Essential Poets #2: Edgar Allan Poe
Taylor brings you another poet from ‘murica that you should check out in Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe is my Ryan Gosling. It’s the sad eyes, the tortured soul, his incredibly difficult internal rhyme schemes–you know, all the usual stuff girls in their twenties are attracted to.
I won’t give samplings of his work because they’re best in their entireties, but read every ounce of Poe you can get your hands on. Pair it with a glass of cognac and a couple candles, and you’ll be thinking about murdering pretty girls in no time.
Poe was essentially a giant shit magnet. I mean, this guy’s life was pretty awful.
Edgar Poe was born in 1809 in Boston. His parents were actors (back then this was not a respected profession, so: shit luck #1), and his dad abandoned the family before Edgar had his first birthday (shit luck #2). His mom died the next year (shit luck #3). He gained the “Allan” in his name when he was informally adopted by Frances and John Allan (So it’s not all bad, right?). The Allan’s had a slight gambling problem (shit luck #4), so as a young man, Edgar joined the army under an assumed name because he was an angsty teenager and decided he hated his adopted father. He attended West Point and sucked at everything to do with combat (shit luck #5) and, while he was there, his adopted mother died (shit luck#6). Poe decided, “Fuck this, I’m just going to be a writer.” and dropped out, thus beginning his literary career. Cue rainbows and unicorns, right?
Edgar Allan Poe did have a few blissful years in his life. Back then this was only marginally creepy, but at twenty-four-years-old, Poe married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Virginia. They were married for twelve years, and two years after the success of The Raven, Virginia died at the age of twenty five of tuberculosis (shit luck #7). It was all very poetic, though–she burst a blood vessel in her throat while singing and playing the piano and never fully recovered. This, along with the passing of his two mothers, is probably why the death of beautiful women is a common theme in his writing. After his cousin/wife died, Poe tried to get it in with a couple other chicks, but pretty much he was just a crazy alcoholic at this point (shit luck #8).
No one really knows exactly how Edgar Allan Poe died, but on October 3rd, 1849, he was found wandering around Baltimore, delirious and wearing clothes that weren’t his own. He was taken to a hospital where he died the next morning (shit luck #9), his last words reportedly being: “Lord, help my poor soul.” You’d think that this would be the final Fuck You the universe would provide Poe with, but…nope. The day he was buried, a long, anonymously-written obituary was published nationally, signed “Ludwig”. The dude who wrote it was an asshat. It started out: “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. The announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.” (shit luck #10)
It turns out the author was Rufus Griswold, a literary critic, editor and anthologist, who probably had a big gay crush on Poe, because he hated the man for pretty much no reason. Griswold went on for years after Poe’s death, trying to kill his literary career–even going as far as publishing a biography about him that painted him as a drug-addicted mad man. The people who knew Edgar Allan Poe personally claimed it was a bunch of bull, but it was the only complete biography about him then, so it was, unfortunately, widely accepted for a pretty good amount of time.
Poe is everywhere in pop culture now. His influence and allusions to his work can be seen in music, televison shows and movies (Side note: The movie “The Raven” has literally nothing to do with Poe, except that John Cusack is supposedly playing him. He’s way too handsome, though. Poe was an ugly son-of-a-bitch). Like I said, his work is best read in complete-ness, but I will leave you with a little treat: La Dispute’s “Three”, which uses the words to Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”.
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