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  • The Time-Transcending Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe: An Explanation of the Mechanics of His Poetic Speech by Slawomir Studniarz
  • Wesley Scott McMasters (bio)
Slawomir Studniarz. The Time-Transcending Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe: An Explanation of the Mechanics of His Poetic Speech. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2016. 323 pp. $219.95 cloth.

In The Time-Transcending Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, Slawomir Studniarz demonstrates a command of Poe's poetry and the history of scholarship surrounding it, as well as the kind of intensely meticulous reading of which Edgar Allan Poe himself was a zealous proponent. Nearly 170 years after Poe's death, there has been a gap in scholarship that would treat Poe as more than the "jingle-man" instead of the same careful craftsman he claimed to be and scholars identify him as. Though some of Poe's poetry is treated with the same seriousness as the rest of his corpus, Studniarz is one of the few scholars to demonstrate that Poe's craftsmanship extends well beyond the thematic elements and musicality of his verse; Studniarz reveals through a complex and thorough poetics that Poe's poetry, though apparently disparate, is interconnected, and is masterfully written with close attention to syntax, semantics, sonority, phonology, meter, and prosody. Studniarz describes these poems as "unique amalgams of sound and sense" (301), and indeed the exegesis within this volume reveal nuances that expand and compound meaning within Poe's poetry, as well as further reveal unifying elements within his work.

In the introduction and overview of the scholarship that grounds this volume, Studniarz acknowledges the increase in serious attention that Poe's work has received, especially regarding his lyrical poetry. A tone of dismissiveness, or the brevity of appreciation, is a call for a more engaging critical approach to Poe's poetry. Studniarz cites Robert Evans from The Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe in which Evans calls for "a comprehensive volume that patiently makes the case, line by line and sometimes word by word, for the skill and power and beauty of the best examples of Poe's verse" (5). In many regards, Studniarz answers Evans's call with The Time-Transcending Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. Studniarz challenges the notion of "Poe as a poet overly preoccupied with metrical and musical effects, which supposedly leads to the dissolution of sense in his poems" (7). Studniarz, case by case and poem by poem, makes compelling arguments about the sense behind the sound and the intricate meaning built into the prosody of Poe's work. [End Page 302]

Poe's own methodologies and criticism are intimately tied to Studniarz's critical poetics. Studniarz suggests that Poe's view is that "the poet is not a uniquely gifted and inscrutable genius but rather a craftsman who molds his materials using appropriate tools, applying mastered skills and techniques" (16). It is from "The Philosophy of Composition," "The Poetic Principle," and "The Rationale of Verse" from which Studniarz assembles the core of his critical approach. His complex methodology is an expanded and refined approach (with some basis in semiotics) in which the poems are "treated as unique phono-semantic structures" and which "attends to their meticulous phonetic orchestration as well as metrical arrangements, with a view to showing how sound is involved in the making of sense" (32). These individual close readings certainly enrich our current understanding of Poe's poetry by indicating "sense" that comes along with the musicality of the verse, as well as the expansion of potential meaning within the texts by this added level of interpretation. Furthermore, the study takes a larger approach to Poe's poetry by proposing a unifying thread in the exploration of "the tragic dimension of the human condition" (302). Together, the aims of this study enrich our current understanding of Poe's poetry by attending to often neglected nuances that uncover, and may continue to uncover, more potential meaning within these verses.

The poetics employed by Studniarz is elaborated throughout chapters that further define the approach in explanation and application. "Astarte's 'Duplicate Horn': Duplicity and Deception in 'Ulalume'" is the only chapter dedicated primarily to the analysis of one poem...


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