David Ross (dyvyd) wrote,
David Ross

Poe's Aesthetic N-tanglement

I fear I will not tire of this P thing.

But it reminds me of a humorous essay I wrote on the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe (words now long gone and silent, but I remember the idea of it). I had just gotten my TI-994A computer and was marvelling over how easy it was to do "word processing"  instead of typing.  Because I used to write a paragraph, chop it down to three words, then do it again and again until I found something I could not chop, writing was a long process for me and involved wastebaskets full of paper wads.  I really thought it would save paper too, at least until the first time I sent a hundred copies of a document to the printer, then found errors, then reprinted, ad infinitum. 

Technology gives  you a slight edge to do good, but also puts the apocalypse as close away as a keystroke.

The following was born when I discovered global "find and replace" macros, and began tinkering.

The essay took on the issue of why Poe's poetry was not held in higher regard.  It often does better in translation I argued, but not because Poe was a bad poet, and the translators were better poets.  How could he be a bad poet owning three-quarters of the word "poet," and knowing "possession was nine-tenths of the law?"  No, Poe was not at fault.  The english language failed him.  When it came to poetry, Poe had strict aesthetic rules based on sound combinations that produced certain tastes and certain tinglings of the tongue.  Suffering from synesthesia, Poe could not help tasting words and thus was limited to using only ones that did not nauseate him.  Oh, he tried to write prose, but could get all the bad tastes out of his mouth only through heavy drinking.  Thus the word "poetasty" was born, but few remember why.

Poe wrote his poetry so that it would taste to him like the most exquisite confections.  Bon Bons, vanilla, chocolate, flavoured liquors,  cotton candy.  The only thing that I am able to say to criticize such tasty fare is that sometimes he wrote a few lines in between that tasted like cheap breath mints.  But this is where the language failed him.  English is devoid of a complete set of yummy sounds, and this in turn required Poe to do a tedious amount of repetition.  For Poe, the letter "N" had the taste of marzipan and the effect of crack cocaine.  The english language is incapable of producing a more addictive word than "tintinnabulation."  Poe's poem "The Bells" shows all the terrors of an addict's struggle to regain control.

In one of Poe's darker moments he conceived the idea that every word in english should contain at least one "N."  Several manuscripts exist in which this phenomena of extra N's occurs, but previous analysts have assumed that Poe was merely drunk. True, it is possible that he could not prevent inserting the extra letters for the wild rush they created in the flow of his work.

To get an idea of how much english could be improved under Poe's genius, one has only to put his poem The Raven into the word processor,  and with a regular expression or two, insert all the missing N's.  In general, an N should be placed where it produces the most tingling to the tongue, since no one is likely to be able to taste Poe's pure aesthetic anymore.  It can be argued whether or not enclitics ought to be bothered with.  Once again, there is no substitute for genius in these choices.  Tingle or no tingle, as I say.  Like the man in the peppermint commercial, we should be happy if we just GET a sensation!


"Then silken, sand, uncertain, rustling nof eanch purnple curtain" is certainly one reading.

"Then silken, snad, uncertain, rustling onf neach purplen curtain" is another.

Or we could use the enclitic "en" to go back to the good old english days?

"Then silken, saden, uncertainen, rustling ofeneach purplen curtainen."   That would be my pick.

But what would Poe do if his hands had been untied?  Something akin to hacking grammar into  a pure form of art?

It is left to the student to N-tangle the rest of "The Raven."

Or more poentically,  "Then, Ranven" 

And do be careful, because reading "The Raven" or "The Bells" several times out loud may drive one mand.
Tags: humor, writers and writing

  • Covert Blog Surveilance

    Today, as I wandered the Internet wilderness, I cautiously surveilled my blog. From deep weeds I watched it asleep by the waterhole, like a…

  • Trumplet (new edit)

    Trumplet Covfefe or not covfefe, that is the question. Whether it is Tumblr in the mind To sling the Tweets like arrows And grasp outrageous…

  • Idly By

    The new shoots appear Like some insane asparagus He stares at the John Deere And then the clump of green And brown bamboo What sort of monster…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.