As we prepare to celebrate the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe (1/19/1809-10/7/1849), I thought I would try my hand at a little light verse based on (and in some cases, stolen from) his poem, “The Raven.”
I don’t know such an awful lot about ravens, so I changed the subject to publishers, and if it seems that I am having some fun at their expense, it is only because, as everyone knows, publishers are such good sports.
Once upon a deadline dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious byline of the writers four,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone firmly rapping, rapping at my office door.
“‘Tis some nuisance, sure,” I muttered, “rapping at my office door.”
Then croaked the publisher, “Give me more!”
Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
And each separate story and blog post made us toil like those before.
Eagerly I wished the morrow, it was then I hoped to borrow a few free hours beyond that door.
Alas, our spare and stern taskmaster perched there still as e’er before.
“No!” said he. “Just give me more!”
And the publisher, never quitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On his perch beyond the printer just outside my office door.
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming.
Still he sits there ever scheming how to make us give him more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I sat there wondering, fearing, doubting more than e’er before.
But the stillness was not broken and the only words then spoken were the dreaded words, “Do more!”
‘Twas a burden, that’s for sure.
Back into my office turning, indignant rage within me burning.
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before
“He’s back,” said I, “no surprise that is. I can’t believe he still wants more.
I’ll take a breath and pause a moment, then this mystery explore.
Quoth the publisher, “Give me more!”
Then this strange old bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, by the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore.
“Although your goals are firm, unshaken, surely you must be mistaken if you expect us to do more.”
Yet croaked the publisher, “Give me more!”
Much I marveled this ungainly man to hear him speak so plainly, though his words and all his scheming little relevancy bore.
I could not then or now conceive it any way we could achieve it. Still he asked us to do more.
“Don’t ask how,” he then implored us. “Don’t question why, just give me more!”
My apologies to Mr. Poe, the publishers, and any literature-lovers out there.
If I seems that I have portrayed publishers as rather demanding individuals, I should perhaps explain that there is an ongoing source of mild disagreement between us.
Editors, for our part, are constantly trying to convince publishers that there are 24 hours in a day.
Publishers, who may or may not acknowledge this fact, insist that an infinite number of jobs that take “just a few minutes” can be added to each day without the number of hours worked ever exceeding the number of hours in a day.
Oh, we do have some jolly times debating this issue.
Getting back to my original point, however, this is the week we celebrate the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe.
Even among writers, most of whom are odd by nature, he stands out as one of the strangest.
In spite of this, he did manage to crank out some rather good writing during his short life (he died at age 40 in suspicious circumstances).
His choice of subjects matched his peculiar nature, and he is recognized as having pioneered crime fiction and the detective story.
For me, though, his biggest influence comes from his ear for the sound of language.
Writers wrote differently then. That is to say, they did not write the way people spoke.
It wasn’t until guys like Twain came along and blew the mold to bits that writers began to write the way people actually talked.
Still, Poe clearly paid attention to the sound of the words he used, and this comes through in his prose as well as in his poetry.
He was an odd duck, it is true, but he was one of the early voices who helped to shape American literature into what it is today, and for that, we are grateful.