Hall of Idols # 53: Edgar Allan Poe


Fifty-third installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.

Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.

Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.

As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.

It’s always interesting and important to know from where people you admire in the realm of art got their influences. For example: if you like Metallica, you can trace their influences back to Venom, Queen, Iron Maiden, Discharge, Thin Lizzy and many others. Then, you may be interested in knowing where those guys got their influence and it will trace back to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, The Beatles. If you got interest in what those guys listened to, it will take you back to early Rock and Roll and eventually, the Blues.

If you like literature, especially, horror, sci-fi and fantasy literature and is a sucker for books by Stephen King, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen and the like, you won’t get beyond today’s inductee. In a way, he started it all.

Edgar Poe was born in Boston, January 19, 1809. His mother was British and his father was an American from Baltimore and both were actors. His father abandoned the family in 1810 and one year later his mother died of pulmonary tuberculosis. He was adopted by the family of a successful Scottish merchant named John Allan who lived in Richmond, Virginia. Although the family never legally adopted him, they gave him the middle name Allan.

The family moved to England where they remained until 1820, when they returned to Richmond. In 1826 he registered at the University of Virginia to study ancient and modern languages, but gave up one year later due to gambling debts and returned to Boston supporting himself as a clerk and newspaper writer.

He couldn’t support himself so he enlisted in the United States Army and published his first collection of poems entitled Tamerlane and Other Poems. After a tumultuous career in the military (where he was even court-martialed on purpose) and one more poems book, he went to New York and released a third one. His early poems were influenced by his childhood hero, Lord Byron.

He returned to Baltimore and thought about making a living just writing. He is the first known American writer to try to do so in earnest. He was poor, but one of his short-stories won a contest sponsored by the Saturday Visiter. Through the connections established in the contest he earned an editorial position at the Southern Literary Messenger and his stories helped the Messenger to become the most popular magazine in the South.

It’s not difficult to see why. Edgar Allan Poe is one of the few human beings who can claim that he invented a new kind of art. He single-handedly invented Gothic Literature and his writings influenced everybody I just quoted above.

The images he conjured in tales like “The Fall of the House of Usher” or “The Pit and the Pendulum” are a blueprint for every horror writer out there. He also succeeded in mysteries like “Murders in the Rue Morgue” (who would have thought – spoiler alert! – it was an ape?), among many others.

And of course, there’s “The Raven”. The poem that defined his life, a whole artistic movement and even named a football team 150 years later; the idea of a black crow as a messenger of Death, might look quite obvious now, but nobody had ever thought about that. Poe did.

Thus, Mr. Poe, the raven may have said “Never more” but we say welcome to the Hall of Idols.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal”

You can contact me at: carloantico666@gmail.com

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