E A Poe

A poem begun at a Poetry Day session at Huddersfield, where we read and discussed the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and then used his verse to inspire, directly or indirectly, our own writing.

We read poems on one chilly morning by the sometimes silly
Yet inventive, strange and talented and miserable Poe.
‘The Raven’ has been named as his best verse, indeed acclaimed as
Such by Edgar Poe himself, with lively braggadocio.
‘It’s the greatest ever written!’ proclaimed Edgar Allen Poe.
Oh, I like your chutzpah, Poe!

The verse-form is demanding, his dexterity’s commanding,
And when it comes to rhyming he can’t half put on a show.
Phrases chiming, inner-rhyming, sometimes even triple-timing,
Rhyming without any let-up  in verse of hypnotic flow.
Yes, it’s clever  - but exhausting, and, as rhyming, ain't it, though,
Sometimes just a bit de trop?

The basic plot’s a hoary quite familiar standard story
Telling of love lost and fated nevermore to warmly glow.
The hero (weak but clever) learns that when the grim fates sever
Any lifeline, it’s forever. Nothing can reverse death’s blow.
That’s what the raven’s telling us (as spokesman for Ed Poe)
In case we didn’t know.

‘Nevermore,’ repeats that raven, till the hero, cowed and craven,
Knows there cannot be a haven where his hopes might safely go.
In his dark and tomblike room, he loses courage, gets more gloomy,
And when asking for salvation, knows the answer must be no.
‘Nevermore’ and ‘Nevermore’, declaims that raven black as sloe,
Ventriloquising Poe.

This repetitive insistence on the dark side of existence
Reminds me of the problem that I have with Ted Hughes’ Crow,
Another bird whose starkness says there’s naught to life but darkness.
Poor Ted Hughes had his issues, and Poe (please pass the tissues)
Knew very well the horrors of an alcoholic’s low -
There’s more to life, though, Poe.
Still, his metre works its magic and I’m half-convinced it’s tragic,
Till my common sense starts yelling at me – ‘Stop there half a mo!
Tell me, are you truly able to accept this loony fable?’
Well, it’s clever and  impressive and hypnotic, yes, I know,
But should we take it seriously? Should we, Mr Poe?
I must tell you – sorry, no.

George Simmers

If you have any comments on this poem, George Simmers would be pleased to hear from you.

raven poster