Poe's Poetry

The Role of Confession in Poe's Poetry

In his essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," Edgar Allan Poe writes that in an ideal poem, "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." While he claims to use this statement to justify the "suggestiveness" of the final two stanzas of "The Raven," he points at a more universal under-current that lies behind several of his poems, particularly those about deceased women. In poems such as "Annabel Lee" and "The Raven," the speaker covertly confesses to murdering the women about whom they are written. The complexity of these poems lies in the nature of the speaker, who wishes to make his guilt public, yet at the same time enjoys keeping it hidden. The principle of a covert confession serves as Poe's poetic inspiration, drawing a connection between confession and creation.

Since the death of beautiful women is such a common theme in Poe's poems, it obviously an inspiring topic. More important than the deaths themselves, however, is the manner in which they are narrated. Poe's speakers tell stories about dead...

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