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Poems for a Competition / Emily Chamberlain Cook Prize in Poetry / Twenty-sixth Award -- 1942
The Fugitive Press, Sacramento, California 1942 - Robert Hayward Barlow (1918-1951) was 13 when he started corresponding with pulp magazine writers H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. But he already had the instincts of a preservationist -- he convinced Lovecraft to stop throwing away his scrawled manuscripts after a story was published; Barlow offered to type the stories and send Lovecraft the typed copies if he could keep the autograph manuscripts. Barlow was attempting to write fantasy tales; Lovecraft -- who traveled to Florida for several extended visits -- undertook to tutor the youth in fiction writing. The two collaborated on six stories, including "The Night Ocean" (which new research has shown to be almost entirely Barlow's.) Barlow went on to write superb short stories without Lovecraft's help, including "A Dim-Remembered Story," "The Root-Gatherers," and "Return by Sunset." The older members of Lovecraft's coterie took offense when they learned he'd named young Barlow -- then 19 -- his literary executor. Barlow donated all the original materials to the John Hay Library at Brown. But Lovecraft disciples August Derleth and Donald Wandrei wanted to collect the master's stories in a book; they were not amused when Barlow published Lovecraft's commonplace book in a letterpress edition of seventy-five copies. They spread rumors that Barlow had pilfered books from Lovecraft's library. The macabre writer and artist Clark Ashton Smith responded by sending Barlow a note: "Please do not write me or try to communicate with me in any way. I do not wish to see you or hear from you after your conduct in regard to the estate of a late beloved friend." Barlow wrote the effect of the letter "was of cutting out my entrails with a meat cleaver," notes Paul La Farge in The New Yorker (March, 2017). He had been exiled from the literary universe that had been the focus of his life. He thought about killing himself, but instead decided to pursue an (apparently unrelated) interest in anthropology, ending up at Berkeley, where he studied under Alfred Kroeber, whose work with Ishi, the last of California's Stone Age Indians, had made him famous. Barlow's poignant memoir of Lovecraft, "The Wind That Is In the Grass" can be found in "Marginalia" (Arkham House, 1944.) In 1942, when Barlow was finishing up his degree at Berkeley, he wrote "Poems for a Competition," which won both the 26th Emily Chamberlain Cook Prize for the best unpublished verse submitted by an undergraduate, AND the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Prize. After accepting a teaching position at the City College of Mexico, where he became a noted expert on the Nahuatl language and was appointed head of the Anthropology Department, he produced a second book of verse, "View from a Hill" (1947.) Lovecraft biographer S.T. Joshi describes both volumes as "scintillating." But where are they? Afraid of being outed as a homosexual by a disgruntled student (he probably would have lost his job and could even have been prosecuted), Barlow committed suicide in 1951. Although Barlow wrote numerous learned papers, and the book "The Extent of the Empire of the Culhua Mexico" (University of California, 1949), the only books of general interest in his known bibliography are the two slim volumes of verse, "Poems for a Competition" (Fugitive Press, 1942) and "View from a Hill" (Azcapotzalco, 1947). Look for them, and all you'll learn is that "their entire contents are reprinted in 'Eyes of the God,'" a 2002 anthology. Of the originals, no trace. Except that two copies of "Poems for a Competition," a 16-page octavo on quality paper in brown wraps, turn out to have been neatly hand-taped into boards and stored away in the archives of the University of California, stamped "July 31, 1942," with the words "UNIV OF CALIFORNIA" neatly hole-punched to the title pages. These were archival copies, not lending copies; they bear no card-holders of date due slips. This one is labeled "Cop. 2." In some years of looking, it's the only original we've ever found. [Attributes: First Edition; Hard Cover]
      [Bookseller: Cat's Curiosities]
Last Found On: 2017-08-06           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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