The King of Bohemia

King of Bohemia

George Sterling (1869-1926); King of Bohemia and central figure in the Californian literary scene of the early twentieth century. Pupil of Ambrose Bierce, whom he called “The Master,” mentor to Clark Ashton Smith, friend of Jack London, Robinson Jeffers and Nora May French.

Perhaps best known for his epic poems The Testimony of the Suns and A Wine of Wizardry (1907), to which Smith’s The Hashish-Eater would forever be compared, his prodigious output of poems, plays, essays and the occasional story appeared in twenty one volumes, numerous magazines and newspapers.

His work covered a broad set of themes and philosophies – from the romantic, in the tradition of Shelley and Keats, to the morbid gloom of Poe passing through the mystical and fantastic on the way. He tackled the (at the time) taboo subjects of incest and homosexuality while covering the current political and sporting news of the day.

Sterling committed suicide by taking cyanide in his room at the Bohemian Club on November 17, 1926.

As all good poets should be, he was a drunkard and a womanizer.


~ Boyd Pearson



The children of the flesh of men,
They pass from night to night;
They weep and laugh and labor, then
Are lost to human sight.

Musing on such a fate, the mind
Stirs with a tragic sense-
So brave they walk the stage assigned,
So soon they hurry thence.

The children of the artist’s brain
Elude mortality,
O’er them Time swings his scythe in
Till time no more shall be.

In many hearts, in many lands,
They live again their tale,
As, young or old, the Future’s hands
Arise to give them hail.

As here the crafts of men assure
Their presence to the years,
So too shall Memory’s bronze endure,
With all their smiles and tears.

Such lives within our lives can be;
Such comrades Art can give.
Are men but shadows? is it we
Or they who truly live?

A Wine of Wizardry

"When mountains were stained as with wine
By the dawning of Time, and as wine
Were the seas." 
               -AMBROSE BIERCE.

Without, the battlements of sunset shine,
'Mid domes the sea-winds rear and overwhelm.
Into a crystal cup the dusky wine
I pour, and, musing at so rich a shrine,
I watch the star that haunts its ruddy gloom.
Now Fancy, empress of a purpled realm,
Awakes with brow caressed by poppy-bloom,
And wings in sudden dalliance her flight
To strands where opals of the shattered light
Gleam in the wind-strewn foam, and maidens flee
A little past the striving billows' reach,
Or seek the russet mosses of the sea,
And wrinkled shells that lure along the beach,
And please the heart of Fancy; yet she turns,
Tho' trembling, to a grotto rosy-sparred,
Where wattled monsters redly gape, that guard
A cowled magician peering on the damned
Thro' vials wherein a splendid poison burns,
Sifting Satanic gules athwart his brow.
So Fancy will not gaze with him, and now
She wanders to an iceberg oriflammed
With rayed, auroral guidons of the North—
Wherein hath winter hidden ardent gems
And treasuries of frozen anadems,
Alight with timid sapphires of the snow.
But she would dream of warmer gems, and so
Ere long her eyes in fastnesses look forth
O'er blue profounds mysterious whence glow
The coals of Tartarus on the moonless air,
As Titans plan to storm Olympus' throne,
'Mid pulse of dungeoned forges down the stunned,
Undominated firmament, and glare
Of Cyclopean furnaces unsunned.

Then hastens she in refuge to a lone,
Immortal garden of the eastern hours,
Where Dawn upon a pansy's breast hath laid
A single tear, and whence the wind hath flown
And left a silence. Far on shadowy tow'rs
Droop blazoned banners, and the woodland shade,
With leafy flames and dyes autumnal hung,
Makes beautiful the twilight of the year.
For this the fays will dance, for elfin cheer,
Within a dell where some mad girl hath flung
A bracelet that the painted lizards fear—
Red pyres of muffled light! Yet Fancy spurns
The revel, and to eastern hazard turns,
And glaring beacons of the Soldan's shores,
When in a Syrian treasure-house she pours,
From caskets rich and amethystine urns,
Dull fires of dusty jewels that have bound
The brows of naked Ashtaroth around.
Or hushed, at fall of some disastrous night,
When sunset, like a crimson throat to hell,
Is cavernous, she marks the seaward flight
Of homing dragons dark upon the West;
Till, drawn by tales the winds of ocean tell,
And mute amid the splendors of her quest,
To some red city of the Djinns she flees
And, lost in palaces of silence, sees
Within a porphyry crypt the murderous light
Of garnet-crusted lamps whereunder sit
Perturbéd men that tremble at a sound,
And ponder words on ghastly vellum writ,
In vipers' blood, to whispers from the night—
Infernal rubrics, sung to Satan's might,
Or chaunted to the Dragon in his gyre.
But she would blot from memory the sight,
And seeks a stainéd twilight of the South,
Where crafty gnomes with scarlet eyes conspire
To quench Aldebaran's affronting fire,
Low sparkling just beyond their cavern's mouth,
Above a wicked queen's unhallowed tomb.
There lichens brown, incredulous of fame,
Whisper to veinéd flowers her body's shame,
'Mid stillness of all pageantries of bloom.
Within, lurk orbs that graven monsters clasp;
Red-embered rubies smolder in the gloom,
Betrayed by lamps that nurse a sullen flame,
And livid roots writhe in the marble's grasp,
As moaning airs invoke the conquered rust
Of lordly helms made equal in the dust.
Without, where baleful cypresses make rich
The bleeding sun's phantasmagoric gules,
Are fungus-tapers of the twilight witch
(Seen by the bat above unfathomed pools)
And tiger-lilies known to silent ghouls,
Whose king hath digged a somber carcanet
And necklaces with fevered opals set.
But Fancy, well affrighted at his gaze,
Flies to a violet headland of the West,
About whose base the sun-lashed billows blaze,
Ending in precious foam their fatal quest,
As far below the deep-hued ocean molds,
With waters' toil and polished pebbles' fret,
The tiny twilight in the jacinth set,
The wintry orb the moonstone-crystal holds,
Snapt coral twigs and winy agates wet,
Translucencies of jasper, and the folds
Of banded onyx, and vermilion breast
Of cinnabar. Anear on orange sands,
With prows of bronze the sea-stained galleys rest,
And swarthy mariners from alien strands
Stare at the red horizon, for their eyes
Behold a beacon burn on evening skies,
As fed with sanguine oils at touch of night.
Forth from that pharos-flame a radiance flies,
To spill in vinous gleams on ruddy decks;
And overside, when leap the startled waves
And crimson bubbles rise from battle-wrecks,
Unresting hydras wrought of bloody light
Dip to the ocean's phosphorescent caves.

So Fancy's carvel seeks an isle afar,
Led by the Scorpion's rubescent star,
Until in templed zones she smiles to see
Black incense glow, and scarlet-bellied snakes
Sway to the tawny flutes of sorcery.
There priestesses in purple robes hold each
A sultry garnet to the sea-linkt sun,
Or, just before the colored morning shakes
A splendor on the ruby-sanded beach,
Cry unto Betelgeuse a mystic word.
But Fancy, amorous of evening, takes
Her flight to groves whence lustrous rivers run,
Thro' hyacinth, a minster wall to gird,
Where, in the hushed cathedral's jeweled gloom,
Ere Faith return, and azure censers fume,
She kneels, in solemn quietude, to mark
The suppliant day from gorgeous oriels float
And altar-lamps immure the deathless spark;
Till, all her dreams made rich with fervent hues,
She goes to watch, beside a lurid moat,
The kingdoms of the afterglow suffuse
A sentinel mountain stationed toward the night—
Whose broken tombs betray their ghastly trust,
Till bloodshot gems stare up like eyes of lust.
And now she knows, at agate portals bright,
How Circe and her poisons have a home,
Carved in one ruby that a Titan lost,
Where icy philters brim with scarlet foam,
'Mid hiss of oils in burnished caldrons tost,
While thickly from her prey his life-tide drips,
In turbid dyes that tinge her torture-dome;
As craftily she gleans her deadly dews,
With gyving spells not Pluto's queen can use,
Or listens to her victim's moan, and sips
Her darkest wine, and smiles with wicked lips.
Nor comes a god with any power to break
The red alembics whence her gleaming broths
Obscenely fume, as asp or adder froths,
To lethal mists whose writhing vapors make
Dim augury, till shapes of men that were
Point, weeping, at tremendous dooms to be,
When pillared pomps and thrones supreme shall stir,
Unstable as the foam-dreams of the sea.

But Fancy still is fugitive, and turns
To caverns where a demon altar burns,
And Satan, yawning on his brazen seat,
Fondles a screaming thing his fiends have flayed,
Ere Lilith come his indolence to greet,
Who leads from hell his whitest queens, arrayed
In chains so heated at their master's fire
That one new-damned had thought their bright attire
Indeed were coral, till the dazzling dance
So terribly that brilliance shall enhance.
But Fancy is unsatisfied, and soon
She seeks the silence of a vaster night,
Where powers of wizardry, with faltering sight
(Whenas the hours creep farthest from the noon)
Seek by the glow-worm's lantern cold and dull
A crimson spider hidden in a skull,
Or search for mottled vines with berries white,
Where waters mutter to the gibbous moon.
There, clothed in cerements of malignant light,
A sick enchantress scans the dark to curse,
Beside a caldron vext with harlots' blood,
The stars of that red Sign which spells her doom.

Then Fancy cleaves the palmy skies adverse
To sunset barriers. By the Ganges' flood
She sees, in her dim temple, Siva loom
And, visioned with the monstrous ruby, glare
On distant twilight where the burning-ghaut
Is lit with glowering pyres that seem the eyes
Of her abhorrent dragon-worms that bear
The pestilence, by Death in darkness wrought.
So Fancy's wings forsake the Asian skies,
And now her heart is curious of halls
In which dead Merlin's prowling ape hath spilt
A vial squat whose scarlet venom crawls
To ciphers bright and terrible, that tell
The sins of demons and the encharneled guilt
That breathes a phantom at whose cry the owl,
Malignly mute above the midnight well,
Is dolorous, and Hecate lifts her cowl
To mutter swift a minatory rune;
And, ere the tomb-thrown echoings have ceased,
The blue-eyed vampire, sated at her feast,
Smiles bloodily against the leprous moon.

But evening now is come, and Fancy folds
Her splendid plumes, nor any longer holds
Adventurous quest o'er stainéd lands and seas—
Fled to a star above the sunset lees,
O'er onyx waters stilled by gorgeous oils
That toward the twilight reach emblazoned coils.
And I, albeit Merlin-sage hath said,
"A vyper lurketh in ye wine-cuppe redde,"
Gaze pensively upon the way she went,
Drink at her font, and smile as one content.

The Death Of Shelly



All the earth and air                

With thy voice is loud


Death Is Here And Death Is There

Death is here and death is there,
Death is busy everywhere,
All around, within, beneath,
Above is death—and we are death.

Death has set his mark and seal
On all we are and all we feel,
On all we know and all we fear,

First our pleasures die—and then
Our hopes, and then our fears—and when
These are dead, the debt is due,
Dust claims dust—and we die too.

All things that we love and cherish,
Like ourselves must fade and perish;
Such is our rude mortal lot–
Love itself would, did they not.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Today, in July 1822, Mary Shelley and Jane Williams awaited with weeping anxiety the return of Percy Bysshe Shelley, who, sailing from Livorno in his fragile craft, had come to shore by sudden chance among the silences of the Elysian Isles. – O blessed shores, where Love, Liberty and Dreams have no chains.”This unearthly legend had been built up steadily throughout the 19th century. Shelley’s wife Mary herself launched it, writing immediately after his death: “I was never the Eve of any Paradise, but a human creature blessed by an elemental spirit’s company & love – an angel who imprisoned in flesh could not adapt himself to his clay shrine & so has flown and left it.”

Shelley drowned in his own sailing boat, the Don Juan, while returning from Livorno to Lerici, in the late afternoon of July 8 1822, during a violent summer storm. He was a month short of his 30th birthday. Like Keats’s death in Rome the year before, or Byron’s death at Missolonghi two years later, this sudden tragedy set a kind of sacred (or profane) seal upon his reputation as a youthful, sacrificial genius. But far more comprehensively than theirs, Shelley’s death was used to define an entire life, to frame a complete biography.



O World of many worlds


O World of many worlds, O life of lives,
What centre hast thou? Where am I?
O whither is it thy fierce onrush drives?
Fight I, or drift; or stand; or fly?

The loud machinery spins, points work in touch;
Wheels whirl in systems, zone in zone.
Myself having sometime moved with such,
Would strike a centre of mine own.

Lend hand, O Fate, for I am down, am lost!
Fainting by violence of the Dance…
Ah thanks, I stand – the floor is crossed,
And I am where but few advance.

I see men far below me where they swarm…
(Haply above me – be it so!
Does space to compass-points conform,
And can we say a star stands high or low?)

Not more complex the millions of the stars
Than are the hearts of mortal brothers;
As far remote as Neptune from small Mars
Is one man’s nature from another’s.

But all hold course unalterably fixed;
They follow destinies foreplanned:
I envy not these lives in their faith unmixed,
I would not step with such a band.

To be a meteor, fast, eccentric, lone,
Lawless; in passage through all spheres,
Warning the earth of wider ways unknown
And rousing men with heavenly fears…

This is the track reserved for my endeavour;
Spanless the erring way I wend.
Blackness of darkness is my meed for ever?
And barren plunging without end?

O glorious fear! Those other wandering souls
High burning through that outer bourne
Are lights unto themselves. Fair aureoles
Self-radiated these are worn.

And when in after times those stars return
And strike once more earth’s horizon,
They gather many satellites astern,
For they are greater than this system’s Sun.

~ Wilfred Owen







You want to be a poet?


Then stand in line


Because just like every other damn poet

That ever came before you

You’ll have to write


And Twitter, Tumblr, Fumblr

Whatever, will never save

Your sorry ass


And the Pushcart Prize?

They won’t reward you

For writing a Facebook

Status that’s poetic


And just like

Emily, no one no

Publisher will ever

Come knocking

At your door

Looking for your poems


So listen;


Because there is no new

Jack Kerouac, no new Bukowski

And no new Poe


And Shakespeare?


He threw down his pencil

A longtime ago after Marlowe

Bought the farm


So just like all of the most

Famous poets of old expect

No compliments, no fortune

And no dough and learn how

To live on noodles


And believe me

When I say that

When you tell Mom & Dad

That you want to be

A poet someday?


Don’t expect them to

Embrace you or let you

Ever move back home again


Because remember


That this is the life that you chose

And if you ever finally find

Finally write that one piece

That one amazing epiphany

That says it all and that says

Everything and that has the

Power to knock the world

On its ass?


Then maybe one day

You’ll be able to look

In the mirror and say


It was all worth it.



Most Great Poets

Most great poems never see the light of day. And most great poets?

They pass away in the night unknown to a world that desperately needs their words.


~ R.M.

shadow poets

The Theory and Techniques of Surrealist Poetry

burroughs alien




“They have lost the metaphysical sense
Of the future, they feel themselves
The end of a chain
Of lives, single lives
And we know that lives
Are single
And cannot defend
The metaphysic
On which rest
The boundaries
Of our distances.”

~ George Oppen




“Style is the answer to everything. A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art.”
~ Charles Bukowski

Etc Etc Etc



In thy breaking heart, obscured,
Silent whereas no one
Gives a “shit.”

Whereas a single voice or one still moment in
its measure linger,
This message, “unrecieved.”

Where no amount of time, wine-roses or memories can heal.
As human falls, fails broken, out of reason.
Long letters written, months recorded days, photographs and longings,

And unrelenting dreams.

The cold earth, this cold world
Which still compels,
The embodiment or abandonment, of spirit.

Where all of your magnificent angels have flown, and have now fallen below,

To the pavement.

Love, no longer a poem but only a word,
Too slow to process.

Poet, out of time place and season.
Century… Here.

In thy soul, thy breaking heart obscured, silent.
Whereas no one gives a “shit.”

Etc Etc.Etc.

This message “unrecieved.”

RM Engelhardt
has published several books over the last decade including Nod~Logos~Alchemy~The Last Cigarette: The Collected Poems of R.M. Engelhardt & others. His current experimental book of poetry & prose is called “Versus”. His work has also been published by many journals both in print & on the internet including Retort, Verve, The Boston Review, Sure! The Charles Bukowski Newsletter , Thunder Sandwich, The Angry Poet, Full of Crow, Outsider Writers & many others. R.M. currently lives in Albany, NY.