Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is the poet of the night world, of the inexplicable, the uncanny. His poems do not analyse, they do not explain: they exist with the intensity of hallucinations. In the breathtakingly seductive beauty of To Helen’ – Like those Nicéan barks of yore, / that gently o’er a perfumed sea…’, or the claustrophobic horror of The Raven’, Poe offers haunting alternative realities, as strange – and strangely familiar – as our dreams and nightmares. Yet Poe was more than a poet of American gothic. He was translated by Baudelaire and Mallarmé, becoming a key figure in French Symbolism; he was an influential critic.
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