When winter gets a little dreary with its constant chill and perpetually gray skies, I often think of Edgar Allan Poe. There’s been so much going on lately, however, that I overlooked that today is his birthday until my friend over at Verbomania reminded me of the fact. I’ve posted on Poe many times, but this morning I had an email concerning my work on Nightmares with the Bible stating that my use of Poe in that book was a nice touch. Sometimes I need to be hit over the head with things, though, to make them sink in. It seems impossible that it was 210 years ago that Poe was born. Our Januaries have become remarkably crueler since those times, what with inaugurations and all.
I have often mused that we’ve lived beyond the era where one person can have the widespread impact (for good, that is) that influences an era. In the area of my doctorate, for example, like him or not William Foxwell Albright rearranged the field of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. Nobody has been able to do it since because, well, Albright already did it. Poe gave us many things—the struggling writer determined to make a living by his pen, the scary short story, detective fiction, the Raven. Those of us who dabble in fiction do so in his shadow. (I know Poe wasn’t the only writer of his era, but it’s his birthday, so let’s celebrate him!) Other writers like H. P. Lovecraft, now a hot commodity, would draw their inspiration from Poe. And from Poe and Lovecraft came the early work of Stephen King.
A winter storm advisory is in effect. Outside it looks bleak and the clouds appear as if they wish to weep. A nation founded by immigrants (my apologies, first nations) has come to believe that it was here first in a world full of need and suffering. Building a silly, expensive, and utterly pointless wall is a telltale sign that the heart has ceased to beat. Two centuries and a decade ago a writer was born. He had penetrating insight into what makes people behave wickedly toward their fellows. Just when things seemed to be making progress we find ourselves prematurely buried under masonry and rubble. How could I have forgotten Poe’s birthday? Too much has been crowding my January, I’m afraid. I don’t take the time I should to gaze out at the winter and wonder.