On, “Alone,” by Edgar Allan Poe.
I think it was Brian, (Local parasite), who replied in one of my poems that he usually didn’t like “reflective” poetry. This was something I pondered for a long while but never really understood. Everything I have ever written has been reflective in one way or another. To me, that’s what poetry is – what poetry is meant for.
The poem Alone by Edgar Allan Poe, was my introduction to poetry, literally. I can remember my sophomore year in high school my teacher decided to review Poe’s work for the one week she had to devote to poetry. She started with “The Raven ” naturally and I nearly napped all the way through that. All I derived of Poe that day was that he was an overly anal perfectionist… I just could not get interested. In truth, the poem was just to far over my head at the time, I grew to love it in time as I could see deeper beneath the surface.
The poem she decided to review the next day, however, changed my life. It was “Alone.” I found it to be earth shattering. It was as if this man who lived a century and a half before me had stared into my soul and laid it out on paper. I felt exposed as I sit there in class shaking with tears streaming down my face. This poem was not only “reflective” of my early life, but also revealed to me that poetry was/is a sharing of emotion. I took up writing after that, attempting my first poem, “Lightning,” later that afternoon when I got home. The lightning I was writing about being derived from the lines in Poe’s poem:
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by.
To me, Poe was speaking of love here. More specifically, first love, where time spent with that special someone seems to fly, but when it’s over leaves the moment eternally branded in you mind. Having been similarly struck by nearly all the lines in Poe’s poem, I ventured to write Walking Alone a few years later, where I tried to answer some of Poe’s lines directly:
I, too, was awed by lightning's flash,
Embering in mind even after the crash.
Though I think Poe’s overall message in this poem can be summed up in the simplicity of his title, I would venture to say the sum isn’t always greater than the parts. Poe’s life was a soap opera of failed loves and chemical dependency but deep beneath the surface there was always a nagging sensation of not belonging or fitting in to bring him to those points.
And all I’ve lov’d— I lov’d alone—
One, being the staunch perfectionist he was, he could never come to terms with.
The mystery which binds me still—
Combine this with his profound need to not just belong, but to have impact and you will land at the center of his crisis.
The way Poe ends this poem has always fascinated me.
From the thunder, and the storm--
And the cloud that took the form
(When all the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
One might derive the thunder as being his own inner turmoil, and the storm being the effect it is having on his life. The rest of heaven being blue speaks to me of all being fine around him though definitely not with him. The demon is the tricky part. The way it is written, I see Poe trying to blame a higher power, one almost mocking him, for the misery and isolation in his life, which he may very well be able to justify to himself with uncontrollable circumstances surrounding the loves lost within his life. However, I cannot help but see Poe looking in the mirror as he wrote those final words. There is just that much of a feeling of self-loathing I get from reading this poem.