (which S T Joshi calls Lovecraft's "most condensed, and most poignant, autobiographical statement") or "Alienation", which in two lines takes one of the horrific aspects of "The Shadow Out of Time" and recasts it as something both far more bleak and personally affecting: "His folk and friends are now an alien throng/To which he struggles vainly to belong."
Not having read much of Lovecraft's verse before, I found this is an excellent selection, and an excellent way of gaining a new perspective on the themes of his stories. Also, like all the Stanza Press volumes, it's wonderfully collectible.