Poetry. I don’t talk about it often (except for that one time I analyzed a poem, which I might do again at some point), but it’s a topic that’s always fascinated me. It’s such an fascinating form of expression in writing. It looks easy, but it’s actually incredibly difficult! But when it’s done well, god damn is it interesting!
Admittedly, I’m not an expert on the subject. If you asked me to list my top ten favorite poets, I’d be droning out a panicked “Uh” for thirty minutes straight. I am not a guru on this topic. However, there is one poet whose works I’ve been a fan of for quite some time. One that I often point to as one of my favorite writers.
Take a guess who I’m talking about.
Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most interesting minds of all time. His works are dark, bizarre, and discomforting. Each piece manages to communicate those feelings better than any modern work, creating truly horrifying or just straight-up creepy stories. From his shorts to his poems, I’ve loved practically everything this guy has ever written!
Today, I want to share my love of his work. I’m going to go over my favorite Poe works, be they poem or fiction, and break down exactly why I love them so damn much.
Note: poetry is all about how you interpret it. Despite what they may teach you in school, there isn’t one set meaning of a poem. There may be what an author intended to say, which may be what you dictate as the true meaning. But I personally believe that it’s all about what you think it is. With that said, I’m going to be looking at all of these with my interpretation in mind. Hope that doesn’t make you mad.
It probably will.
I know. I’m so brave for putting The Raven as one of my favorite Poe works. Please applaud me for my courage.
The Raven is, without a doubt, Poe’s most well-known work. Everyone’s read it at some point or another, probably for school or definitely as a goth (I don’t know what goth people do, I’m sorry goth people). I knew some kids back in school that thought this was his only work! I know some today who think it’s his only good work!
Those people got an earful from yours truly.
All kidding aside, this one does make an incredibly strong case for Poe’s best. The image of the raven itself, as well as the line “Quoth the Raven, Nevermore”, is absolutely legendary! The slow descent into madness, driven by grief, portrayed through the character’s conversation with the raven is downright bone-chilling. It makes you reflect on every single line, every single word, to find the meaning!
It’s an amazing poem, through and through. I’d love to go into it more someday. But today, I’m not just talking about The Raven. I want to shout out some others that you may not have heard of. Such as…
Deep In Earth
This one is incredibly short. The Raven is four whole pages long. This one? Two whole lines! But those two lines hit like a fucking truck! This poem somehow manages to squeeze a ton of mystery, sorrow, and weight into just two lines!
Deep In Earth serves as another brilliant example of how incredible Poe was at writing compelling literature. This poem is shorter than a Haiku, yet it somehow manages to completely captivate! When I first discovered it, I laughed at how short it was! But as I read it, I found myself reading it again and again! I broke down every word and every emotion!
Good art invokes thought and emotion in the viewer. In that regard, this poem, short as it is, is absolutely spectacular!
Admittedly, I might be a bit biased towards this one. I took a creative writing class in high school (shocker, I know), and our last unit was on poetry. For one of the last assignments, we had to memorize and recite a poem. There were a whole lot of requirements that I don’t remember, but the gist of it was that we couldn’t choose anything too short or simple.
Naturally, as a lazy, burnt-out high schooler, I tried everything in my power to put in as little work as possible (it’s depressing how hard I worked in order to not work hard). I dug through poem after poem, looking for the simplest, shortest, easiest-to-memorize poem out there. In my effort to do so, I stumbled upon Evening Star.
It was only after reading it that I discovered two things. One: it was written by Edgar Allan Poe. Two: it was not going to be so simple to memorize. My lazy strategy completely backfired.
Though not as much it did for that one person who tried to memorize The Raven. Hard to believe that they were the only goth kid in that class. At least, the only one that I remember. I was not a sociable kid in high school.
Getting back on topic, Evening Star is a very different poem from Poe’s usual work. It isn’t grim or horrifying. Rather, it’s more like a letter of admiration. Sort of like a typical romantic poem. Only the imagery in this one is far more intriguing than the usual. Plus, the descriptors used give more of a sense of power on top of beauty. It paints the Evening Star as beautiful, commanding, and cold all at the same time.
I am absolutely using this one to woe someone someday. It probably won’t work out (unless I suddenly develop a thing for goth girls), but god it would be fun! Plus, it would make those days spent in high school worth it!
Yes, I do still have it memorized. Moving on.
The Cask of Amontillado
Now, Poe wasn’t only known for his poetry. He was also a very prolific author of short stories! All of which are more frightening than anything written in the last few years. Actually, make that decades. Maybe centuries. Or ever. Take your pick.
The plot is exceptionally simple. A man lures another dude underground and buries him alive. There’s obviously a lot more going on that that, but that’s the gist of it. The two characters aren’t especially memorable, but they do the job extremely well, and the story is perfectly paced. In terms of a typical story, the structure is rock solid.
But god damn is it well-executed! The imagery of a man being slowly buried alive is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read! Every word is meticulously placed to create this sense of building tension, terror, and claustrophobia. And as a real life claustrophobic, I can safely say it was… effective.
The Tell-Tale Heart
Honestly, you could copy-paste my thoughts about The Cask of Amontillado for this one. Though I like this one for slightly different reasons. Personally, I find it to be much creepier (being buried alive is horrifying, not creepy). Which one I like more changes on a given day. So, to be fair, I’ll say that I like them equally.
This story has another one of Poe’s most iconic, bone-chilling images: the beating heart in the floorboards. This is a perfect image of horror. The gentle yet thunderous beating of a dead man’s heart, the slow buildup of guilt and insanity, the imagery here is incredible! Much like The Raven, these images are so iconic that even people unfamiliar with Poe’s work can recognize them!
It also makes for a perfect bedtime story, if your kids are little shits! That’s my plan, at least.
Yes, I am a bad person. What made you think that?
God, I want to keep going so bad! There are so many poems and stories that I want to discuss, all of which are absolutely incredible! Unfortunately, I don’t have all the time in the world to take about the works of a mad genius.
So I’ll take it slowly and talk about them individually. One by one, over the course of a long period of time. Bit by bit, I’m gonna talk about them all, much like I did O, Tempora! O, Mores!.
Yeah, remember that? I forgive you if you don’t.