Today, Lise Quintana and Selena Chambers explore “The Poet as Fool” by Sally Zakariyas, submitted for Issue #12, Edgar Allan Poe.
For Zak, with lines from “The Purloined Letter”
Not altogether a fool, said pseudonymous G. in the Poe story,
but then he is a poet, which I take to be only one remove
from a fool,
which makes me think of the great E.A. Poe himself—no fool,
certainly, but a man of great talent and little luck when it came
to money. And women. And drink.
True, detective Daupin replied, although I have been guilty
of certain doggerel myself.
I like to think that Edgar winked as he wrote those words,
conscious, perhaps, of his own verse—not doggerel, of course,
but sometimes sing-song at best.
It’s meaning, though, that matters. Consider his epigraph:
Nothing is more hateful to wisdom, the Latin says,
than excessive cleverness.
Excessive? Who’s to judge? He knew what he was doing,
that Poe, slipping sly satire into the scariest of stories,
lynching black cats in pointed comment on slavery
in ante-bellum South,
silencing critics by walling them up (For the love
of God, Montresor),
mocking the Gothic mode with that dank tarn of Auber.
Who wouldn’t want to know him, this wicked smart fellow
with his freshly sharpened pen,
this man of many parts—part comic, part philosopher, part
scientist, journalist, magazine editor, mystery writer,
and, yes, lest we forget, part poet.
No, Poe’s no fool, in poetry or prose, but old G.
had a point, and I, poor poet that I am, feel sometimes
less than one remove from foolish. But never mind.
You who carry the complete works in a multi-volume
set of tiny books, you who can quote Poe at every turn,
you at least forgive my foolishness.