Remembering the Death of Poe…
If my math is correct, today is the 164th anniversary of the death of Edgar Allan Poe.
I’ve admired Poe since childhood. “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Masque of the Red Death” were both stories I first read in English classes somewhere along the way.
I grew up in rural Maryland, and in either elementary or middle school, we took a trip to “the big city” (Baltimore). As part of that trip, we toured a house that Poe had lived in from 1833-1835. Now, this all happened a hell of a long time ago, but my recollection is that we were greeted by a Poe impersonator, who gave us a brief history lesson on the man and his works. (I’ve since had an opportunity to discuss this with one of the present-day administrators of Baltimore’s Poe House, who confirmed that there was an actor who would — rarely — do his Poe act for select groups of school kids. So perhaps my memory is true. (Or, maybe, as Poe himself would say, “All that we see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream.”)
In any event, I dug Poe, from an early age.
In recent years, I’ve had a chance to revisit his work and learned to enjoy him on a whole new level. In at least some of his stories, Poe strikes me as a hybrid of Thomas Ligotti and Hubert Selby, Jr. His work stands in refreshing opposition to the last forty years or so of mass market feel-good horror (I’m looking at you, Stephen King; he who brought us a friggin’ feel-good apocalypse with The Stand). Poe’s best tales are more than bleak, they speak to a primal, animal-like capacity for destruction and self-destruction that’s at the core of human experience. For my money, Poe’s take on human nature rings true. You won’t get any sugar-coating from Fast Eddie P. (Dig this quote from my fave Poe tale, “The Black Cat”):
“Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart — one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man”.
A voice worth remembering. Worth reading and re-reading and re-re-reading.
And a voice worth portraying on film.
This brings me to another matter I’ve been meaning to blog about, and now’s about as good a time as any. Director Stuart Gordon and actor Jeffrey Combs (you know, the team behind Re-Animator and several other cult horror films), are planning an independent film on the life of Poe. Having seen Combs perform the role in Gordon’s Masters of Horror episode, “The Black Cat”, I’m greatly enthused by this. They’re hoping to fund the project (to the tune of $375,000) via Kickstarter. I’ve donated to this production, and I hope you do, too. This is a worthwhile venture put together by an experienced team. Studios won’t fund this because they don’t think people want to see a serious film about Edgar Allan Poe. Let’s prove them wrong. It’s not often that I participate in crowd-funding efforts (let alone ask others to join me), but I urge you to consider donating what you can to this production.