Monday, February 23, 2009

Poe-tic Reaction

I apparently ruffled a few inky feathers, not because of my hilarious send up of Poe's "Philosophy of Composition" in my previous post, "Composition of Parody," but because in the subsequent comments I implied--basically said--"The Raven" isn't very good. To paraphrase a Monty Python skit, it's a good thing I didn't mention "The Bells."

Although none of those who objected felt strongly enough to air their views on my blog--& by the way, I encourage all readers to comment, even if just to say how great my posts are--they've confronted me face-to-face with their views, though not always in so many words. Sometimes it's simply a cocked eyebrow & the once-over with a pale filmy vulture eye, questioning, badgering, insisting I explain how I dare suggest that I am superior to Poe as a poet. It's very creepy.

Maybe I'm paranoid, but the clerk at Starbucks has acted a little petulant the last few days too, so I suspect he's a "venti" Poe-ster. Nuts to him, I'm keeping my change. Also, those Dockered oafs who intentionally bumped into me with their laptops as I left, spilling my Frappuccino, let me remind those Poe-loving goons once again about the physical properties of rubber & glue.

For the record, Poe used to be my favorite poet--when I was twelve. It's easy to see why I was drawn to him as a prepubescent preteen: he's kind of a macabre Dr. Seuss, what, with his predictable rhymes, singsongy rhythms & ham-handed alliteration. If Poe were alive today, he'd be very old, but I'll bet he would have written spooky children's classics like Green Eggs & Death ("I am Son of Sam, Son of Sam I am. My dog doesn't like you, so you die. Blam! Blam!"), Manson Hears a Who, The Severed Parts of Bartholomew Cubbins & "The Cask of Amontillado."

In fact, Poe's significance as a writer is his prose, not his poetry. His eccentric, brilliant detective Auguste Dupin begat not only Sherlock Holmes, but myriad novels, movies & TV series; also, his gothic horror stories have inspired many of today's popular writers, but it's completely unfair to blame Poe for all that.

I'm not saying that he never wrote a good poem. For instance, "Sonnet: To Science," with its erratic meter, exemplifies the irrational fear of science during the Romantic age. To make it relevant to today's audience, it speaks to Republicans & the religious right, seemingly stuck in the 19th century, unable to budge from the flypaper of their antebellum views.

I'm fairly confident Poe wrote other good poems too--I mean, he probably did, right? Odds are in his favor.

(Fun fact: you can sing "Annabel Lee" to the tune of the Benny Hill theme. It's true! Try it yourself! )


Riley said...

I'd actually say more than his fiction, his real mark was as a critic. For example, as one of the early elevators--fuck you Otis!--of Hawthorne he helped promote the greatest short story writer of the English language.

It's a good question though why he remains such a large figure in American literary history. I mean, of all the writers of the American Renaissance, he's by far the weakest in terms of his production and literary value. His biography and the mysteries of his life drive his popularity more than anything.

That being said, if you want to read something mind-blowingly weird--and that's a compliment coming from me--be sure to read _Eureka!_ which is Poe's philosophical treatise and a very bizarre read.

Riley said...

Oh, and what *can't* be hummed to the theme tune of The Benny Hill Show. That guy was a freakin' genius!

Matt Morris said...

All good points. I agree that in academia Poe may be more revered as a critic than for his fiction, but not in popular culture. At the risk of sounding like Demi Moore, Hawthorne's popularity has waned outside of literary circles, but who doesn't love a good mystery? Also, thanks for the reminder about Eureka. If I'm not mistaken, it returns to the USA Network for its 3rd season soon.