Friday, November 30, 2012

A Toast to Poe

    How can we find fault with someone who espouses that “beauty is truth” and that poems are truth reflected in forms of beauty? Edgar Allan Poe was such a person; a solitary, dark, unhappy, brilliant, philosopher, critic, and storyteller who championed beauty and love.
    Most of his poetry laments the loss of an idealized heroine. “The death of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world”.*  His princesses are irretrievably lost and gone forever.
    His poems were written with a musical quality and with purposeful strangeness. He feared the permanence of death, yet he has proven to be immortal with his unforgettable words and works. What schoolboy has not read and remembered:
           It was many and many a year ago,
           In a kingdom by the sea,
          That a maiden there lived whom you may know
          By the name of Annabel Lee; ………. 

    And the poem, “The Raven” a symbol of never ending remembrance:
         Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,  
         Suddenly there came a tapping, ……..
         ….Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

But we must be cautious in relegating a drink and a toast to this genius, because alcohol was the chief cause of many of his problems and his early death. A moderate choice is, however quite easy. For 60 years, starting in 1949 (centennial of his death) every Jan. 19, a toast occurred with cognac and 3 roses on Poe’s grave by anonymous “Poe Toasters”.

*Braddy, Haldeen: Three Dimensional Poe, Univ. of Texas, El Paso, 1973

Elliot O. Lipchik

Thursday, November 1, 2012


              SONG OF EVERYMAN

    Both poetry and music can be read and heard repeatedly. Both can be memorized and certainly one can learn from and listen again and again to masterful poems.  Perhaps my preferential search for a defined rhythm of expression and logical reasoning has led me away from “language, undecipherable” poetry and atonal music, and continually back to WALT WHITMAN.

If anyone can unlock imagination, with clear, often emotional, impelling language, it is Whitman. He imparts the joy of existence and was the most humane, as well as actively the most humanistic of all our poets. As a witness to the Civil War, he 
described its horrors and the injustice of slavery. Yet, he did not neglect in spirit or writing, the miracles of nature and the basic, often thwarted goodness of man. His idealism of the human soul knew no bounds.

How can we associate the genius and complexity of Whitman with the pleasure of a particular libation? As a young man, he claimed to have been drunk when he wrote an unsuccessful temperance novel. But, I could find no reference in his poetry to any specific alcoholic drink. Can we find a drink to also mirror Whitman’s forceful personality, his charisma and his atrocious self promotion?

     “I believe in the flesh and the appetites………in eating, drinking and breeding”*

He was self taught, never progressing beyond grade school. On his own he studied scientific theory, biology, geology and voraciously read great works of literature.
Though he hobnobbed with great writers and artists, and entertained visiting eminent poets from abroad, he never lost his ardor and love of the common man.

     “Whoever degrades another degrades me”*

I propose a toast with any true, strong drink, whether a home made brew or the finest cognac that any or all would choose, to this supreme idealist, this optimist, this lover of Lincoln and the common man, who preached:

     “…… not to worship a God, but the divinity innate in each individual self.”*

*= all quotes from Leaves of Grass.

Elliot O. Lipchik