Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Picnic with Wilum Pugmire, part II

Hours before the NecronomiCon began on Thursday, August 22, 2013, a group of Kickstarter supporters walked with Wilum Pugmire, the convention's Poet Laureate, to St. John's Churchyard for some poetry and refreshments. As Mr. Pugmire read material prepared for the occasion, I sketched the church grounds  and considered the poems read.

Below is an audio recording of Wilum reading August Derleth's poem, "Providence: Two Men Meet at Midnight," during our churchyard picnic.

"Derleth wrote that in 1948," Pugmire explained afterwards. "The poem speaks to me, that’s why I wanted to read it, because as Lovecraftians gathered here for this amazing convention, I feel that all around us still stands a kind of hollowed ground. As a Lovecraftian artist and an obsessed Lovecraftian fanboy, the very air seems enchanted, and it’s because I read Lovecraft non-stop; I’m always returning to his work. These places and things here take on a kind of mythic reality. I’m so familiar with Lovecraft’s Providence, Lovecraft’s New England, even the towns he invented- they all feel like a part of my psyche. To actually be here in this churchyard, to know that Poe walked through here, that Lovecraft and Barlowe sat on those slabs and wrote their acrostics to Poe… it blows my mind! Yet here we are!"

Lovecraft once sat in this very graveyard to write an acrostic poem dedicated to Edgar Alllan Poe, and in that tradition, Pugmire led the group in composing our own acrostic we hoped captured some aspect of the moment. Each member in the group wrote a line in some fashion of meter and rhyme, and when it was left unfinished by the end of our picnic, Wilum promised to finish it at home and post a reading of it on YouTube sometime in the future.

"In a Sequester’d Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walk’d"
By H. P. Lovecraft

"Eternal brood the shadows on this ground,
Wilum Pugmire and our group.
Dreaming of centuries that have gone before;
Great elms rise solemnly by slab and mound,
Arch’d high above a hidden world of yore.
Round all the scene a light of memory plays,
And dead leaves whisper of departed days,
Longing for sights and sounds that are no more.

"Lonely and sad, a spectre glides along
Aisles where of old his living footsteps fell;
No common glance discerns him, tho’ his song
Peals down thro’ time with a mysterious spell:
Only the few who sorcery’s secret know
Espy amidst these tombs the shade of Poe."

After we'd composed the poem and finished our ice cream, Pugmire answered questions about his work and what it meant to be a Lovecraftian today. "I’ve been a Lovecraftian since the early 1970’s, and now is the finest time ever to be a Lovecraftian. We have so much and a lot of it is due to ST Joshi, my hero; it’s his obsession to get as much of Lovecraft in print so the next ST Joshi has the resources to study the man and his work."

When asked if he’d taken any notes while in Providence and if he kept a journal, Pugmire answered,
“I don’t keep a journal, but I bought this little book in 2007 at the NY Public Library. I was having a whole lot of health problems and this was meant to be my health and sanity journal… it lasted two pages- screw health and sanity! I stopped writing in it but I brought it with me to this convention because I want my next solo book of short stories to be set in Providence. You will probably all be in it- I’ll do a story of a bunch of cultists having a picnic in a cemetery! When I was here in 2007, I kept a partial diary of experiences, like walking through that little park on Benefit Street; I even counted the steps because I knew I’d write about it in a future story. Yet I didn’t record enough, so now I’m recording every hour, every moment, every breath I take of this enchanted elixer... Yog Sothoth!!! I just need to experience this week, and when I return home, I’ll let it all percolate, I’ll dream about it. I’ve had seven books published in the last two and a half years, so I think I need to just chill out. I thought I was gonna die of a heart attack- seriously, I’m such a drama queen! But I thought, I can’t die until I’ve written three more books, I’ve got to write! And I went completely crazy and didn’t stop writing books because I knew I was gonna die, but then, alas! I did not die!"

Shortly after we took the above group portrait, the rain I'd left in NJ several hours earlier finally caught up with me, and as it began to drizzle we packed up our things and headed back to the hotel. Thunder rumbled in the distance, which Pugmire attributed to having read a Derleth poem on such a momentous occasion. Passing by the hosta garden on Benefit Street, Wilum wanted to spend a few quiet moments there to gather his thoughts and write a few words, and before we continued onward in the increasing downpour, he posed for a timeless photograph among the lush growth of late summer.

It was a wonderful way to kick off the convention and I wish we'd had more time to spend there,  and when the thunder boomed overhead as we walked over the Providence River and our clothes became waterlogged, I thought of no better way to enter Lovecraft's city, washed clean by a New England storm and newly initiated into the mythic reality of which Pugmire spoke.


  1. Wonderful! I am so thankful for ye photo of me in ye garden adjacent to ye Shunn'd House. That place has cropped up in numerous wee writings of mine own. Thank ye for this, a record of wonderful memories. Even getting stuck in that torrential rain storm was fun!

  2. Excellent essay on your picnic with Pugmire. I wasn't aware that he had ever kept any sort of journal, even for a short while. I'd love to read that, if it has survived.