WWW--Of all of the pieces, articles, and observations I've written on this site since August of 2006, I can say that this series written on Edgar Allan Poe comprises some of the very best of my writing. I have related very deeply to Poe almost my entire life for a host of reasons and consider him above Whitman and the New England "mystics." His only real peer in my opinion is Mark Twain, possibly Herman Melville, and Ambrose Bierce coming close on his heels.
Poe saw the horror that was the America of his time and the darkness of the human soul, while Melville, Twain, and Bierce saw where it was all heading, Melville even before the American Civil War in his prescient short story, "Bartelby, the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street" (1853). Read this story now and tell me with a straight face that the man wasn't brilliant, wasn't aware of the wrong-turn America began taking around that time, now culminating in what could very well be the endgame of the species.
For being the bearer of bad news, Melville's incredible popularity waned, and he died poor and all-but-forgotten. Edgar Allan Poe wasn't much luckier, yet the notion that he wasn't popular or famous during his short life is inaccurate--he was. The problem was that Poe's publishers were greedy scumbags who paid him poorly, just like most employers nowadays; he was literally the very first American to attempt making a living by writing alone, which should tell you something about the rest of his literary peers at the time.
At the very end of his life, things were looking up. I admire all of the aforementioned writers deeply, but with Poe--with Poe--I feel like one of many of his humble protectors. In the last few years, morons in various America cities have tried to claim him as their own, and without any merit. Philadelphia is perhaps the most egregious case in their claim to his remains, but Boston might be even more galling, the town he hated the most and called "frogpondia." What do these people want?
Publicity, of course, and God knows they don't have the moral courage Poe had to be himself, for better or for worse. What they want is to take the easy route: none of the suffering and poverty that the great writer had to endure, with some of the benefits he was barely able to have in life. The legend came after his death. Riding on the coattails of a dead man who suffered the tortures of the damned is immoral. Enjoy (or don't)...