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Specializing in mediaeval romance and epic poem, Donald Sidney-Fryer has steeped himself in these poetic genres not only at source in the 12th and 13 centuries but also in their passage down the centuries to their revival by the California Romantics and others at the beginning of the 20th century.

Donald Sidney-Fryer

Donald Sidney-Fryer

Donald Sidney-Fryer is the last in this great line of poets and writers that reaches from Ambrose Bierce to George Sterling and Nora May French, from Sterling to his protégé Clark Ashton Smith, and from Smith to his pupil Sidney-Fryer. Carrying on the tradition of «pure poetry» of Keats and Shelley long after it was abandoned by the mainstream poetry establishment, the California Romantics created two monuments in verse in Sterling's epic A Wine of Wizardry and Smith’s even more astonishing The Hashish-Eater.

Otherwise he regularly interprets as a performer selected excerpts from Spenser (The Faerie Queene, 1596), Longfellow (Evang eline, 1847; Hiawatha, 1855), George Sterling (Duandon, 1911), or Clark Ashton Smith (The Hashish-Eater, 1922).
   These amazing performances derive equally from the courtly tradition and the commedia dell'arte: the performer does not read the selected texts, but recites them from memory, and enacts them. Donald Sidney-Fryer's interest in the history of dance and choreography, in the same manner as in early music (he accompanies himself on the chitarrone), makes these performances unique.

Donald Sidney-Fryer playing the chitarrone made to a special design by Arnold Gamble, of Sacramento, California, both musician and instrument-maker.

 Donald Sidney-Fryer has edited Clark Ashton Smith's Selected Poems as well as Smith's story collections Other Dimensions, The City of the Singing Flame, The Monster of the Prophecy and The Last Incantation. Sidney-Fryer also assembled the mordant horror and fantasy poetry of Ambrose Bierce under the title A Vision of Doom. His own first collection of verse, Songs and Sonnets Atlantean, was the final book to appear from Arkham House (originally dedicated to publishing the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft) under the personal supervision of that press's founder, August Derleth, one of the many people in the related arena of horror literature that Sidney-Fryer has known over the years.

Donald Sidney-Fryer, the last courtly poet, the one and only Neo-Elizabethan troubadour-poet of Northern California, regularly travels all over the West Coast of the United States to present his performances there. (Photos: Henry J. Vester III)

Donald Sidney-Fryer, The Last of the Courtly Poets

Flyers for the last performances of Donald Sidney-Fryer:

Donald Sidney-Fryer in 1971

Donald Sidney-Fryer, clad in his troubadour-poet costume. Buena Vista Park, San Francisco.

Photograph: John Frazer.
© 1971 Arkham House.
All rights reserved.
No unauthorized reproduction.

Donald Sidney-Fryer


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