POE-etic to this day


The 1849 “Annie” daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).

Yesterday, (January 19, 2015), marked the 206th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, who is one of my favorite authors, and one of my biggest inspirations as a writer. Like my other literary hero, William Shakespeare, Poe’s work has continued to live on for years after his death, and a little under two-hundred years later, his poems such as “The Raven” and “Annabelle Lee”, as well as his stories, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart”, “The Pit and the Pendulum”, and “The Cask of Amontillado”, are still read and studied today.

While I’m on the subject however, I would like to point out some links between Poe and Shakespeare, despite the fact that they lived centuries apart. One is that Edgar Allan Poe was possibly named after Edgar in Shakespeare’s King John play. Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death features the main character, Prince Prospero, who is more than likely based on Shakespeare’s Prospero from The Tempest; the two Prosperos have their similarities as well. Not to mention that Poe also enjoyed Hamlet, and even wrote a paper on it.

As I was saying, Poe’s legacy continues to this day, and he has been featured in comics, television, and theatre.

He has been found in comics such as 2003’s Batman: Nevermore, an Elseworlds mini-series from DC Comics, in which the Dark Knight teams up with Poe to solve several murders.

The Illustrated Man

Dust jacket of the first edition.

There have been several works of fiction depicting Poe, including science-fiction. There is “The Exiles” September 1949, a short story by Ray Bradbury; this was included in The Illustrated Man, a collection of his shorts from 1951. In this story, Poe is an entity who lives in a refuge on Mars, and he is erased from time when his last work is destroyed on Earth. Also, The Black Throne, 1990, by Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen stars Poe as one of the main characters in conjunction with an alter ego, from a parallel world, named Edgar Perry, which was Poe’s alias when he served in the US Army. This novel quotes Poe’s poems and uses them as motivation for the plot. And in May 1981, The Twilight Zone Magazine featured a story called “In the Sunken Museum” by Gregory Frost, which features a telling of Poe’s final days and his mysterious last statement. More recently are, Finding Poe by Leigh M. Lane, and Nevermore by Brent Monahan, both released in 2012. Also, Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen and released in 2013.

He has been portrayed in film, in many ways, shapes, and forms, since D.W. Griffith’s silent film in 1909 called, simply enough, Edgar Allan Poe, to Francis Ford Coppola’s 2011 film, Twixt. Of late, was The Raven, a 2012 film starring John Cusack as the master of the macabre.

On stage, there has been” Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon A Midnight”, where actor John Astin, stars in a one-man play based on the life and work of Poe. In 2010, “Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”, directed by Jonathan Christenson had its first run in New York, and went on tour after that.

And when it comes to television, shows as varied as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Masters of Horror, to the animated series The Venture Bros, and South Park, brought Poe in as a central character in one of their episodes. One animated telling of Poe’s stories that I remember is from The Simpsons’ annual “Tree House of Horror” episodes, in which Lisa recites “The Raven”, while Homer portrays the tormented man who is haunted by the bird, played by Bart Simpson.

Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover

Album cover to the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Poe can be seen in the back row, center, eighth from the left.

Now, if every other modern medium has found a way to portray Poe, then music is no exception. Bob Dylan refers to “Rue Morgue Avenue” in his 1965 song, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”. The Beatles display a clear picture of Poe on the cover for their album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. And included in their song, “I Am the Walrus”, are the following lines:

“Elementary penguin singing Hari Krishna

Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.”

In 1974, rock band Queen released “Nevermore” based on “The Raven”. And in 1976, The Alan Parsons Project released a full album titled, “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”, based on Poe’s poems and stories. And that’s just to name a few.

And while we’re on the subject of Poe’s popularity in modern-day society, let’s not forget the Baltimore Ravens; this NFL team is located in the town where Poe lived for the majority of his life, and the team name is taken from Poe’s most notable poem.

Personally speaking, my favorite Poe stories are: “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Black Cat”, and “The Cask of Amontillado”. While my favorite poems include: “The Raven”, “Annabel Lee”, and “The City In the Sea”. But I have read all of his work, and have not found any that I disliked.

The Raven

The Raven.

Overall, Edgar Allan Poe has entertained us for years, and will hopefully continue to do so. His stories and poems have a place in the tomes of classic literature. Classic because his works are dark and mysterious, imaginative and macabre, yet they are compelling and enjoyable nonetheless. Work that can be read and re-read several times over, and never lose their influence.

Poe and his masterful work shall be forgotten…nevermore.