Classics Illustrated #4: The Raven & Other Poems
by Edgar Allan Poe
Cover Artist: Gahan Wilson
Review by Gayle Surrette
Papercutz Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781597071406
Date: 31 March 2009 List Price $9.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Publisher's Website / Show Official Info /
This collection of Edgar Allan Poe's poems, illustrated by Gahan Wilson, is outstanding. The poems cover many of my favorites as well as a couple I could do without. I remember in my teens and early adulthood loving Poe's poems and memorized "The Raven" -- just because I wanted to. But reading through this book, I had to really wonder where I was mentally back then -- this man is so depressing. Poem after poem bemoaning the fate that is man's: to be born, to love, to lose love, to be alone, and to die alone. Granted that's maybe a just summary but Poe seems to forget all the scintillating joy of some of the events that take place over a life time. Even the most depressing life can have some moments of sheer beauty even if it's just the sun's reflection in a raindrop. Maybe it's that pessimist/optimist thing of the glass half empty versus half full.
Never the less, the poems still ring with Poe's strong meter, and rhythm and Wilson's drawings add that extra bit of off-kilter humor that bring the pieces alive. The large-eyed Poe sitting in his study trying to ignore the tapping of the raven is worth the price of the book itself. Then there's the Knight on a quest for Eldorado in his shiny armor, the lonely child, the skull city beneath the waves. Each drawing pulling you deeper into the poem.
I tried to read the book in one sitting -- don't. Sip it instead. Read one poem, glancing at the illustrations, then reread again and again, studying the illustrations and just how cleverly they fit into the mood and tenor of the poem.
If you're looking to brush up on some of Poe's classic poetry, give this book a try. It's a great combination of art and words, and definitely one you'll reread over and over again -- even if it's a bit depressing.