fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCthulhu Haiku and Other Mythos Madness book reviewCthulhu Haiku and Other Mythos Madness  edited by Lester Smith

The works of almost fifty authors are collected in this delightfully dark anthology of Cthulhu Haiku and Other Mythos Madness, which includes, other than Haiku, short- to medium-length poetry and about ten short-short stories in the horror genre; however, most of these short horror works are in the tradition of or comment on the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft, as the title makes clear. I think any fan of Lovecraft should check this book out. It’s a fun read. And it’s often a funny read as well. Consider the haiku tradition in English of writing the poems in a three-line, 5-7-5 syllable pattern. And then note that Necronomicon has five syllables! That word is just begging to be the first line of a haiku:

​​ Necronomicon!
Ignorance of its evil
won’t save you from doom.

–John Cochrane

On my Kindle, downloading
Hell in a handheld

–Bob Wake

However, many of the poems attempt to use a more serious tone in conveying a sense of doom or a narrator’s madness. Most of the haiku are focused on impressions and moods and landscapes; the longer poems, some of them narrative, are able to develop a narrator’s madness more fully than is possible in a haiku, of course. The same is true of the short stories, even though they are short shorts: They can develop a narrator’s madness and give more narrative as well. In this review, instead of giving examples from the stories and longer poetry, I’ll limit myself to giving a few more examples of the haiku:

In the asylum
If you whisper the right name
The doors will open

–Jason Huls

Eldritch scene a stone
Dashed against a stained glass mind.
Pretty, shiny shards.

–Tim Ryan

prehistoric sea
an old god plummets in
the sound of madness

–Winifred Lewis

Moon floats in darkness,
an ancient skull, bleached white bone:
Once there were giants.

–Geoffrey Landis

I really think Cthulhu Haiku and Other Mythos Madness is a winner given how unusual it is. And even if you don’t like haiku or poetry as a general rule (though I do), I think you’ll find that the haiku in this book will appeal to any fan of Lovecraft — haiku/poetry-lover or not. The book is short and can be read in a single sitting, so the more affordable price on Kindle seems more appropriate than the paperback price. But if you find you like it after reading the digital version, you might want to have a copy for your bookshelves — just in case you weary of burning the midnight oil as you pour over your manuscripts and consult your copy of the Necronomicon and wait for THEIR return . . .


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.