Saturday, November 14, 2009

Poe: the tortured genius

Edgar Allen Poe's poetry is mysterious, romantic, surreal, and dark . . . but not nearly as twisted as his short stories might lead you to predict. A sensitive, intelligent man emerges from the text. Poe seemed to write poetry for himself. Poetry was a way for him to capture and preserve beautiful things he imagined or experienced. It was also a way for him to document his dreams and nonsensical inner life. I enjoy how he lets his subconscious mind run wild, though I must admit his poetry can be a bit (too) inscrutable. I also enjoy the lyricism of it.

Baudelaire and Poe have a lot in common in that I think they were both visionary men who turned to poetry as a place to turn their visions into realities. However, Baudelaire is more pleasurable for me to read because, as discussed in my previous post, his visions take us to a "higher reality," a view of things that lifts us out of ourselves. Poe's visions, on the other hand, seem to come from a place deep inside his brain that, while fascinating, is purely subjective.

Poe was not only a poet, he was also an intellectual and literary critic. One can sense in his poetry that he is thinking things through, or reasoning with the reader. Some of his poems are complete dreamscapes, but some feel more rooted in rational analysis. One senses a tension between the mind and the heart. Baudelaire, on the other hand, has completely left his mind behind . . . he is pure emotion and spirituality.

Baudelaire: the intangible becomes tangible

Baudelaire is my favorite poet at the moment. What I admire most about his work is his transcendental awareness of something bigger than himself, and his devotion to expressing that in words and providing us with concrete imagery that will make that awesome something real. A man of highs and lows, the scope of his poetry is cathartic. Further, he has a taste for the beautiful and the magical that makes his work very intoxicating. At times his work takes a strong turn towards hedonism, but it always feels tethered to an awareness of good verses evil. His poetry is complex in a real, human way. I love it.