Poe’s influence on varied and broad swaths of popular culture—hard-boiled detective fiction, horror and suspense films, song lyrics, crime-scene-analysis dramas, graphic novels—seems to prove Allen Ginsberg’s claim that “everything leads to Poe.” Immortalized in the minds of readers and fans—as well as in television, film, t-shirts, and collectibles—Poe continues to fascinate and inspire.
One classic example is Poe’s appearance on The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (1967). In their song “I Am the Walrus,” The Beatles declared, “Man you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.” The band also made him a member of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, placing him in a prominent position on the memorable album cover.
Many other popular musicians have paid homage to Poe: Alan Parsons—famous for his engineering of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon—set Poe’s works, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven.” In 2003, Lou Reed released a concept album, The Raven, featuring musical and spoken interpretations of Poe’s works by various actors, including Steve Buscemi and Willem Dafoe.
The Ransom Center has launched the Poe digital collection, where online visitors have the opportunity to see collection and exhibition items, ranging from manuscripts in Poe’s meticulous hand to his annotated copies of the “Tales and Poems” and “Eureka.” The Ransom Center’s Associate Director and Hobby Foundation Librarian Richard Oram, who curated the From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe, shares his thoughts on Poe and the digital collection:
Edgar Allan Poe has always been a favorite author for visitors to the Ransom Center who want to see a few manuscripts but don’t have a formal research agenda. So many people find a personal connection with Poe. When I was nine, I discovered “The Casque of Amontillado” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I loved the chill down the spine and Poe’s use of “big words” that sent me rushing to the dictionary. Here was an adult author who could also tell a good story!
Poe’s widespread popularity led us to mount digitized versions of all of his manuscripts at the Center, alongside printed copies of his works with his annotations and related materials. We anticipate considerable use of the digital collection by scholars and students, although much of the material has already been published. Whatever the reason for visiting the site, online viewers will be fascinated by Poe’s eerily precise and beautiful script (of course visitors to the Center can see the real thing in the upcoming exhibition devoted to Poe, opening September 8).
Many discoveries were made along the way as we assembled materials for the exhibition and the digital collection. We uncovered some uncataloged materials from the vast Poe collection of manuscripts and printed materials assembled by the Baltimore collector William H. Koester. Among these was a large group of sheet music based on Poe’s poems—these are now all online. Not to mention the book that Poe left by mistake in his doctor’s office shortly before his miserable death in Baltimore. It bears the mysterious notation “Augusta” (in quotes and not in Poe’s hand) on one page.
Even if you work your way through the collection and go on to read or re-read his works and letters, I guarantee that you will never fully grasp Poe the man or writer. He remains fascinatingly elusive. There is, for example, the matter of his mysterious death from unknown causes, still under debate. Some critics regard him as a talented humbug, while others claim that he is the most original American author of his century. Take, for example, the manuscript of one of his lesser-known stories, “The Domain of Arnheim,” which is in the exhibition and online. No one can really tell if this is a carefully crafted work of literary irony directed against the excesses of Romantic prose, or an example of Poe’s own tendency to overblown rhetoric. For me, this very elusiveness is the essence of his appeal.
In Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons, business partners Joe Keller and Steve Deever manufactured faulty military airplane engines during World War II, causing the death of 21 pilots. Both men were tried, but Keller was acquitted. By the start of the play he has returned to the community and rebuilt his life.
The surface fiction of normality is uneasily maintained until Keller’s son Chris, engaged to Deever’s daughter and under pressure from Deever’s son, forces his father to Read more
An unusual set of circumstances brought four separate Graham Greene collections, from disparate parts of the world, to the Ransom Center over the past several months. The first of these collections arrived from Helsinki, Finland, the home of Rolando Pieraccini, an Italian writer who published limited editions of several of Greene’s books. The collection includes 215 letters from Greene to Pieraccini and other correspondents, dating from the 1930s to 1991, the year of Greene’s death. Read more
The Harry Ransom Center recently acquired the papers of the late G. V. Desani, longtime professor of philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin. Included is the original manuscript of his most important work, the eccentric novel All about H. Hatterr, along with a collection of various printed editions. Read more
Leicester (pronounced “Lester”) Hemingway is known to history principally for three things: For being the younger brother of the famous novelist Ernest Hemingway, to whom he bore a striking physical resemblance; for publishing a well-received biography of his brother a mere eight months after Ernest died; and for “founding” his own island nation, the Republic of New Atlantis. Artifacts related to each of these contributions have found their way to the Harry Ransom Center. Read more
The Ransom Center’s reference desk receives about 150 new inquiries every month, but this particular question caught their attention for its unusual question and the age of its sender. Ransom Center Librarian Richard Workman worked with a Georgia high school student, providing him information for a class project about Ezra Pound. Many of Pound’s papers reside at the Ransom Center. Their email exchange in its entirety is printed below.
My name is Will. I am a Jr in high school in Jones County, Georgia. I have been assigned a group project (which I am the leader) in my Literature class. My group of 7 must put together a luncheon introducing one of Ezra Pound’s works. We are required to actually put together the program honoring Mr. Pound and his work of our choosing. We must decide where this luncheon would have been held – then actually cook the food – which MUST be a dish Ezra Pound enjoyed, serve the beverage – which MUST be a drink Ezra Pound enjoyed (non-alcoholic), provide background music which Ezra Pound would have chosen, create an “era-appropriate” atmosphere of the restaurant, and find out if Mr. Pound enjoyed an after-dinner cigar or anything of that sort. The Literature teachers will be the luncheon participants (they get to eat the food, drink the drink, listen to the music and also our oral report and program honoring this particular work.) The worst part is – we were assigned this Tuesday April 3 and must present it Friday April 13 (how appropriate).
My question is – we can find lots of information on Ezra Pound’s works and life, but not intimate information like what food and drink he preferred, what type restaurant he might frequent, etc. Do you have any suggestions where we may search. I have searched for hours on the internet just to come up with this e-mail address. I pray you will read this and respond in time for us to get the research and work done. Please take this seriously. I would be grateful for any help you may give us.
From: Richard Workman
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 11:15 AM
Subject: Ezra Pound and food
Your project sounds fascinating. You have very creative teachers, and I’m sure you must be enjoying your class.
The Harry Ransom Center holds a collection of Ezra Pound’s papers, consisting mostly of manuscripts of some of his works and a large selection of his correspondence. I haven’t read every letter in the collection, but I believe they mostly deal with his theories of literature, politics, and economics.
I think your best bet is a biography of Pound. The one I suggest is by Humphrey Carpenter. It’s titled A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound. It has an extremely detailed index which I think will be very helpful to you. If you look under the entry “Pound, Ezra Loomis” in the index, you will find a long entry broken up into several sections. Under the section titled “Character, Interests, Outlook, and Style” is an entry for “food, love of” followed by about 30 citations. This should give you plenty of information to construct your luncheon. As for music, Pound was famous for his love of modern classical music, and the biography is full of mentions of his musical activities.
I hope you can find a copy of the book in time to bring your luncheon off. If you have difficulty, let me know and I’ll see if we can be of further help.
Good luck with your project and keep enjoying literature.
P.S. One of my colleagues suggested that the ideal thing to serve would be pound cake!
To: Richard Workman
Sent: Thursday, Apr 19, 2007
Subject: Re: Ezra Pound and food
Dear Mr. Workman –
Our project went wonderfully well thanks to your help!! Our county library didn’t have the Ezra Pound book you suggested and neither did the Macon system, but we found it in the system a few counties over (about 1 1/2 hr away), so my mom drove over and picked it up for us. After studying that book, we decided to serve Chicken a la Lucy with new potatoes and green beans for the main course, also salad and, for dessert, peach ice cream on pound cake (we took your colleague’s advice!). We chose to decorate the classroom like St.Elizabeth’s mental hospital and held the “luncheon” in the hospital cafeteria. We received 10 out of 10 on our evaluation sheets from 3 of the teachers (we didn’t get to see the sheets from the other 2) so we feel pretty sure we did well – though we haven’t received our grade yet.
I just want to thank you on behalf of our whole group for your help. We were really up against it and you came through for us! Thank you so much for your help and for being so thorough and professional in your work. God bless you.
Jones County, Georgia
(PS – My mom graduated from Killeen High School which isn’t too far from Austin – but she went to UGA and FSU instead of staying in Texas)
From: Richard Workman
Sent: Thursday, Apr 19, 2007
Subject: Re: Ezra Pound and food
You made my day! I’m so glad to hear that your project was a success. It sounds like your group put its heart and soul into it. Bravo!
I am very happy that I could contribute in a small way to your triumph, and I hope this experience leaves you with a lifelong love of literature and, incidentally, a warm feeling for librarians. If there’s one thing we love to do, it’s help people.
Please pass along my congratulations to all the members of your group and to your very clever and creative teachers. And thanks very much for bringing me up to date.