The Raven, above the door and in my head, is madness.


The Raven never stops.

And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
— “The Raven“, by Edgar Allen Poe 

Tonight, I shall attempt to exorcise the demon of “The Raven” from my mind, hoping that nevermore will become evermore.

For whatever reason, the poem’s initial stanzas have been locked in a loop in my head for nearly a decade, along with the Christmas song “Sleigh Ride” and the tune to “Camptown Ladies.” It is a horrible mix, a kind of devil’s mixtape.

The opening stanzas spring into my head in the strangest of moments.

Why that poem?

I learned many poems growing up, and in school. I learned about diverging roads in yellowed woods, and I learned that the evil men do lives after them. I learned from Emily that the soul selects her own society, and from Mr. Williams how important the red wheelbarrow is.

Perhaps it’s just Poe.

I was fascinated by him when we studied his stories in school. I swore I would never be that desperate for Amontillado, for no sherry is worth being buried alive in a wall. I became fixated on the swinging pendulums in clocks, imagining another world and another time where a much larger one, with its non-perpetual motion, could still kill.

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! –tear up the planks! here, here! –It is the beating of his hideous heart!”
— “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

When we were tasked to create a diorama for class, based on any short story we’d read, I chose “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I made a box with a floor that had a cut-away panel so you could see what was buried beneath it. There was furniture and there were rugs and the entire time I was building it I consider how we all have a Tell-Tale Heart lurking in our life.

Movie poster for "The Raven", starring John Cusack

Perhaps that is my fixation on Poe. Despite the sordid stories, I always saw a blunt description of fallen man. Burying the things we wished dead but could not kill, hoping that would solve the problem. Revenge. The slow but sure death we seem powerless to stop, whether it comes as time as a pendulum, or behind a horrific mask. Obsession. The steady and silent pulse of fallenness finally driving us to our knees.

Poe died from alcohol, we learned in school. But later, some came to believe he died of rabies. Such mystery in his own macabre end.

The Raven is sticky, always staying put, never responding to the questions I throw at it.

Tonight I am going to be attending the opening of the fictional film “The Raven” and see if that changes things up a bit. To always be thinking of midnight dreary truly does make one weak and weary.

The plan is to get tickets early, head out to coffee and dinner, and then hit the theater. I have been looking forward to tonight, and have had it on my calendar for a few months. Much like I eagerly awaited the LOTR films, I have been very keen on seeing this one. To get in the mindset for it, I’ve been posting the entire poem on Facebook, one stanza at a time, illustrating it with my art and photographs.

I’ve no doubt the movie to be a slick and sellable thriller, but I hope, for some reason, that to see the bits and elements of those stories and poems on the screen will either jar me off the track, or get me to thinking about them in a new way. Sometimes what starts as intriguing inspiration can turn to a kind of deadened madness (as Poe would know), and a fresh view breathes life into a rotting monster. Perhaps the film will be much like the book The Dante Club, sampling literature in a new way and putting it into a different context.

Not everyone is a fan of poetry. I know that many people like Poe’s stories, but don’t really care for his poetry. Hearing the poem “The Raven” read aloud puts it in a new and revealing light. The finest video version of the poem in my opinion was, strangely, The Simpson’s. It makes it very apparent what is happening as the man turns mad.

[The Raven drawing I created for this post is available for purchase. Please contact me if you would like to own it. sold.]

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