by Davy Kenney
Ah, good old Poe, we have you to thank.
Before you came along, the literary landscape of the United States was, if not always a happy, a seemingly wholesome place.
Oh sure, every now and then you might find a little hamlet with a headless specter or some little goblin that stowed away on an immigrant ship, but nothing to be too worried about. Until you came along the dark night of our imagination was a place where a little fright was something to laugh at after the initial startle.
I cannot articulate all that I like about Poe.
No matter how familiar you are with one of his stories, it always feels like there is a stranger standing behind you while you read, blowing on the hairs at the back of your neck.
He is the Jack the Ripper of literature, an opener of floodgates, one of those rare people who is spoken about in terms of before and after.
Even though he is not considered very “literary,” he forces his way into any discussion of the canon of American literature. His stories are as engaging, as shocking, as remarkable, and as terrifying as ever they were even after almost 200 years.
I encourage you this Halloween to read some Poe and ask yourself “why does this work so well?” He writes in an old style that was old when he wrote.
We have orangutans stuffing bodies up chimneys, dismembered corpses below the floorboards, living bodies stowed down in the crypts, people hanging cats, and the most ghoulish nonsense you can think of, and yet it works.
There is an eerie sense of control with Poe. And I think that this is the most emulated aspect of Poe’s writing: his control of the outrageous.
So, this Halloween, raise a glass to Poe, and say, “Thanks for populating the night.”