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Archive for the ‘Edgar Allan Poe’ Category

It’s hard for me to believe that four years ago on this day, with a succinct, autogenous “Hello, World!” announcing its quiet arrival on the heavily populated, cyber literary landscape, Archetype was launched.  Conceived originally to chronicle my journey through Chapman University’s dual Master of Arts in English and Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program and provide a forum for peer critique and camaraderie, I promptly posted passages from one of my short stories (“Windmill Ridge”) and my novel-in-progress Time of Death and invited classmates to contribute their work.  I also posted original essay excerpts on Jonathan Franzen and the waning of a literary America (“Antisocial or socially isolated?”), mirrors and reflective imagery in world literature (“Masks, Manipulation, and Madness”), and the notion of the invoked doppelganger in fiction (“The Self We Seek”), all of which I was studying in those first few months of back-to-school bliss.

362px-Th_Richter_Dame_in_der_BibliothekLike any creative endeavor, the site evolved as I did and now reflects my deepening involvement in and abiding commitment to literary and academic pursuits.  In addition to promoting Chapman fiction and poetry readings and publication opportunities, I mine journals and the Internet for interesting and informative local events taking place beyond the university’s borders.  Details regarding local and national writing contests and Calls for Submissions are also posted regularly, which I think my small but dedicated audience appreciates.  Most recently, I’ve added a section for the growing number of my guest blog posts, my interviews, and other places where I’ve stumbled pleasantly upon my own work.

Followers know that I most often post poems and passages that have timely personal significance.  From my occasional struggles with insomnia and feelings of isolation to my simple delight in a book or summer peach, each post, like a journal entry, suggests precisely where I am intellectually and emotionally.  Early on I rejoiced to find pictures, particularly eighteenth and nineteenth century oil paintings, that evoked or complemented the literary piece I was posting, and I now spend nearly as much time searching for corresponding artwork as I do on literature.

Thanks to my passionate professors and their fascinating courses on Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement, the life and works of Virginia Woolf, female enchantresses of modern British literature, and Gothic and fantastic fiction, Wilde, Woolf, and the works of A. S. Byatt, Katherine Mansfield, Angela Carter, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Edgar Allan Poe were frequent early Archetype subjects.  Posts on Wilde culminated in November 2009 with the writing of my course thesis on The Picture of Dorian Gray (“The Act of Creation,” “Wilde Irony”), while Woolf reigned in the fall of 2010.  (Click on these links to review excerpts from “The I in the Portrait: A Bakhtinian Analysis of The Picture of Dorian Gray and “On the Wings of Angels and Butterflies: The Chaotic Journey to Woman in Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.”)  My penchant for Russian literature and philosophy ENFANT~1was also soon discovered, and I immersed myself and, by extension, Archetype in Gogol, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Nabokov and began to examine just about everything through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin.  Later courses exposed me to the intriguing life and works of Gertrude Stein (“Back to Bakhtin: The ‘I’ in Ida), Junot Díaz, Ralph Ellison, and many others, and every newly encountered author was explored here to some extent.

The craft of writing is another recurrent theme on Archetype; “In Celebration of Technique,” “Last Writes,” “More is More,” “Not Quite Write,” “Drafting Perfection,” and “A Sense of Style” are a few of my personal favorites.  However, it is the angst of writing about which I tend to muse and articulate most freely; “Why Write?,” “One True Sentence,” “Bird by Bird,” “Write About Now,” “Demons and Darlings,” “The Reality of Rejection,” “In conclusion…,” “A New Summer of Writing,” and “The Write Stuff” all convey my own grapples with the creative stall and feelings of inadequacy.

With the MA in English recently attained, a few modest awards under my belt, and conferral of the MFA degree scheduled for next spring, I can’t help but consider what’s next – for me academically and literarily and for this site.  It’s no secret among those who know me best that PhD programs in both English and Comparative Literature are especially enticing next prospects.  However, with applicant Leonid_Pasternak_001admission rates of approximately four to five percent at local universities, I’m keeping the likelihood of acceptance in perspective.  Nonetheless, the pursuit of admittance will be next summer’s undertaking and will, of course, be recounted here.  For now, my focus will remain on completing and defending my MFA thesis, submitting my short fiction and nonfiction work to various conferences and journals, and preparing for the Graduate Record Examination.  Oh, yes…and there is still my novel to finish (“This is the Year”).

During the last 48 months, I have published 487 posts about literature, critical theory and writing technique, literary figures and events, submission opportunities, favorite poems and passages, articles of interest, books I’m reading, papers I’m writing, other literary blogs I’m following, conferences I’m attending, and demons I’m wrestling.  Archetype celebrates holidays, welcomes new seasons, and even gives the occasional nod to lunar activity.  Finally, personal aspects of my affective life and literary journey are memorialized and shared (“Write of Passage,” “Cartwheels Under the Arch,” “Pathetic Fallacy,” “Beyond Words,” “On the Write Track”), even when the discovery and healing are mine alone.  The site maintains a small but seemingly loyal band of subscribers and blogroll partners, to whom I feel completely accountable and utterly grateful.  I hope you will all follow me through this final chapter at Chapman and into the next – wherever the next may lead.

 

757px-Paul_Hoecker-Vally-1888_

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Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

Thus much let me avow –

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

 

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand –

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep – while I weep!

O God! Can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

 

~ Edgar Allan Poe, born on this day in 1809

 

"The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of" by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1858

“The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of” by John Anster Fitzgerald, 1858

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With the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth just two days away, fans of the gothic master of macabre plan one final vigil for the mysterious “Poe Toaster” at the writer’s gravesite in Baltimore.  For more than half a century, an unknown guest left roses and a half-bottle of cognac on Poe’s grave to commemorate the author’s 1809 birthday. 

The shadowy Toaster failed to make his pre-dawn appearance the last two years, much to the disappointment of Poe House and Museum Curator Jeff Jerome and the many Poe enthusiasts who gather annually to witness the event.  The second consecutive Poe no-show in 2011 suggested that the ritualistic tribute that began in 1949 is dead and that the unidentified Toaster may remain, like the poet’s lost Lenore, “nameless here for evermore.” 

Nonetheless, hopeful fans will wait with Jerome once again this week for the Toaster’s January 19 appearance before calling an end to the decades long tradition.

 

This 2008 tribute at Poe's memorial was most likely left by an imposter of the Poe Toaster, who leaves his bottle on Poe's actual grave. (Image courtesy of Midnightdreary, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.)

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It’s hard to believe that this is my 300th post.  As I saw this occasion approaching, I reflected on the last twenty-eight months of commentary, criticism, musings, poems, favorite literary quotes and passages, biographies, portraits, event information, and original fiction and nonfiction excerpts I’ve presented and wondered, as I often do, what is writeaboutable?  What merits the deconstruction and elevation of an experience or insight to a poetic observation or proseMoreover, is anyone going to read this?

I’ve had countless discussions with my peers about the notion of writing what we feel versus writing what sells or, in the case of websites and blogs, what garners views.  I’ve always advocated passionately that the former is the nobler, which most would not deny; however, the point that it will matter little if what you write from your heart isn’t read by anyone other than your mother is a valid one.  In “Why Write” (December 13, 2009), I suggest that, as Poe avows, writers write for the intrinsic value of art without function, l’art pour l’art.  I tend to agree with this and don’t feel compelled to publish with the aim of transcending literary obscurity, but then, I have a fabulous day job.

In Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto, Anneli Rufus asserts that “most often, books go unread.”  (I could say the same about many of my Archetype posts.)  “The fiction shelves in any library are heavy with novels […] that have not been lent for years.  Thus the writer, knowing this as writers do, is even more alone.  Who will deem my work worth his time to read?  The few.  Yet writers write.  And knowing what they know makes their isolation almost a sacrament” (124-25).

Jonathan Franzen also addresses the dilemma of writing in a void.  In his essay “Mr. Difficult,” he presents two very different models of the relationship between fiction and its readers and admits that he subscribes to both: the Status model, in which the novel’s value is independent of how many people read and appreciate it, and the Contract model, which is based on the author earning and sustaining the reader’s trust and connecting with the audience.  This concept of two models could apply to blog posts, as well, and I contemplate frequently about whether I should post what I feel and what appeals to me in that moment or post what, well, sells.

When I sit down to post on Archetype, that the content is interesting or poignant to me is paramount.  Every poem, image, quote, or passage I’ve posted has moved me in some grand way.  It has so affected me, in fact, that I want to share it and therefore hope that, by the post’s title or introductory lines, it will capture the attention of both subscribers and random literary blog browsers.  While I love the days my site has a record-breaking number of views, I’m also pretty content with simply knowing I’ve put something of myself out there – an insight, an observation, or an Aha! moment of some sort.  If it resonates with just one person, I deem it a success – even when that one person is my mother.

Three hundred posts and counting…this one is dedicated to you, Donella.

 

“Literary Pursuits of a Young Lady” by Alexei Harlamoff

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Dreams

Lately I’ve been exploring the significance of dream recall and imagery and The Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (Norton 2004) – the combination of which entails an interesting journey of the psyche, to be sure.  How fitting, then, to discover this poem, which was first published in 1827 and has been interpreted to suggest “that happiness resides only in this one fleeting moment of insight” (15).

 

’Twas once – and only once – and the wild hour

From my remembrance shall not pass – some pow’r

Or spell had bound me – ’twas the chilly wind

Came o’er me in the night, and left behind

Its image on my spirit – or the moon

Shone on my slumbers in her lofty noon

Too coldly – or the stars – howe’er it was

That dream was as that night-wind – let it pass.

I have been happy, tho’ in a dream.

I have been happy – and I love the theme:

Dreams!  in their vivid colouring of life

As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife

Of semblance with reality which brings

To the delirious eye, more lovely things.

Of Paradise and Love – and all our own!

Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.

 

                                         ~ Excerpt from “Dreams” by Edgar Allan Poe

 

"A Dream of a Girl Before a Sunrise" by Karl Briullov (1830-1833)

 

 

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For the second year in a row, the shadowy “Poe Toaster” failed to make his annual pre-dawn appearance at the gravesite of Edgar Allan Poe in honor of the writer’s birthday.  This second consecutive no-show suggests that the ritualistic tribute that began in 1949 is dead, and the unidentified toaster may remain, like the poet’s lost Lenore, “nameless here for evermore.”

John Tenniel illustration for Poe's "The Raven," 1858

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Last year on January 19, it was feared that a decades-long annual tribute to Edgar Allan Poe had come to an end.  For more than half a century, an unknown guest referred to as the “Poe Toaster” left three roses and a half-bottle of cognac at Poe’s gravesite in Baltimore to commemorate the author’s 1809 birthday.  The mysterious visitor failed to appear last year, much to the disappointment of the many Poe enthusiasts who had gathered to witness the event.  (See my archived post “A Poe No-Show,” January 19, 2010.)    

Hopeful spectators suggested the toaster may have been ill or had car trouble last year, not yet willing to concede that the ritual may be nevermore.  The curator of the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, Jeff Jerome, reportedly intends to maintain his vigil every January 19 at least until 2012.  Fans headed to Baltimore earlier today and are already gathering at Westminster Hall to keep watch with Jerome until dawn for the toaster’s appearance.  And so we wait…

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For my 99th post, I am continuing my countdown of the top five Archetype posts to date based on reader response.  The following post is from the December archives and addresses the question that all writers have at one time or another: Is anyone ever going to read this?     

Post 99 – #2 Top Post

Why Write? (December 13, 2009)

I spent the majority of the last two weekends writing a short story that may never be read by anyone other than the fifteen aspiring writers in my MFA workshop and possibly a submission editor at Writer’s Digest.  Three weeks ago, I spent the weekend polishing an essay for the Sigma Tau Delta convention judges.  Prior to that, I spent a month of weekends crafting a chapter of my novel.  And the weekends before that, well…you get the picture.  While nothing may come of these endeavors, the urge to write is wonderfully innate; it will occur with or without the promise of an audience. 

The number of manuscripts and short fiction received and rejected each month by literary agents and editors is staggering.  After months and most likely years of effort and sacrifice, the writer’s work is discarded for reasons ranging from undeveloped characterizations or plot to the quality of paper on which the manuscript was submitted.  Those that do make it to publication rarely sell more than 20,000 copies.  “Most often, books go unread,” asserts Anneli Rufus in Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto.  “The fiction shelves in any library are heavy with novels [...] that have not been lent for years.  Thus the writer, knowing this as writers do, is even more alone.  Who will deem my work worth his time to read?  The few” (125).  

So why do writers write?  If there’s no audience, what’s the point?  Gautier and Wilde would contend they write for the intrinsic value of art without function, l’art pour l’art.  In his essay “The Poetic Principle,” Poe also avows “that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than [that] which is a poem and nothing more [...], written solely for the poem’s sake.”

With its requirement of hyperawareness of the world around and the world within, perhaps writers write merely to stay fully conscious.  Or perhaps they are compelled to tell a story, their story, to discover its meaning.  Certainly there are those who seek celebrity and wealth and still others who simply maintain this one, seemingly unattainable goal.  Then again, I suspect l’art pour l’art is reason enough for most.  And so we write.

A copy photograph of the portrait painted by Oscar Halling of Edgar Allan Poe in the late 1860s

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Every January 19 for the past sixty years, an unknown visitor to Edgar Allan Poe’s grave in Baltimore has left three roses and a half-bottle of cognac in honor of the late author’s birthday.  Since 1949, the mysterious “Poe Toaster” has always arrived before 5:30 a.m. to toast the “Master of Macabre.”  This year, however, the peculiar guest did not appear, disappointing Poe enthusiasts, many of whom travel annually to witness the strange visitation. 

While the curator of the Poe House and Museum remains hopeful that the tradition will resume next year, Poe fans will have to wait until next January 19 to find out.   

Poe was born on January 19, 1809 and died at the age of forty on October 7, 1849.

File:Poe's grave Baltimore MD.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Poe%27s_grave_Baltimore_MD.jpg

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/books/20arts-ISPOETOBETOA_BRF.html

http://espn.go.com/espn/page2/index?id=4839934

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