Weird Tales-inspired poetry from a 73-year-old retired civil servant

Tavie writes,
Fred Phillips is a Fan. A lifelong lover of gothic horror and weird verse, his favorite author is H.P. Lovecraft. He grew up in the Bronx with parents who were suspicious of his Fandom, his obsessive book-collecting, his poetry. They frequently disposed of his comic books and told him he was wasting his life.

He didn't waste his life. He took up with science fiction Fans, and joined up with the Society for Creative Anachronisms. To most of the world he was an oddball, kind of a loser. He talked too much. He probably had Asperger's. A Lehman College dropout, he worked at a bookstore. In 1968 he met Dorothea Nissen, and they married and eventually had twin daughters.

He got a low-level civil service job clerking at the NY Dept of Labor. It was drudgery, but he had his poetry and he had his girls and he fancied himself happy. He clerked for 30 years. He wasn't what you would call successful, and but he worked hard for his family and lived largely in his head. His Fandom kept him sane.

And then he retired, and he still wrote his poetry and discovered e-mail and then something marvelous happened. He met a man called Derrick who ran a publishing house specializing in scholarly criticism of HP Lovecraft, and Derrick really liked Fred. So at the age of 73 Fred Phillips' poetry was published.

And his daughter Tavie is very, very proud of him.

From the Cauldron by Fred Phillips (Thanks, Tavie!)


  1. i love this. i’m feeling inspired to revisit a genre that i haven’t indulged in in ages. congratulations mr phillips!

  2. I skimmed the article, saw “Asperger’s” and then mis-re-read the title as referring to a “…73-year-old retired civil savant”


    Congratulations, Mr. Phillips.

  3. Awesome, I take exception to the “not successful” bit. If he fancied himself happy, I would call him successful.

  4. P.S. Thanks for posting this, Cory. This is way better a Christmas present than the books I got him. (Like he has room for more books.)

  5. “He wasn’t what you would call successful”

    Actually, he sounds like he was probably enjoying life, rather than being a slave to it. That’s pretty much the only reasonable definition of success.

  6. ‘He wasn’t what you would call successful’

    He is successful in the ways that matter and that makes this a great story!

    Thanks Cory!

  7. Great story!

    I’m intrigued, but I want to see a little of his work. Perhaps we could get a sample of one of his poems?

  8. These responses are really warming my heart. Of course, Dad doesn’t know how to click a link so I’ll probably have to print them out and show them to him… hehehe. Old people.

    @Stalking cat, he doesn’t have much published online, but this bit of verse from a 60s fanzine is actually not a bad representation of his style:

    The work in “From the Cauldron” isn’t as light or self-referential and deals more with arcane, gothic subject matter. But this is all I could find online. :)

  9. Dad sez,


    O, sister, whence art thou unto us come?
    Our road with peril fraught and none to guide
    Hath stretched since youth until our strength were done
    And shelter there was none wherein to hide.
    From Bekra, long timeworn when Khem were old,
    Thy mystic lyre bore thou as our Sign,
    Thou, whose ancient tales as yet untold
    Whose Singers served as Luna-masters’ kine.
    Upon our hearts thine ancient Seal was set
    That binds us to some covert Being still
    For aeons till our Destiny were met
    Our ancient geas we may at last fulfill,
    And when their tattered banners they unfurl,
    They will once more reoccupy the world.

    -Fred Phillips
    Roosevelt Island, N.Y.
    April 10, 2010

  10. I have had the pleasure and the privilege of reading Fred’s poetry in his amateur journal for the Esoteric Order of Dagon Amateur Press Association. This book is something I have been looking forward to for some time.

    Martin A

  11. Fred is one of our major weird poets. I also have had the pleasure of reading his poetry through the EOD. Anyone who enjoys weird and fantastic verse, and indeed, poetry of an old-fashioned formalist and well-craft quality, should read Fred’s collection.

    Leigh Blackmore
    Preident, Australian Horror Writer’s Association

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