Friday, May 29, 2015

The Living Dead

Honouring our poetic ancestors

19-9-1947 - 24-5-2015 

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave
behind us stories told – on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the
wind, on the hearts of others – there we are remembered, there we work
magic and great change – passing on the fire like a torch – forever
and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need
no words at all.

Tanith Lee





One of my very favourite writers has just died. Well-known as an author of fantasy and horror novels, she was also a playwright — and a poet. Unfortunately her poetry is hard to find. The words above are hers, but are more accurately described as poetic prose. They are now the only thing on her website, red against a black background; presumably at her behest, ahead of time, or perhaps chosen by her husband. The press report says she died peacefully in her sleep after a long illness. 

I just finished reading one of her books a few days ago! (Cast a Bright Shadow.) And only yesterday, knowing nothing of the news I was about to learn, I was thinking that I must re-read The Silver Metal Lover which I found when I was a young mother, soon after it was first published in 1981. It has remained one of my most cherished books, and I have re-read it several times. I consider it the most beautifully romantic book ever written.

It was also the book which introduced me to its author. Though I think nothing equals its perfection, her other books are wonderful too. She created magic and beauty. 

She was incredibly prolific. Just have a look at this bibliography! Here is her Amazon page (which is of course many pages long). If you love poetry — as I know you do — you will love her fiction too, which loses nothing by being written in beautiful language.

You can read one bit of it for free online (complete with typos by whoever transcribed it, but nothing can spoil the tale). She rewrote some fairytales, and this is her version of Cinderella.

Her Wikipedia entry says:

Lee's style is frequently remarked upon for its use of rich poetic prose and striking imagery. Critics describe her style as weird, lush, vibrant, exotic, erotic, rich, elegant, perverse, and darkly beautiful. The technique she uses is very descriptive and poetic which works well with the themes she uses in her mythical stories.


And she tells great stories! But I am explaining why I include her in a column about poets. Simply, it is because she was one — even if many other things besides. Though her poetry is difficult to find on the web, bits of poetry are scattered through her novels, forming part of the story — including this untitled piece from The Silver Metal Lover.


 A rose by any other name
 Would get the blame
 For being what it is -
 The colour of a kiss,
 The shadow of a flame.
 A rose may earn another name,
 So call it love;
 So call it love I will,
 And love is like the sea,
 Which changes constantly,
 And yet is still
 The same.

16 comments:

  1. Very lovely piece. I am not sure If I've come across any of her works. Sad to hear she's no more, but her works will always live on. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I think her works are such that you would remember! Her readers love her ever after.

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  2. I am smiling with tears in my eyes. The images in this one poem do much to explain her brilliance as a writer: to associate blame with the rose! She always startled me awake. Thank you.

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  3. Brilliant! I just a bought a copy for myself as well. Thank you Rosemary!

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  4. i was unfamiliar with her but this was lovely

    gracias Rosemary for sharing

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  5. "Love is like the sea..." How beautiful! Thank you for this introduction, Rosemary. It sounds like she leaves behind a wonderful legacy of beautifully written work.

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  6. A beautiful poem and sad she has died...thank you for bringing here work here to us...

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  7. Poetic and tragic...now I'd love to read her more...thanks, Rosemary.

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  8. Her words are all the more meaningful now that I know she has died. Another example of how a person's poems can really be an important legacy.

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  9. "The shadow of a flame."..how beautifully expressed....thanks for the introduction and so sad that she is no more....

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  10. Will check out this author. Thanks !

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  11. She seems like a great author, I've never read her myself but she seems up my alley. Thanks for the post.

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  12. A wonderful poem that somehow feels familiar though totally unique.. an author to check. out..

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  13. So sorry to hear of her death- a gifted lady. Thanks for this remembrance of Tanith.

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  14. What a wonderful gift you have given - as I wrote elsewhere I have just met Tanith Lee and now will mourn her as I look for and read her work.

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