Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Po, po, po Poe.

Manet's Raven

I went to the rare book collection at the Philadelphia Free Library yesterday to see the Edgar Allen Poe exhibit. It was really just an excuse to check in on Grip, my favorite raven, since I'm not that interested in Poe, but as usual when I find myself dismissing something other people like, once I gave Poe a chance I found him fascinating.

The Raven poem, for instance, gets stranger and stranger the more one thinks about it. The bust of Pallas? Lenore? What!? Imagine: "Okay. We've got this animal. Spooky. A squirrel, maybe, or a weasel. No, a bird. A big one. An ostritch. No, a raven. And it's all about the guy's lost love Betty. No, something unusual, we'll get that later. And the ostritch knows one word, but it's a really scary word..."

Tenniel's Raven

Dore's raven

Poe's obituary is on exhibit. It says, "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it" It's a long, extraordinarily brutal piece of writing. It was written by one Mr. Griswold, who, Wikepedia says, bore a grudge against Poe. Um, yeah.

Shortly before Poe died he went on a paranoid bender that made him shave his moustache to confuse would be assassins, disappear for a few weeks of hard drinking and reappear puffy faced and sick wearing someone else's clothes. He died ranting about someone named "Reynolds" in a hospital, attended by a relative he called his "bitterest enemy".

He also had the most beautiful handwriting I've ever seen. It's very jaunty and girly. I'd love to have penmanship like Poe. The writing looks especially great in a love poem he sent to a married woman friend that he later tried to woo with a suicide attempt. (Word to the wise, Poe, when you write a two page love poem, the first page should contain something about the beloved object, not just 18 stanzas of how you can't wait to shed the mortal coil.) Although he also married his 13 year old cousin. That stuff probably works pretty well on preteens, especially with the handwriting.

But who am I to snark? He was also a genius, and since 1950 his grave has been visited by a "Poe toaster" who, in the early hours of January 19th, toasts with cognac and leaves three roses on his grave. (I should be so lucky. My grave will probably be visited intermittently by a lonely dachshund who will leave three different souvenirs on an occasional basis. )

Manet, Le Corbeau,1875

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