Diary of the Raven: Stray Feathers

He is, indeed, still stalking me. Found today on the blog of Neil Gaiman, of whose gift for language and for world building I would feel grateful to posess even a tenth, was this essay Neil wrote for a collected edition of Poe. You can read the entire essay here, but I’ll share this passage, which gives me a far better rationale for why Poe’s stories belong on stage than I’ve yet come up with:

But there are secrets to appreciating Poe, and I shall let you in on one of the most important ones: read him aloud.

Read the poems aloud. Read the stories aloud. Feel the way the words work in your mouth, the way the syllables bounce and roll and drive and repeat, or almost repeat. Poe’s poems would be beautiful if you spoke no English (indeed, a poem like “Ulalume” remains opaque even if you do understand English — it implies a host of meanings, but does not provide any solutions). Lines which, when read on paper, seem overwrought or needlessly repetitive or even mawkish, when spoken aloud reshape and reconfigure.

I’ve turned thirty years old while working on this piece (literally during the first read-through), and it really is permeating every facet of my life. (The other day, I named my newest World of Warcraft character Ligeia.) It’s fascinating to discover, as the process goes on, just how deeply he’s buried in the modern American consciousness. Part challenge, part burden, part mind trip, all intimidating.

Beginning to get a bit rambly, so I’ll close here with a quote from actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (Children of Men, Serenity, Amistad) that (at least in my poor tired brain) sounds like the way I’d like to feel coming out of this experience (quote borrowed from IMDB):

“I remember getting cast in Amistad and getting this very strong feeling that I had overshot myself. It was a great shock. It made me realize that this is not a profession you can predict; that you can have all these ambitions and expectations and that they can all be thrown to the wind. What was peculiar about that situation was that my aspirations were so far below what actually happened.”

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