Thursday, April 28, 2011

Leah Bodine Drake (1904-1964)

Poet, Editor, and Critic
Born December 22, 1904, Chanute, Kansas
Died November 21, 1964, Parkersburg, West Virginia

Leah Bodine Drake had a distinguished career as a poet, but her career and her life were entirely too short. Born in Chanute, Kansas, on December 22, 1904, she attended schools in Cincinnati and Kentucky. An attractive and glamorous woman, she danced in Billy Rose's revue staged at the Fort Worth Centennial Exposition in 1936-1937. By then she was already a published author, her first poem for Weird Tales, "In the Shadows," having appeared in the October 1935 issue. Nearly two dozen more poems would follow in the magazine's pages over the next twenty years. She was in fact the second most prolific female poet whose work appeared in Weird Tales. Only Dorothy Quick wrote more pieces for the magazine. It may come as a surprise that Leah wrote two short stories for Weird Tales as well. They were "Whisper Water" (May 1953) and the intriguingly titled "Mop-Head" (January 1954).

Leah's verse was published in the first issue of The Poetry Chap-Book, dated October-November 1942. The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, The Saturday Review, and The Atlantic Monthly were only a few of the many titles to print her poems. Leah authored at least three volumes of poetry, A Hornbook for Witches (1950), This Tilting Dust (1956), and the posthumous Multiple Clay (1964). This Tilting Dust earned her a spot as a finalist for the National Book Award in 1957 and perhaps as a reviewer of poetry for The Atlantic Monthly from 1957 to 1958. Her poem, "Precarious Ground," won first prize from the Poetry Society for the best to appear in any magazine in the English-speaking world in 1952. "Precarious Ground" is now available as a download on the Internet.

Between 1941 and 1951, Leah was music and drama critic for the Evansville (Indiana) Courier. Beginning in 1953, she wrote special features for the Henderson (Kentucky) Gleaner and Journal. After 1957, Parkersburg, West Virginia, was her home, and on November 21, 1964, the place of her death. She was only a month and a day short of her sixtieth birthday.

Leah Bodine Drake's Stories, Poems, and Letters in Weird Tales
Stories
"Whisper Water" (May 1953)
"Mop-Head" (Jan. 1954)

Poems
"In the Shadows" (Oct. 1935)
"The Witch Walks in Her Garden" (Apr. 1937)
"Witches on the Heath" (Oct. 1938)
"They Run Again" (June/July 1939)
"Bad Company" (Mar. 1941)
"Haunted Hour" (Nov. 1941)
"Wood Wife" (Mar. 1942)
"Changeling" (Sept. 1942)
"A Vase from Araby" (Mar. 1943)
"Sea Shell" (Sept. 1943)
"The Path through the Marsh (Sept. 1944)
"The Nixie's Pool" (May 1946)
"Heard on the Roof at Midnight" (Nov. 1946)
"The Seal-Woman's Daughter" (Jan. 1947)
"The Stranger" (Sept. 1947)
"The Steps in the Field" (Nov. 1947)
"The Heads on Easter Island" (Jan. 1949)
"The Vision" (Jan. 1950)
"Revenant" (Mar. 1951)
"Swan Maiden" (May 1951)
"The Mermaid" (Nov. 1952)
"Red Ghosts in Kentucky" (Jan. 1953)
"Six Merry Farmers" (Sept. 1953)
"Out!" (Mar. 1954)

Letters to "The Eyrie"
Oct. 1935
June 1937
Sept. 1938
Jan. 1939
Mar. 1939
Aug. 1939
Oct. 1939
Mar. 1941

Further Reading
"They Run Again" in Weird Tales, edited by Peter Haining (Carroll and Graf, 1990)-Originally printed in the June/July 1939 issue of Weird Tales

Leah Bodine Drake's own books are hard to come by, and even some old magazines can be pricey, but her poetry will turn up in a thorough search on the Internet.

Leah Bodine Drake's poem, "The Nixie's Pool," from Weird Tales, May 1946. The illustrator was Matt Fox (1906-1988?).
And her first book of poetry, A Hornbook for Witches (1950), published by Arkham House, with a cover illustration by Frank Utpatel (1905-1980).


Captions and text copyright 2011 by Terence E. Hanley

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