Undoubtedly, Edgar Allan Poe is best known for his macabre short stories. But most lovers of poetry will certainly know at least a few of his better-known pieces of verse. From The Raven to A Dream Within A Dream, Poe’s poetic works are beautifully haunting. He speaks on familiar themes: loss, love, and death, and often within a supernatural setting.
Today, Poe is generally regarded as the progenitor of the detective genre and is considered to be, in part, behind the popular rise of science fiction. His life mirrored the tragedies explored in his writing. His mother died when he was a child and he was raised by a foster family. Over the years which followed he lost jobs and money, married his young cousin, Virginia, and then lost her to tuberculosis. She is widely considered to be the inspiration behind many of his darkest, and most beautiful poems, such as ‘Anabel Lee.’
Best Edgar Allan Poe
This is one of Poe’s most popular poems. It follows the death of a beautiful woman, a theme that comes up throughout Poe’s works, and is intimately connected to his life. The speaker is haunted by her life and death. He thinks that he is somewhat to blame because their love was so strong. He eventually comes to the conclusion, through beautiful rhyming lines, that the angels were jealous and took her from him. Scholars consider this piece a memorial to Poe’s young wife (and cousin), Virginia Clemm.
When this piece was written, it went without a title. But, scholars have been able to determine that it is likely connected to the death of Poe’s foster mother, Frances. The title came about when it was first published and was chosen due to the overwhelming feelings of isolation that permeate the text. It has gained popularity due to its relatability. The speaker looks back on his childhood and sees it for what it really was. The loneliness comes back to him, thus forming another poem with a dark and depressing tone.
‘The Raven’ is to some, Poe’s masterpiece. It is a supernatural, dream-like poem that makes use of his most frequently visited themes. There is loss, death, fear and, and above all else, the haunting presence of the talking raven. The creature cries throughout the text, a single word: “Nevermore.” If you are looking for the perfect poem to start an exploration of the scariest examples of writing in the English language, this is a great place to start.
Lovers of poetry, and even those who only enjoy it occasionally, will immediately recognize the line, “All that we see or seem / is but a dream within a dream.” This rounds out the general themes of the poem. The speaker is questioning the reasons for his very existence. He knows that life is purposeless and that there is no love for reason to keep going. It has all turned into a dream state that he floats, and at the same time struggles through.
‘The Haunted Palace,’ which was used in Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher, is a terrifying depiction of insanity. The text paints a picture of a structure that slowly degrades, along with its residents. Just as the house falls apart, so does a mind. Poe sought to draw comparisons between these two different structures. It is thought to be one of Poe’s most popular poems.
This piece is a devotional sonnet in which Poe describes his feelings for his own mother, his foster mother, and the mother of his wife. It speaks of the importance of female caretakers and the roles they have in the lives of those in their care. He spends portions of this piece discussing the importance of the word “mother” and how it came from the angels. His appreciation for mothers stretches from his foster mother to the mother of his wife. She created his adored Virginia, and therefore she too must be revered.
‘Dream-Land’ is a poem all about a strange and ephemeral journey. There is no clear starting point, but it includes images of ocean landscapes, valleys and forests. There is nothing about this place which speaks of normal, everyday life. It is all strange. The natural landscapes are personified, and/or described as burning or leaping.
The poem is known as ‘Lenore’ today but it was originally titled, ‘A Pæan.’ Those who have read Poe’s most popular poems will recognize the name “Lenore” from ‘The Raven.’ The death of this character, who has been related to any number of female deaths in Poe’s life, was clearly incredibly important to the poet. The speaker alternates between two speakers, one of which is Lenore’s ex-lover. They argue over her death and the reaction of the public.
This piece is considered to be one of the best Poe ever wrote, certainly in the early part of his career. It was first published under a different, equally interesting title, The Doomed City. The retitling occurred in 1845 when it was finally published. It speaks on a city a reader will certainly not want to visit. It is doomed for disaster, ruled by the personification of death. The descent of the city into the sea is a haunting image that brings up the darkest images of hell and damnation.
The word Eldorado brings up any number of connotations for different people. Commonly, it now refers to a lost city, somewhere deep in the forest. It is rumoured to contain gold and riches beyond imagining. In Poe’s poem, a gallant explorer-knight investigates the legend. There is a larger metaphor at play here, which has fuelled the poem’s placement on this list, and many others. It speaks more broadly on the impossibility of human dreams and the futility of pursuing those dreams to their end.