Edgar Allan Poe, c. 1848An attempt at critical heft provided solely by warp. No dogwood shuttle flying its stow of woof yarn through the shed. To so intuit a fortifying conjunct with no connecting tissue. (Poe: “. . . a whole universe of suggestion—a gay and motley train of rhapsodical and immethodical thought.” —“A Tale of the Ragged Mountain”) A shack made without nails: “pressure holding points,” “junctures of tension.”
(Daguerreotype by Marcus Aurelius Root)
Poe: “. . . it is clear that a poem now written will be poetic in the exact ratio of its dispassion. A passionate poem is a contradiction in terms.”
J. H. Prynne, writing to Andrew Crozier (13 September 1966)—out of Certain Prose of
The English Intelligencer (Mountain, 2012)—regarding “the pathos of distance” in Crozier’s work: “This gives you a rich vein of sentiment and even those delicious gestures, just the suggestion of a catch in the voice, but at the same time an intensely literary
option on whether to pursue it or not, as a figure in one of Puttenham’s counterfait modes. Now pathos and even poverty may truly be one of our present conditions, but the flower on the bush
is a glide into poignant suggestion, which is not pathos at all but a kind of court device: ‘Or is it not perchance more requisite our courtly poet do dissemble not onely his countenances & cōceits, but also all his ordinary actions of behauiour, or the most part of thē, whereby the better to winne his purposes & good aduantages, as now & then to haue a iourney or sicknesse in his sleeve?’”
Paul Metcalf, out of the Edgar Allan Poe / John Wilkes Booth book, Both
“. . . Tellmenow Isitsöornot . . .”
“Most of them [the stories] were intended for half-banter, half-satire—although I might not have fully acknowledged this to be their aim even to myself.”
“The Atlantic has been actually crossed in a Balloon! and this too without difficulty—without any great apparent danger—with thorough control of the machine—and in the inconceivably brief period of seventy-five hours from shore to shore!”
. . . filled his stories with spurious quotations from foreign languages . . . “makes quotations from the German, but he can’t read a word of the language.”
(“Some few persons believe it—but I do not—and don’t you. P. S. ‘The Valdemar Case’ was a hoax, of course.”)
(“Of course, there is not one word of truth in it from beginning to end . . . please do not let out the secret.”)
. . . codes, ciphers, and anagrams . . . acrostics, hieroglyphics, the kabbala . .
“I believe that demons take advantage of the night to mislead the unwary—although you know, I don’t believe in them.”
“. . . Tellmenow Isitsöornot . . .”
Beckett: “Watt had watched people smile and thought he understood how it was done. And it was true that Watt’s smile, when he smiled, resembled more a smile than a sneer, for example, or a yawn. But there was something wanting to Watt’s smile, some little thing was lacking, and people who saw it for the first time, and most people who saw it saw it for the first time, were sometimes in doubt as to what expression exactly was intended. To many it seemed a simple sucking of the teeth.”
Poe: “‘Steal, dear Endymion,’ I used to say to him—‘for very well do I know you can’t help it; and the more you put in your book that is not your own, why the better your book will be:—but be cautious and steal with an air.
In regard to myself—you need give yourself no trouble about me.
I shall always feel honored in being of use to you; and provided you purloin my poetry in a reputable manner,
you are quite welcome to just as much of it as you (who are a very
weak little man) can conveniently carry away.’”
Keston Sutherland, out of “What is called ‘Bathos’?” (Stupefaction: A Radical Anatomy of Phantoms
): “. . . excellently not quite quasi-satirical . . .”
Wordsworth (Appendix, “by what is usually called Poetic Diction,”
1802): “The earliest poets of all nations generally wrote from passion excited by real events; they wrote naturally, and as men: feeling powerfully as they did, their language was daring, and figurative. In succeeding times, Poets, and Men ambitious of the fame of Poets, perceiving the influence of such language, and desirous of producing the same effect without being animated by the same passion, set themselves to a mechanical adoption of these figures of speech, and made use of them, sometimes with propriety, but much more frequently applied them to feelings and thoughts with which they had no natural connection whatsoever. A language was thus insensibly produced, differing materially from the real language of men in any situation.”
Prynne (letter to Crozier): “I might even refer to a continuing hint of derision towards the subject—the very exposure of it a kind of priggish incitement to the reader. If a set of language is to need and deserve confidence it must keep its own kind of fidelity: it must be true to its purpose. And what is I sit alone at my window.
True to an occasion, you try not to be at all artificial, but nowhere
true to any degree of purpose. My argument is in some kind of vice here, because the purpose is of course the retrospective formalism of the occasion. Your nostalgia is very artful, the reader is left carrying about the abandoned tones of this world.”
“Pure gold can be made at will, and very readily from lead in connection with certain other substances . . .”
John Sartain: “I asked him how he came to be in Moyamensing Prison, and he said he has been suspected of trying to pass a fifty-dollar counterfeit note . . .
* * *
“. . . Tellmenow Isitsöornot . . .”
. . . to banish uncertainty, to interfuse, to blend . . .
. . . to marry one’s cousin, to tell tales of incest . . .
. . . at various times gave his date of birth as 1809, 1811, 1813 . . . at 37, called himself 33 . . .
. . . enlisted in the army as Edgar A. Perry, at other times became Henri le Rennet, Edward S. T. Grey, E. S. T. Grey Esqre., and Thaddeus K. Peasley . . .
Emily Dickinson, to Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1862): “When I state myself, as the Representative of the Verse—it does not mean—me—but a supposed person. You spoke about the ‘perfection.’ To-day makes Yesterday mean.”
Metcalf, out of “Manacle Your Icicle” (From Quarry Road: Uncollected Essays and Reviews of Paul Metcalf
Sewell suggests that there were probably as many Emily Dickinsons as there are biographers. Her Father’s grounds were her stage, on which she played many a role. Look at some of the signatures she used for her letters: Emily, E. Dickinson, Dickinson, Your Scholar, Your Stranger, Emilie, Your “Rascal,” Brother Emily, Your Pupil, Sister, Your Dickinson, Nameless friend, Butterfly, your mad Emilie, Your Gnome, Barabbas, America, Emilie—I believe, and Selah.
One of her stagiest performances was her first meeting with Higginson, in which her brother Austin, who knew her well, said she “posed.” Higginson said, afterward, “I am glad not to live near her.”
"Ned tells that the Clock purrs and the Kitten ticks. He inherits his Uncle Emily’s ardor for the lie.”
Prynne (letter to Crozier): “ . . . our ambiguities now are quite
different, and have little connection with the authentic
. The scales have been repeatedly forced. I don’t know how the true case would sound, but we can’t go back to hurt as a refinement of nonchalance, with all the elisions of sweetness put against an impartial notion of the public art. Your language is no more than arch inasmuch as it invokes those assumptions—that’s no longer a rack on which anyone is stretched . . .”
Poe: “With the passions
of mankind—although [a poem] may modify them greatly—although it may exalt, or inflame, or purify, or control them—it would require little ingenuity to prove that it has no inevitable, and indeed no necessary co-existence.”