|I have many things to write unto you
but I will not write with pen and ink
--JOHN the theologian
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John Horvath Jr
The First American Critic: E.A. Poe
The critical commentary on the works of Edgar Allen Poe is exceedingly prolific; but few know Poe as a critic and theorist of literature.
It's safe to say that Edgar Allen Poe favored, no, stressed the imaginative as the prime aspect of a poet's work; second is emotional intensity; thus, his 'City under the Sea' and 'Bells' we might say are examples of imaginative seeing and imaginative hearing. It is not merely what was seen and heard by Poe but those things are translated in the 'perfect words' perfect'sound combinations ('le mot juste', the practice of revising the norm into emotional intensity and the imaginative with the 'right word'). It is said that 'The Raven' underwent extensive revision while Poe sought the perfect name for its figure, Lenore.
Poe said that the long poem does not exist, that an half hour in reading was quite enough. If you want a poetical longer work, with Poe, the reader must turn to the Novels ('arabesques' is a good term for them:They have intertwining subplots and multiple characteres, the dramatized narrator who moves as we move through reading. Yet, Poe argued that 'undue brevity degenerates into 'epigrammatism' - a surprizing act of grammer dealing with an undexpected outcome. Once read they might be set aside. But he gave credit to a few brief poems whose sound and sights intensified the reader's imagination but these too never produce, for Poe, a profound and enduring effect upon the reader.
For poe, acceptable length, the stress on the imaginative; le mot juste,; and emotional intensity were not the res 'poetry' but the means to poetry which, always, is truth. Today we might say that turth is held within the author and readers rather than a thing in itsself. In either casetruth can descerned ny many who read a poem deeply and sufficiently: remember that for Poe an half hour in reading is enough. Applying that standard - being long with the study/reading of a poem is enough - might force some poets to reappraise/revise their works. A poem of 'truth' is one presented 'the rhymthmical creation of beauty' - take into consideration what is beautiful: this is from the man who wrote 'The Telltale Heart' and the 'Cask of Amontinado'. Clearly beauty is avaial to us even in the vile events of life; even in the ugliness we see and hear.
For Edgar Allen Poe the most detestable thing is the didactics whose notion was basically that truth was a club to seduce the savage mind (many didacticists are new to poetry, unaware of effect on ) intellect - taste - moral sense none of whcih is necessary for beauty and truth to exist. As in everday life there are truths without beauty (putting a hand in fire will hurt) and, possibly, anything outside the imaginative and emotionl intensify could not be poetry. But, of course, there were no such sights and sounds.
Other Americans had written or spoken of poetry, but their criticism was simply the impressionism available via Goethe and the Romantics whereas Poe demanded the reader's attention to HOW an effect is borne in a poem. In short, there is structure.
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