dsf comet

Artwork by Don Herron Copyright © 1975, 2004 by Don Herron
From Nyctalops 11-12 (April 1975). Used by permission.


A BioChronology of Donald Sidney-Fryer


by Alan Gullette


1934 September 8. Donald Sidney Fryer, Jr., is born, New Bedford, Massachusetts. His father is of Yankee and English descent, his mother French and Franco-Canadian. He later has his name legally changed to Sidney-Fryer.

1934-1952 He spends his first 18 years in New Bedford. New Bedford, a port on Buzzards Bay, became the "Whaling Capital of the World," its heyday being in the 1840s-1860s. In an autobiographical sketch, DSF has himself drawn attention to this proximity to the Atlantic as if giving a clue to its formative influence. It may also be noteworthy that Buzzards Bay is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean that is sheltered from open sea by the Elizabeth Islands.

1952 He attends a summer session at Phillips Academy Andover, Massachusetts, a boarding high school whose literary alumni include Edgar Rice Burroughs and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

1953-1956 In October 1953 he enlists in the U.S. Marine Corps; in less than 3 years rises to the rank of Sergeant. During this time he discovers imaginative literature, in 1954. He receives an Honorable Discharge in August 1956.

1956-1961 He attends UCLA from September 1956 through January 1961. His first major is in Theatre Arts with a minor in French, but he graduates with a B.A. in French Language and Literature with minor in Spanish.

Concurrent with his university studies, he explores classical ballet for a year, working with David Lichine and Tatiana Riaboushinska, and finishes A Checklist of the Ballet Scores of Cesare Pugni (published in Rome in 1961 as Vol. VIII of Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo), largely compiled during his military service.

1958-1959 Also while a student at UCLA, he twice visits the writer-artist Clark Ashton Smith in Pacific Grove, near Monterey, California – in 1958 and 1959. Smith introduces him to the work of George Sterling.

1960-1965 He compiles his milestone bio-bibliography of Smith, eventually published in 1976 as Emperor of Dreams.

1961 By his own account, he writes his first "mature" poetry in March 1961. When Smith dies in August 1961, DSF writes the quite "mature" memorial poem "To Clark Ashton Smith." Apart from being a poignant tribute to "the alchemist of beauty and of bale," the sixteen-line poem is also notable for containing his first use of the word "Atlantean." This marks the beginning of Songs and Sonnets Atlantean.

1963 His essay "The Sorcerer Departs" appears in In Memoriam: Clark Ashton Smith. Steve Behrends calls this a "seminal article dealing with Smith’s life and work … in essence the parent of all further Smith studies." It is later thoroughly revised and updated.

1965 Completes work on Emperor of Dreams. As a progression from this bio-bibliographic work, he had begun working with Smith's publisher Arkham House, gathering unpublished material for several posthumous Smith volumes, including Poems in Prose (1965) and Other Dimensions (1970) and culminating in Selected Poems (1973).

1969 In late 1969, he marries Gloria Kathleen Braly. His sonnet "To Gloria Kathleen" is included in the "commendatory verses" section of the Little Booke.

1970 March 1970 marks his first professional poetry performance, at (Grace) Cathedral School for Boys in San Francisco. He has said that a major impetus for his performances was to promote appreciation of the works of Edmund Spenser (1552?-1599), author of the epic romance The Faerie Queene, and his programs nearly always include a major excerpt from Spenser.

1971 June 16. His first book of poetry and prose, Songs and Sonnets Atlantean, is published by Arkham House. This remarkable "Little Booke" is presented in the compound guise of poems and prose poems by Atlantean Prince Atlantarion and Michel de Labretagne translated by Donald Sidney-Fryer and annotated by premier Atlantologist Dr. Ibid Andor (1895-1990), along with other poems openly ascribed to Donald Sidney-Fryer, supplemented by commendatory verse by his friends and fellow writers Fritz Leiber, Margo Skinner and Ian Law.

In late 1971, he tours the US and England with performances at: various locations in San Francisco and the Bay Area; several times in Sacramento; in Denver; at the Harvard Club in New York City; at the Phillips Academy, Andover; Dartmouth College; Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro; University of Chicago; Rutgers, NJ; University of Pennsylvania; and University of Rhode Island, Kingston.

1972 By spring 1972, the tour reaches the British Isles and includes eight colleges in England. In May, he makes his first pilgrimage to Edmund Spenser's Castle, County Cork, Ireland.

1973 In the summer and fall, he gives a series of readings of poems by Smith, et al. on the "Arkham Hours Theatre" radio program at KERS in Sacramento.

1975 April. Harry Morris's legendary fanzine Nyctalops runs a double issue #11-12 (Vol II, No 4/5) whose second half is largely devoted to Donald Sidney-Fryer and his Songs and Sonnets Atlantean, with appreciations by Don Herron, John Moran, Allene Phy, and Dennis Rickard. Included is DSF's long study of Arthur Machen.

April 9 (F. Marion Crawford's death date). Present as one of the Founding Syndics of The F. Marion Crawford Memorial Society, with John C. Moran and others. Remains a Syndic.

1976 Long awaited, Emperor of Dreams is finally published by Donald Grant; it is a treasure trove of biographical and bibliographical data that makes it the cornerstone secondary source on Smith.

1977 October - DSF's first public performance/dramatic reading of Smith's "The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil," at World Fantasy Convention III in L.A., whose theme that year was Clark Ashton Smith.

December - The character Jaime Donaldus Byers in Fritz Leiber's novel Our Lady of Darkness (New York: Berkley Putnam, [December] 1977) is based on Donald Sidney-Fryer.

1979 The forbidden but long-sought volume, The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith, transcribed by R. A. Hoffman and Donald Sidney-Fryer, is published by Arkham House.

1980 Begins work on a history of dance that will occupy him off and on for 20 years (completed in 1999).

1980s In the early 1980s, DSF edits three paperback collections of Smith’s fantasies for Pocket/Timescape Books.

1987 Autumn - Obtains custom lute.

1990 November 24 - Performance/dramatic reading of Smith's "The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil" in Sacramento. Coincides with a private edition of this work with notes and introduction by DSF.

1991-1998 Produces the Second Series. Portions are privately issued in a series of booklets by the author in 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1997.

1991 March - "Our Lady of the Unicorn" is composed, one of DSF's most enchanting poems since the First Series.

1994 June 27 Broadcast of interview with DSF by Jack Foley, with readings from Songs and Sonnets Atlantean, Evening Theater program, KPFA (recorded March 28, 1993). DSF affirms "the keen enchantment of outmoded rime."

1996 January - translates poems by José-Maria de Heredia for the Second Series.

1997 April - The long narrative poem "A Vision of a Castle Deep in Averonne" is completed. Containing 1881 alexandrine lines, it is his longest poem to date and surely one of his best; it will be called "a wonderful extravagance" by Brian Stableford and "the crown jewel" of the Second Series by S. T. Joshi.

1998 June - Completes work on the Second Series. In August he moves from Sacramento (his home for over 20 years) to Los Angeles.

1999 December through April 2000 - Translates Gaspard de la Nuit: Fantasies in the manner of Rembrandt and Callot by Aloysius Bertrand, a pioneering work of prose poetry which influenced the Symbolists and Surrealists. (To be published in 2004).

2000 April 16 – Performance at The Blue Bar, San Francisco, reading "The Hashish Eater" along with his own works.

2001 July 11. DSF's performance/recital of "Duandon" by George Sterling with Don's original accompaniment is broadcast on "Cover to Cover," Jack Foley's radio program on KPFA.

2002 January - July. The first installment of the Third Series is composed.

2003 Songs and Sonnets Atlantean: The Second Series is published by Wildside Press.

2004 Performance/readings in Corpus Cristi, Sacramento and Los Angeles.

2005 Songs and Sonnets Atlantean: The Third Series is published by Phosphor Lantern Press, Los Angeles.

2006 July 5 and 12 - Broadcast of interview with DSF by Jack Foley, with readings from Songs and Sonnets Atlantean, Second Series. Cover To Cover program, KPFA.

2007 Begins work on an Atlantean novel.

2008 Publication of The Atlantis Fragments: The Trilogy of the Songs and Sonnets Atlantean.

2009 Special Guest at 2009 World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, CA.

Continues to perform his own works along with those of his poetic and spiritual brethren: Spenser, Sterling, Smith, Baudelaire, José-Maria de Heredia, Bertrand – and Prince Atlantarion!

Residential Loci

1934-1952 New Bedford, MA
1953-1955 Marines: Florida (January 1954 - August 1955)
1955-1965 Southern California (beginning with the end of his Marine tour)
1965 Auburn, CA (September – December)
1966-1975 San Francisco, CA
1975-1998 Sacramento, CA
1998-Present Los Angeles, CA

Sources

Dust-jacket blurb, Songs and Sonnets Atlantean. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1971.
Sidney-Fryer, Donald. "Biography of Donald Sidney-Fryer." Nyctalops 11-12 (Vol II, No 4/5)(April 1975): 57.
And personal communications from the Last of the Courtly Poets.


First Posted: 4/26/04

Last Updated: 8/12/09

Donald Sidney-Fryer: Last of the Courtly Poets

[Bibliography] [Poems] [Photos] [Webography]