Academic journal article Military Review

PRIVATE PERRY AND MISTER POE-The West Point Poems, 1831, Edgar Allan Poe

Academic journal article Military Review

PRIVATE PERRY AND MISTER POE-The West Point Poems, 1831, Edgar Allan Poe

Article excerpt

PRIVATE PERRY AND MISTER POE-The West Point Poems, 1831, Edgar Allan Poe, William F. Hecker III, ed., Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2005, 165 pages, $19.95.

Concerning his edited work of Edgar Allan Poe's edition of 1831 poems, Army officer and former West Point professor William Hecker states that "it had become apparent that no one had truly put together a detailed assessment of Poe's four years of military discipline or seriously tried to connect that experience to his aesthetic." One of the main reasons for writing this edition of Poe's West Point-era poems is the dearth of scholarship on his military experience, particularly that of his West Point years. A widespread misinterpretation among academia and wider audiences concerning Poe is that he disdained his military experience. Hecker carefully lays to rest the specious nature of this long-held assumption.

Poe (1809-1849), who enlisted in the Army in 1827 under the name Edgar A. Perry, will always be an American favorite. Millions of us have read his horror stories and poems, all wrought from his supremely macabre twist on the anti-Classical nature of Romanticism, and critics have addressed seemingly every aspect of Poe's life and works. Notwithstanding the latter, the crux of Hecker's thesis centers around the fact that "[j]ust as biographers dismiss the important connections between Poe's military life and his poetic visions, critics, likewise, fail to consider the possibility that military culture might be embedded in his poetry." For example, Poe's training in constructing and firing artillery rounds could have contributed to the apocalyptic visions of "The City in the Sea" and "The Fall of the House of Usher."

In the book's foreword, noted poet Daniel Hoffman states, "It is remarkable that no biographer, scholar, or critic of Poe's life and writings has, until now, inquired what...were the effects of his army experiences on his literary work." Hecker goes far in correcting this situation. One of the more enlightening points he explores is the affinity between Poe's prosody and military order, particularly field movement and close-order drill: Both needed metrical precision to be effective. …

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