Influential Works VII – The Raven

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3 mins read

Edgar Allan Poe–favorite poet of goth teenagers, Lovecraftian horror fans, and other denizens of fine non-chain coffee-shops all across the fruited plain. Poet and author, he was inventor of what became the modern detective story. 

We’ll focus on his most famous work–The Raven. (Or as I like to call it now, CORVID-19.) You probably read this (or fell asleep while your teacher read this) in high-school or perhaps a low-level lit or comp course, because it is accessible and pretty easy for a teacher and students to explicate. Despite this relative ease, the poem itself is complex, written in trochaic octameter, which is not an easy meter to master.

The influence, of course, comes from that universal exposure. But maybe you’ve forgotten. Maybe you miss the vast cultural references that have come from this great piece of American poetry. My favorite in particular is The Alan Parsons Project’s rendition of the poem in their prog-rock album Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which is of course a tribute to Poe. But there are countless examples of where this poem of Poe’s in particular has become interwoven into art, literature, music, film, and the rest of our culture. 

And likewise, the entire poem is full of allusion to Greek and Roman myth as well as Scripture. Poe was intimately acquainted with the Classics and poured them into his work. If you become acquainted with the Classics, new dimensions of this work will open up to you. Stick around for this series as I continue it, and I’ll give you a hand with that.

There are some pretty great readings of the poem, as well as some awful ones. And this is where we’re at the crux of this overview: as we look at more poems I’ll try to find the best readings (or when my studio is fully operation, record some myself.) Learning how to read poetry is a valuable skill, especially if/when you have children. No more pausing on every line like your high-school teacher did. You need to learn, and you learn to do so by comprehending the text. Reading comprehension is something I cannot teach you. You must learn.

I could never record anything nearly as good as Sir Christopher Lee. Enjoy.

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