I always thought the photographs that Edgar Allan Poe appear in are sometimes creepier than his writing! Something in his eyes, his expression. The way he is looking at the camera make you want know what he’s thinking. What he’s feeling. As a master poet, storyteller, and professional tortured soul, we’ll have to settle for his words to give us that answer.
His work is still as fresh and inspired as was when he first composed it. Becoming a part of our collective cultural consciousness. “The Raven” for example, is as iconic as Apple pie and football, albeit just a wee bit darker, but still just as iconic. To me, Poe‘s words have an emotional impact that is rarely seen. A perfect storm of meaning, rhythm and meter which hits with such force it can literally take your breath away.
There is a sense in his work that he is trying to tell us something. Not just about the darker side of life and yes, death, but perhaps on a more deeper and spiritual level. Commenting on our human condition through verse. I often wonder if his initial military background perhaps helped to shape his view on life and death. His job as one who prepared shells for artillary must have peaked his interest in where those shells would eventually land, and the harm they inevitably would do . . . .
Poe made valiant efforts to live solely off his writing. Something that I admire greatly as awriter myself. And eventually held jobs as not only a writer, but editor and critic.
His Gothic, horror and satirical writings were way ahead of their time. He also dabbled in science fiction and even physics. His was a mind that had no off button. A facile writer who pushed the boundaries of his time and art. Like many great artists Poe operated on a different plane. Or at least I like to think he did. Yes, he was here with us on earth, but it is clear from his works that he was acutely attuned and aware of, shall we say, “other realms.” Maybe that’s just my overactive imagination working overtime, lets just say in the least, Poe was fascinated by the macabre, the unexplained. Commenting on that very otherworldly fabric of man that was just out of reach. Out of reach to most, except for Edgar Allan Poe.
Perhaps it was this awareness, this constant torture that seemed to envelop his soul which hastened his demise. Maybe his own art, his own pen poisoned him in some way. His own quest for answers leading him to one dark alley after another. Maybe the beginning was the end for Poe? What we do know is that alcohol, depression and the sudden death of his wife Virginia, (who incidentally was his cousin,) caused his downward spiral to quicken, culminating with his own death in 1849.
From this genius’s life we are left with his genius. On the printed page adapted to stage and screen Edgar Allan Poe’s work has stood the test of time and I’m sure far exceeded his own expectations. His writings are often as mysterious as his image. Dark and haunting with something just below the surface we just can’t put our fingers on. It is like he knows something we don’t, and instead of coming right out and telling us, he wants us to figure it out on our own.
So, In honor of the 202nd birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, I had to dig up this old classic clip featuring Vincent Price. The poem is scary enough, but as a child I remember seeing this and pulling the covers over my head. Long before the Internet we had the great Vincent Price who could read the phone book and scare the B-Jeezies out of you!
Here’s to the great Edgar Allan Poe, Happy Birthday . . . “Nevermore.”