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Video:Poet: Edgar Allan Poe

with Heather Kamins

Shrouded in mystery and fame, Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most iconic, influential, and regarded American poets. Learn about the life and work of this dark, musical poet in this biography video from About.com.See Transcript

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Transcript:Poet: Edgar Allan Poe

Hi, I'm Heather Kamins for About.com, and I'm here to talk to you about Edgar Allen Poe.

Early Life of Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe was born in 1809. Both of his parents died by the time he was 3, and he was taken in by a wealthy couple, John and Frances Allen. The couple paid to send him to boarding school, and later, to the University of Virginia. But Poe was forced to drop out due to gambling debts that John Allen refused to pay.

After Poe dropped out of college, he joined the Army. He later began to sell his short stories and later worked as an editor for a number of literary journals.

Edgar Allen Poe's Influence

Poe is known for his short stories just as much as he is for his poems. He's considered to be one of the architects of the modern short story, and is an early, key writer in detective and horror fiction.

Poe has been influential not just in the United States, but internationally as well, and some of his most famous short stories include "The Telltale Heart, and "The Cask of Amontillado."

Poe's Life Struggles

In addition to being orphaned at such a young age, Poe lost both of his foster parents during his lifetime, and he lost his young wife to tuberculosis. This may have been part of the reason he struggled with depression and alcoholism throughout his life, and also why so many of his short stories and poems feature elements of death and the supernatural.

Poe himself died at the age of 40, under mysterious circumstances. The cause of his death is still unknown to this day, although theories range from alcohol poisoning to physical trauma to rabies.

Even though Poe was a pioneer in fiction, his first love was poetry. His first three books that he published were poetry collections, and he even incorporated poetry into some of his short stories. As Poe developed his own style, he used techniques such as alliteration, internal rhyme and repetition, and his poetry is known for its musicality.

Poe and "The Raven"

His best-known poem is "The Raven," for which he earned great recognition, although he wasn't paid very much for it. Here's the first stanza from that poem:

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,


Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,


While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,


As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.


'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;


Only this, and nothing more."

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