Poe's Poetry

Poe's Poetry Study Guide

Although Edgar Allan Poe is perhaps better known for his Gothic short stories (such as "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Fall of the House of Usher") than for his poetry, a number of his poetic works have gained popularity in the popular consciousness. In particular, "The Raven" has seen frequent adaptation on film and on television, and it remains a popular piece for dramatic recital. Among Poe's other works, several of his later poems such as "Annabel Lee," "Lenore," and "The Bells" have been widely read and remembered for their lyrical sound and their effective presentation of unified theme and emotional effect.

The majority of Poe's early writings were poems, and his first published work appeared in the collection entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems when he was eighteen years old. The subsequent volumes of poetry highlight his development as a writer, as he shortened and revised "Tamerlane" while adding poems such as "Sonnet - To Science" and "To Helen" to his repertoire. This tendency to revise and improve his poetry featured throughout his career, and, in several cases, such as that of "Lenore," the edited version of a poem gained a particularly high profile. By the 1840s, in the last years of his tragically short life, Poe had gained a reputation both for poems such as "The Raven" and for his short fiction.

A number of common ideas run throughout much of Poe's poetic oeuvre, particularly regarding the twin subjects of love and death. Several of his poems. such as "Ulalume" and "Annabel Lee", depict a lonely protagonist who has lost a cherished woman and who deals in various ways with his grief and with his experience of love. Others, such as "To Helen" or "The Conqueror Worm", deal separately with either love or death respectively, and certainly not all Poe's poems reach the same conclusions. In all instances, however, Poe attempts to combine the various elements of a poem into a dynamic whole, employing literary devices from rhyme to repetition and alliteration in order to convey a unified conception. For Poe, the aesthetic representation of a coherent idea was paramount in writing and creating.