Forcing the somber beyond the macabre,
the mob beyond the insanity,
is an imp whose name is Poe.
I owe what could be called a mild fascination with Edgar Allen Poe to a red haired raven known as Mrs. Washenfelder. My first introduction to the man was through her voice, as she read and recited The Bells and The Raven and led our sophomore American lit class in discussions of Amontillado and Usher. The Poe unit with Mrs. Washenfelder was legendary in our school.
Despite the spark of interest, I haven’t really dug into Poe’s life in the many years since my high school days. But recently, I came across Ackroyd’s biography Poe: A Life Cut Short at the library. Having read the biography, I really want to read more of Edgar Allen Poe’s writings.
It seems like Poe always felt that he was alone in this world. His literary vision bordered on insanity. He seemed to some a decent enough man, but to others he was ever under the control of his inherited demons – his mother’s early death, alcohol, and at least an occasionally loose grasp on reality. His writing wasn’t always welcomed with other writers and editors of the day, but that seems to have been as much a result of a caustic and self destructive personality than of literary merit. He felt himself rejected, orphaned, abandoned, and alone most of his life.
Ackroyd’s final paragraph details a few accolades and tips of hats from literary giants like Tennyson, Yeats, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Joyce, and even Nietzsche and Kafka. “The orphan, in the end, found his true family.”
Shouldn’t there be something better for today’s orphans than the recognition of tomorrow’s voices – voices they’ll never know?