Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Anniversary to Me

…Or, to World of Poe, at least. Yes, this strange little blog started three years ago today. Let’s all pause to offer a toast to Edgar:

World of Edgar Allan Poe anniversary

While raising my glass, I would like to offer as a salute (via The Poe Society of Baltimore) Lambert A. Wilmer’s poem “To Edgar A. Poe,” which he published (under the pseudonym “Horace in Philadelphia”) in the “Saturday Evening Post” on August 11, 1838. The ode was written at a particularly low period in Poe’s professional career, but these oddly prescient words of encouragement seem equally relevant today:
What object has the poet’s prayer?
(If poets have the grace to pray;)
Petitions he for sumptuous fare,
For gold--for garments rich and rare,
(For which the owners oft forget to pay;)
Asks he for houses or extended lands,
Rich harvests, ripening in the fervid ray
Of August suns;--or credit that commands
Another’s purse, (if back’d by good security
And fair financial prospects in futurity.)
Say do the poet’s ardent wishes seize
On objects such as these?

No:--if the genuine spark is there,
A careless mortal you shall see,
Unfetter’d by the world and free--
Unlike what C[lark]e and W[illi]s are.

A sordid mind was never blent
With genius;--such accompaniment
Would be like brazen cow-bells rung
While heavenly Caradori sung.
Praise is the subject of the poet’s sighs;
Neglect, the atmosphere in which he dies.

And yet, true genius, (like the sun
With bats and owls,) is little noted;
But when his glorious course is run,
His griefs forgot, his labors done,
Then is he prais’d, admired, and quoted!

Dull mediocrity, meanwhile
Along his level turnpike speeds,
And fame and fortune are his meeds;
While merit wants one cheering smile,
How bless’d stupidity succeeds!

But let the heavenly gifted mind
Not hopeless mourn, if men are blind,
And imbecility prevails;
Time, sternly frowning on the base
Shall sweep the poor ephemeral race
To where oblivion tells no tales.
As autumn’s rapid breezes sweep
Ten thousand insects to the deep.

But the same wind whose angry tones
Sends small dull craft to Davy Jones,
Is but an impulse to convey
The nobler vessel o’er the sea;--
So thou dear friend, shalt haply ride
Triumphant through the swelling tide
With fame thy cynosure and guide.

So may it be.--tho’ fortune now
Averts her face, and heedless crowds
To blocks, like senseless Pagans, bow;--
Yet time shall dissipate the clouds,
Dissolve the mist which merit shrouds,
And fix the laurel on thy brow.

There let it grow; and there ‘twould be
If justice rul’d and men could see.
But reptiles are allow’d to sport
Their scaly limbs in great Apollo’s court.
Thou once did whip some rascals from the fane
O let thy vengeful arm be felt again.

No one is more surprised than I am that this project has lasted so long. I never had any particular desire to blog about anything. World of Poe basically arose out of a fit of temper. I found a number of remarkably weird statements on a few Wikipedia pages relating to Poe (“Edgar T.S. Grey,” anyone? And I'll bet you didn't know his famous "I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity" letter was written to "his friend, John H. Ingram.") Finding myself unable to do anything about it, in a moment of impotent irritation, I thought, “All right, I’ll have my say on a blog. Let’s see them try to edit that.”

At first I was only expecting to do this for a few weeks or so, but the blog somehow took on a life of its own. And I’ll always be glad it did. World of Poe itself may not be much, but because of it, I’ve discovered much more about Poe and “met” terrific people who would otherwise be unknown to me. I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has said kind words about this site. (Believe it or not, there have been a few.) I’m always startled to realize anyone reads this blog at all, let alone when they find anything positive to say about it. I’m truly grateful for their generosity.

I assumed the blog had ceased for good some months ago, but I found myself bringing it back from the self-imposed slumber in order to comment on the unexpected revival of the, ahem, "issues" surrounding Lenore Hart's "The Raven's Bride." I hoped to be able to report on some sort of resolution to a frustratingly inconclusive story.

Well, although the imbroglio was covered by the Associated Press, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and numerous other places across the interwebs, that resolution never materialized. Hart herself simply issued frazzled and very curious attacks/defenses that were longer and duller than the Manhattan phone book but only a fraction as coherent and readable. St. Martin's Press, after issuing a statement that translated into "Shut up, they explained," was content to look blind, deaf, and...well, you finish the sentence. I can only assume that well-founded charges of shenanigans involving the product they offer the public means nothing to them--even as a platoon of online bibliosleuths have uncovered an ever-growing list of other books by other "writers" that are obviously plagiarized. Something to keep in mind next time you hit the bookstores. Caveat emptor.

The Norman Mailer Center, as I mentioned before, was responsible enough to suspend Lenore Hart from her teaching position there while the charges against her are being "investigated." However, Pennsylvania's Wilkes University, which also boasts La Hart as a faculty member, has, to date, paid no public notice of the issue. Yes, my friends, you still have the opportunity to let her work the same magic on
your manuscript that she brought to hers!

It was a real shock to me to realize that the "Raven's Bride"/"Very Young Mrs. Poe" situation is not, as I had assumed, a bizarre anomaly. In fact, it is increasingly looking like "business as usual." If nothing else is accomplished, at least Jeremy Duns, Steve Mosby, Archie Valparaiso, Elizabeth Chadwick, the posters at, and many many others have done us all a great service by discovering and publicizing many examples of the widespread contagion of Literary Bad Behavior. (The latest fad? Sockpuppets!)

If I can get autobiographical for a moment: Back in the Paleolithic Era, when I was an inmate in a wretched penal colony masquerading as a junior high school, a girl in my English class approached me one morning before school wanting to see what I had written for a book report that was due that day. She said she hadn't had time to read the book, and just wanted to glance at my paper to get some idea of what it was about. Dupe that I am, I let her borrow it for a while.

The next day, the teacher told us both to stay behind after class for a little chat. I was dumbfounded to learn that the girl had copied my essay word for word and submitted it under her own name. Fortunately, the teacher was a pretty nice guy with a sense of humor (unusual for that school.) He was familiar with my writing style (with a little chuckle I wasn't sure I liked, he commented it was "very distinctive") and he had already surmised what happened. He let me off with some friendly advice about the wisdom of keeping my homework classified material. I've wondered ever since what becomes of people like my classmate.

She's probably a best-selling author today.

True justice may never really be found in the cases that have been uncovered, but justice is a rare and precious commodity in this strange and often appalling world of ours--our "Hell of the planetary souls." And, of course, there are far worse examples of injustice every minute than ones involving the shortcomings of otherwise unimportant and forgettable hacks. We can only hope all the miscreants involved at least learned a lesson for the future. Besides, they're already condemned to living with themselves, which is a hard punishment indeed.

I'm uncertain how many blog posts I have left in me--after all, Edgar’s not doing too much these days--but I’ve developed a taste for writing boring, long-winded, and addled 2,000 word rants on arcane literary issues, so I hope to still pop up now and then, whenever any Poe-related lunacy happens to catch my eye. (I’m starting to feel like a character from one of John Mortimer’s Rumpole novels: “He’ll always be bobbing back like a bloody opera singer, making his ‘positively last appearance.’”) In the meantime, if anyone wants to chat about Poe with me on Twitter, feel free. I promise to try and be pithy, informative, and only moderately obnoxious.

I’ll close with the late, great Sandy Denny performing what is probably my favorite song. Who knows where the blogging time goes, indeed.

As that valued Friend of Poe Pauline would say, bonne chance.