National Poetry Month – “The Raven”

I’m doing something a little special this month. It’s National Poetry Month in the U.S., so this month I’m sharing four of my favorite poems and what I like about them.

The first poem I’m going to talk about this month is probably not surprising to anyone who knows me. I’ve been reading and enjoying Edgar Allen Poe’s work since I was about 10 years old, and “The Raven” is one of his most famous works. Arguably, it’s also one of the most famous American poems.

What do I like about this poem?

“The Raven” has such a strong cadence. Most analyses of it I’ve read talk about its rhyming scheme or its imagery, but a lot of people seem to overlook how very rhythmic the poem is. It lends itself well to the kind of aggressive heavy metal music I like to listen to, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Greek black metal band Rotting Christ wrote a song on their album The Heretics based on the poem and using the same name that features a booming spoken recitation of parts of the poem.

What do the academics say about this poem?

You don’t really need to be a scholar to understand that this is a poem about loss and grief. Everything, even a lost and confused raven, reminds the speaker of their lost love. The raven’s repetition of the word “Nevermore,” seemingly in response to the speaker’s questions, further intensifies the speaker’s grief and inclines the speaker – and the reader – to assign the raven supernatural agency.

What does this poem mean to me?

I’m not much of a poet – my literary talents lie more in prose than in verse – but when I do make an attempt at poetry, it’s that driving cadence that pushes “The Raven” forward that I try to emulate. Most of the poetry I had been exposed to before “The Raven” bored me; it was either meant for children much younger than me or used too flowery language to hold any kind of meaning for me. “The Raven” was the first poem I read – that wasn’t a Dr. Seuss book – that told a story that interested me while appealing to my budding emo kid aesthetic.

What do you like about this poem, and is there one similar you would recommend? Comment below, and don’t forget to subscribe!


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