Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Two Anniversaries -- Edgar Poe

So, today is the anniversary of Edgar Poe's death back in 1849. I didn't manage to swing by his gravesite in Baltimore on our trip to Silver Springs and D.C. this summer -- maybe another time -- but it is ironic that he's buried not where he lived most of his life but simply where he happened to have been overtaken by unexpected disaster (the details of which we shall never know) and suddenly died. I commemorated the event ('celebrated' is not the right word) by re-reading his last, unfinished story, "The Light-House", about which we know nothing other than it was found in his trunk after his death. A fitting mystery to end his remarkable career on, I think.

Thought I wd share a more recent tribute to Poe, a poem by Ray Bradbury I found when I picked up Bradbury's WHERE ROBOT MICE AND ROBOT MEN RUN ROUND IN ROBOT TOWNS [1977] on my first visit to a Half-Price Books (March 21st, 1987, in Austin Texas, in the company of Douglass Parker). Just about everybody knows how good a short-story writer Bradbury is (he's the means whereby 'science fiction' escaped the pulp ghetto into literature, giving him an importance in the 20th century matched only by Wells' in the 19th), but not many folks realize he's a pretty good poet as well. Here's some excerpts from a playful little piece he wrote about our debt to E.A.P.:

"I Have A Brother, Mostly Dead"

I have a brother, mostly dead
And angels curled upon his head
Most of my life, mostly unseen,
And yet I feel with him I've been
A cohort playmate friend of Poe
Who tours me where live friends can't go . . .

And so my brother, dead, you see
Is wondrous literate company.
Thus if my Muse says: Nevermore!
I hear a tapping at my door;
My brother comes to saviour me
With graveyard biscuit, rictus tea . . .

So Idea Ghosts sit up again . . .
And shape themselves with words for clothes.
All this my long lost brother does
This sibling spent before my cause . . .

[He shouts:] sweet brother, flower my tomb
With words so rare and phrase so bright
They'll bonfire burn away the night.

All this to me lost brother is
And I his live sweet Lazarus.
His shout ignore? his cry refuse?
No, no! Much thanks, long-dead fine Muse.

--Ray Bradbury


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