Tuesday, March 17, 2009


January 19, 2009 marked the 2ooth anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) and the U. S. Postal Service has issued a stamp to commemorate him.

Poe was always my favorite writer as a youth and his tales of the macabre continue to delight me as an adult. At present I'm reading Poe's only full length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. I've always had an interest in reading Poe's novel but became particularly interested when I heard that it may contain some Masonic references. I know for sure that, The Cask of Amontillado does contain at least one Masonic reference. Being a Freemason it's always a delight to discover references about our beloved Fraternity in great works of literature.

As a youth I also loved those great films of Poe's work directed by Roger Corman and produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff with Vincent Price as the featured player. If you search the Internet Movie Database (http://www.imbd.com/) you will see that Poe's stories have found their way to film from as early as 1908 with films currently in production to be released in 2010. Not only has most of his short stories found their way to film, but they've done so multiple times.

Poe is also considered to be the father of the modern detective story, everyone from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett have been influenced by Poe.
Poe's work has also influenced science fiction writer Jules Verne who wrote a sequel to Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, called The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Le Sphinx des Glaces. The literary descendants of Poe include H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King masters of horror and the macabre in their own right.

Poe also had a keen interest in cryptography and ciphers, the best example of which can be found in the short story, The Gold Bug. Another common theme that runs through his fiction is the idea of being buried or interred alive. The Oblong Box, The Cask of Amontillado and The Premature Burial are all concerned with the idea of being sealed in a grave prematurely. Okay, okay Poe's not a happy camper but his prose is pure poetry and his poetry is, well, poetic.

Like most people who read Poe, The Raven, The Bells and Lenore are my favorite poems.

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

- from, The Raven

Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,
To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells, In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells,
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells.
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

- from, The Bells

Charles Baudelaire

Edgar Allan Poe was embraced early on by the French due in large part to the translation of his work into French by the poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). I was recently given a copy of Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal a collection of poems that are, at times, decadent, erotic and mystical. Baudelaire's work received the condemnation of French Society, but has since been heralded as a major work of French Literature. There is something of the doomed Gothic artist in the personas of Poe and Baudelaire. And yet there is the evidence of something mystical in their body of work.

Back in 1999 Montblanc honored Edgar Allan Poe by creating a limited edition fountain pen to commemorate his life and work. These are highly collectible and rarely find their way into the market place. The fountain pen, as well as the matching ballpoint and pencil are made from a midnight blue resin with gold plated fittings and an 18 carat gold nib. The cap is inscribed with Poe's signature and the nib is engraved with the image of a raven inspired by Poe's poem.

Every Sunday for the remainder of 2009, the Radio theatre of New York City will hold readings of Poe's work at 2:00pm. The readings will be held at:

UNDER St. Marks Place
94 St. Marks Place
(8th Street between 1st Avenue & Avenue A)
Tickets: &18.00

With some irony I conclude with a lesser known poem by Poe, An Epigram for Wall Street, which seems fitting for the current economic climate that we find ourselves in.

I'll tell you a plan for gaining wealth,

Better than banking, trade or leases Take a bank note and fold it up,

And then you will find your money in creases!

This wonderful plan, without danger or loss,

Keeps your cash in your hands, where nothing can trouble it;

And every time that you fold it across,

'Tis as plain as the light of the day that you double it!

The End

Cliff Jacobs

Have Pen, Will Write

Scribo Ergo Sum


supersize spanishfly said...

Oh Cliff,you took it way back Edgar Allen Poe was also one of my favorite poets and storytellers mysterious and dark-The Tell Tale Heart my all time favorite. I love your blogspot...keep on writing, I mean tyoing...well, actually sharing...xoxoxoxo All The Best and I am still going to &%*(% you up!...lol..


Antoinette said...

Dear Cliff,
I love the article that you have written about Edgar Allen Poe. He was an extraordinary man and an incomparable artist! He created a particular style of writing that influenced and continues to influence not only American writers but foreign ones as well, as you stated.
It is wonderful that America is honoring him on his 200th anniversary.
I happen to be French and a Baudelaire follower and it was through Baudelaire that I discovered Poe at the tender age of eleven. Baudelaire admired Poe so much that he translated his work into French . It was Baudelaire that stated that " Poe's condemnation by his country fellowmen springs from a democratic hatred of genius".
I would greatly recommend Charles Baudelaire's work to all the Poe lovers. He and Poe have quite a lot in common, from the general metaphysical boredom that they both felt to even physical resemblances. And, may I say that Baudelaire's poetry will either enchant or schock your mind. It will have an effect on you! He is called "le poete maudit" which translates as the cursed poet. Great French authors like Victor Hugo, Stephane Mallarme, J.K. Huysmans, Alfred de Vigny to name a few all acclaimed Baudelaire's genius when his work was censured.
Thanks Cliff for reminding us to honor the great Edgar Allen Poe.

Vive Edgar Allen Poe! Vive Cliff (or Jake) as you like to be called for writing about him!