For many years, I have admired the works and wisdom of Edgar Allan Poe.
One of the great minds of American literature, Poe excelled at poetry, criticism, and prose. He is the father of the horror story, the detective story, and, weirdly, of all modern French literature.
His was an uncompromising and razor-sharp mind. So, on this Halloween when we read and recall so many of his chilling tales of misery and darkness, we summon him back for a little of his trademark wisdom to illuminate our dark path toward the grave.
Nate: Mr. Poe, you are a legendary writer, and we are grateful that you have taken the time to talk to us today. Given that you are, in fact, dead, I feared we would hear from you nevermore.
Poe: Yeah, I see what you did there. Cute.
Deep in earth my love is lying. And I must weep alone that your joke was so bad.
As for granting an interview from beyond the grave, I always say the boundaries which divide Life from Death are, at best, shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins, right? Even in the grave, all is not lost. I figure no one should brave the underworld alone.
Nate: What did you love most about writing?
Poe: Writing is an excuse to dream in the day. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity, and thrill, in waking, to find that they have been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.
Nate: So much of what you write is cloaked in darkness and clouded by almost mystical overtones. How is it that you came to dwell so heavily on the underbelly of human experience?
Poe: The best things in life make you sweaty.
Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears. There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion. There is that fitful strain of melancholy which will ever be found inseparable from the perfection of the beautiful. After all, all religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry. Years of love have been forgot in the hatred of a minute. Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. Every poem should remind the reader that they are going to die.
Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical law of all sentiments having terror as a basis.
Nate: What advice do you have for young readers and aspiring writers?
Poe: Literature is the most noble of professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part, there is no seducing me from the path.
Books, indeed, are a luxury. They can help you see things differently. From childhood’s hour I have not been as others were; I have not seen as others saw. Never forget that art is to look at, not to criticize.
Take note of the world around you. Sensations are the great things, after all. Should you ever be drowned or hung, be sure and make a note of your sensations; they will be worth to you ten guineas a sheet.
Finally, avoid journalism. Bear in mind that, in general, it is the object of our newspapers rather to create a sensation—to make a point—than to further the cause of truth.
Above all, it is a happiness to wonder; it is a happiness to dream.
Nate: A rose upon your grave, Mr. Poe, and thank you.
*All quotes are more or less attributable to Mr. Poe, though many are apocryphal. I’m pretty sure he didn’t say anything about sweat, but it makes for a great T-shirt! Happy Halloween from the Evanced Staff!