Genius, Poetry And Madness
Perhaps my favorite companion in the ethereal world of poetry, Edgar Allan Poe in his masterpiece "The Raven" illustrates in verse what it is to go mad. And Poe knew madness, true madness as well as genius. The poem is an excellent example of how madness begins and progresses to the point of a profound and deadly psychosis. The raven in the poem merely repeats the word nevermore much as a parrot speaks nonsense. Albeit the word is nonsense, it is repeated. The madness of the poem's narrator begins when he starts to attach meaning to the bird's meaningless repetition. He begins asking the raven questions concerning his lost, dead lover. His mind constructs a web of imaginative narratives that become more and more complex and neurotic until he is convinced this insipid bird possesses knowledge of these very personal, baleful, dark but important matters. The climax of the narrator's insanity ends with him lying prostrate on the floor in a state of despair which shall nevermore be broken by time or eternity. Such is the course of much of the psychotic progression of a manic depressive psychotic episode, whether the sufferer is depressed or in a mixed state. Verily, Mr. Poe and I have traveled down the same horrific paths: of internal blacknesses where corridors are lit only by cryptic, dour, wavering candles, among many ghosts and phantoms. And many more times than he nor myself would like to think of.
John Lars Zwerenz


  1. "The madness of the poem's narrator begins when he starts to attach meaning to the bird's meaningless repetition." Yes, he did become fixated on that black bird. He certainly could have descended into psychosis, but I see it as more sorrow and melancholy than madness. Afterall, it was true that he would nevermore see his lost love in the world as we know it. To some that is forever, because most don't have hopes of seeing a loved one in an afterlife.

    I have always been intrigued, really, as to why a strange bird would show up and speak that word in the first place. It is the bird that seems to be bizarre and crazy to me, not Poe, a lonely and heartbroken man. I do know, of course, that he suffered mentally in real life.


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