Edgar Allan Poe’s The Philosophy of Composition was written in 1846, and according to my perception of what he writes, it was first of its kind. None before him had dared to reveal their creative process, as difficult and complex as it is, and for this they received particular criticism from Poe himself. It seems to me, that although he respects that other writers consider the creative process a secret or merely a sled of unexpected mind twists and mysterious thought processes, he himself wanted to differ from them by deciding to attempt to concretize the process of creation. I would suppose that Mr. Poe’s inspiration to write this essay and name the creation process came from his colleague and fellow writer, Charles Dickens, who started a discussion about the way William Godwin wrote his famous novel, Caleb Williams.
Among the things that he writes is the notion that a poetic literary work should not be either much shorter or much longer than 100 lines – he himself wrote his most famous work, The Raven, in 108 lines. Apart from a rather simple matter like this one, he spent time writing about things that are much more complex, like the question of beauty and its importance in poetry. He creates a term, Beauty, which “describes the atmosphere and the essence of the poem”, as he writes. At the same time, he describes Beauty as not exactly a quality, but rather the effect the composition has on one’s soul; the emotions it creates; excitement of the heart or pleasurable elevation of the soul. He also spends time pondering about the continuity and gradation in a work of art. In his work, The Raven, he brilliantly used the same refrain, “nevermore”, in so many variations of meaning, that after realizing the full extent and complexity of it, it left me admiring his creative skills.
He based the whole gradation of the poem on this particular refrain; he put different meanings in such order, that it slowly reveals everything that’s inside of the narrator’s broken heart, even the deepest bits, and it gives the poem the dramatic progression and the outcome that it has. He underlines the usage of systematic thinking while creating the whole concept and the outline of how the writing is going to look like and how it’s going to be divided. I admire Edgar Allan Poe for being brave enough to set out on a journey that not many have walked on before; for challenging himself to describe how creative process looks like from his point of view; for revealing a part of himself and his perception of art to the world, to everyone; to those, who would certainly praise him for his words, but also those, who would certainly criticize him.
He surely left a rich heritage to all the writers craving for inspiration and trying to find sense in their own thoughts and the world around them. I was grateful I could see into his brilliant mind for a moment, and as I was reading, watch how one of the most beautiful poems I’ve ever read was being born. Even though his writing style is really old-fashioned and complex, when one deciphers the message Mr. Poe is trying to send out, one is absolutely enriched and encouraged to perceive and think differently. © Martina Mikusova