Monday, 19 January 2009

The portable Poe

I went to the studio today and was on my own the whole time. There was plenty of evidence that John had been in. He had painted out every painting he had ever done and started some new ones. I haven't seen Andrew or Lynette since New Year's Eve. It was so cold. I was there for hours and my feet were blocks of ice by the time I left. I need to find a new studio!

Edgar Allan Poe was born 200 years ago today. I have spoken before of my admiration of, and fascination for, Poe's strange and hallucinogenic writing. I'm not sure - but I think I saw the Roger Corman movies before I read the stories and I would not have seen those movies until I was well into my teens. I may have read The Raven at school.

I certainly remember that there was a vaguely transgressive feeling to reading his work. It seemed (and still seems) so unlike anything else, and so dark. Poe is often thought of as florid and otherworldly (and he is both those things) but there is also an incredible honesty at work in his writing. It is like listening to his deepest fears and darkest desires. It is often assumed he was an opium addict but alcohol was his drug of choice and his ultimate undoing.

He knows how to start a story. These are the opening words of The Tell-tale Heart:

True! - nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them.

Listen to how modern that sounds and how strange. It makes me want to pick up my old Penguin anthology of his stories - hilariously titled The Portable Poe - and read those stories all over again.

So here's to Edgar Allan Poe. Thanks for the nightmares.


  1. Poe is amazing! I heard a lot of people ask "don't you get nightmares from reading him?", but the good question would be "how did Poe deal with so many nightmares?".

    Cheers to Poe!


  2. I'm not sure he did deal with them Frini. But what's wrong with the odd nightmare or two? And you get a better class of nightmare after reading Poe.