Columns > Published on January 19th, 2021

Dear Edgar Allan Poe

Letter image via John-Mark Smith

Dear Edgar Allan Poe,

It’s intimidating writing to you.

Would you believe me if I said I wrote this letter seven times only to throw it away, to rip it into pieces, to hide it under my floorboards and pretend it didn’t exist until I had to dig it out and start all over again?

I fell in love with you when I was twelve.

And no, it wasn’t some middle school crush. It was the real thing. And from one poet to another, from one romantic to another, I think you know and understand that. I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” in seventh grade, was assigned to write about “The Raven” for homework, and all I wanted in my life after that was black birds and silence, madness and candlelight.

You became my teacher, my safe place.

You understood me in a way other people didn’t, couldn’t, and that’s because you knew that monsters weren’t always hiding in basements or attics—wine cellars, yes, but not driveways or broom closets—no the real monsters, the ones that were especially terrifying oftentimes lived in our heads, our reflections. whispered to me in the pit, talked to me while the pendulum swung, told me that if I wrote down my monsters that sometimes they go away, that sometimes they stay quiet.

I cried a lot when I was younger, buried my tears in the pages of your stories, in the heartbreak of your poems. I looked up to you even though you, too, were in pain, even though you, too, struggled with your vices, but you whispered to me in the pit, talked to me while the pendulum swung, told me that if I wrote down my monsters that sometimes they go away, that sometimes they stay quiet.

It’s intimidating writing to you.

Would you believe me if I said I celebrate Halloween with you every year? That I read and reread your words in celebration of their magic, in honor of how their meanings twist and turn and change as I age?

I wrote a short story in college about how you murdered the version of literature I thought I had to write. How you snuck into its room and chopped up it up with an axe. I don’t think it was received well—it wasn’t received well—but it became one of my first published pieces and it still makes me smile knowing that it was something we did together.

Because you taught me how to hide a body.

You taught me structure and plot, how to scare my readers. You took chances, weren’t afraid to seem crazy, to be unhinged, but you also taught me about memoir, about fiction, about how to hide myself in my work, how to patch up the cracks and befriend the ghosts in what became the rooms of my madhouse. 

You showed me it was okay to be different, to break out on my own, to challenge what others think is normal or what cannon should be. Your journey taught me about having a thick skin, about being vulnerable and compassionate and then vulnerable again.

I teach my students about you now and we talk about life and death, gold-bugs and black cats, but then we pull back the flesh and discuss greed and privilege, shadows and disease. We mourn Berenice, hide from Ligeia, try to bring Valdemar back from the dead, and with our version of the Red Death happening now, it’s not hard to see why you still strike a chord, why you still enchant and terrify, how you still get under our skins, keep your name on the tip of our tongue.

It’s intimidating writing to you.

But I need to tell you happy birthday and I need to thank you, to tell you that you opened my eyes to how love never dies, to how poetry is grief and insanity and beauty and forgiveness and I know that because of you, because you showed me that words matter, that words—for better or worse—make someone immortal, and that’s what you are, what you’ve become to me, to them, to all of us: eternal.

Eternally beautiful.

Eternally dark.

Eternally Edgar Allan Poe.

Get The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe at Bookshop or Amazon 

About the author

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous venues such as Weird Tales, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year's Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog at stephaniewytovich.blogspot and on twitter @SWytovich. 

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