Saturday, July 07, 2007

Writing a Poem is like Programming ...


In this essay, Poe present a theory about how poets compose their poems [may be writers in general?]. He uses his most famous poem, "The Raven" [ Raven — the bird of ill omen, ] to illustrate this theory.

Extent: If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression — for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and every thing like totality is at once destroyed.

Tone: Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.
Province: Truth, in fact, demands a precision, and Passion, a homeliness (the truly passionate will comprehend me) which are absolutely antagonistic to that Beauty which, I maintain, is the excitement, or pleasurable elevation, of the soul.

Artistic effects: I determined to produce continuously novel effects, by the variation of the application of the refrain — the refrain itself remaining, for the most part, unvaried.

Character of the word :

long o as the most sonorous vowel, in connection with r as the most producible consonant.

keeping with that melancholy which I had predetermined as the tone of the poem. In such a search it would have been absolutely impossible to overlook the word "Nevermore." In fact, it was the very first which presented itself.

Pretext for the continuous use of the one word "nevermore.": "Nevermore" should involve the utmost conceivable amount of sorrow and despair.

Structure: Less pedantically — the feet employed throughout (trochees) consist of a long syllable followed by a short: the first line of the stanza consists of eight of these feet — the second of seven and a half (in effect two-thirds) — the third of eight — the fourth of seven and a half — the fifth the same — the sixth three and a half. Now, each of these lines, taken individually, has been employed before, and what originality the "Raven" has, is in their combination into stanza; nothing even remotely approaching this combination has ever been attempted.
Location: that a close circumscription of space is absolutely necessary to the effect of insulated incident: — it has the force of a frame to a picture.

Introducing Raven: I had now to introduce the bird — and the thought of introducing him through the window, was inevitable.

Conclusion: Two things are invariably required — first, some amount of complexity, or more properly, adaptation; and, secondly, some amount of suggestiveness — some under current, however indefinite of meaning.
clipped from
Poe photo
 blog it