Poe in Pop Culture: The Raven

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One never knows which famous or infamous person who lived long ago is going to become “relevant” again. Edgar Allan Poe has never really lost his star power, the way he has been woven into the fabric of society is somewhat amazing. Some of his work has taken on lives of their own. In a way, he has never ceased being relevant.

“The Raven” is one of the most immortal literary works ever written. Maybe it’s that haunting and slightly musical repetition of “nevermore” that most draws admirers to this particular work. Even those who generally prefer less macabre work are drawn to “The Raven” and to Poe himself. This legendary writer has definitely found his place among modern art as well. Once “The Raven” was published, Poe became a household name. However, just because the poem was published in 1845 doesn’t mean it is any less popular now.

“The Raven” has more than three and a half hundred writing credits due to all the modern day references the poem has earned. There are many more than these few here, but we wanted to show you some of our favorites. They are a diverse group of references as well. Some you may have seen and some may have passed you by. Check them out:

#1- It would only make sense to list “The Raven” movie here. In this version, John Cusack stars as Poe. The psychological crime thriller depicts a murderer who takes cues from Poe’s writing. However, even though named after one of Poe’s most famous works, the movie takes a different direction than Poe’s actual life. In addition, his death and the events leading up to it have also been fictionalized for the sake of this film.

#2- Here’s one you may have never noticed or, if you did, you may not have put it together. The Nineties band Blues Traveler won a Grammy, their first, for “Run-Around” in 1994. The first line mimics the first line of “The Raven” with part of it exactly and part in similarity. It says, Some argue that “I woke with something in my head” is just another way of saying “while I wondered, weak and weary.” Maybe it is up to interpretation, but it sounds right to us.

#3- In the Halloween-themed installment of “The Simpsons”, Lisa reads Poe’s story to Bart and Maggie, her siblings, in the “Treehouse of Horror” episode. As it plays out, Bart turns into the raven while dad Homer takes on the narrator’s role with the voice of James Earl Jones conveying his thoughts with that unmistakable voice. Marge also appears as the late Lenore in a painting. Many see it as the Simpsons take on the iconic poem with a twist – instead of the raven saying “nevermore” it, of course, says “eat my shorts.”

#4- This one a lot of you reading may never even have heard of. During the Eighties, there was a show called “The Family” which was a spinoff of an even earlier show, “Carol Burnett Show.” Anyway, “The Family” featured a high school named Edgar Allan Poe with the apt mascot being a raven. In one episode, the school’s fight song is even revealed which uses several lines from “The Raven” to get its point across.

#5- This one has probably been seen by a lot more TV enthusiasts, especially those who watch “Supernatural.” The 2007 novel “Supernatural: Nevermore” is actually the first book in the series written by Keith RA DeCandido which the dark fantasy TV show is based on. The plot of the show follows two brothers who drive around solving supernatural events, specifically murders – sometimes even their own. “Nevermore”, as well as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado” are some of Poe’s works which inspired murders on the show.

#6- Here’s one you may or may not know: The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens are actually named in honor of the literary writer. After all, Poe is actually buried in Baltimore. The literary reference won in a voting contest by an overwhelming landslide in which over thirty thousand people participated. Currently, the team only has one costumed mascot, named Poe. However, before 2008 there were three: Poe and his two brothers, Edgar and Allan.

#7- Another TV show using Poe references was “The Following” which ran for three seasons from 2013 until 2015. The crime drama used “The Raven” throughout all three seasons as its main theme. From the very first episode, agents show up to a crime scene with “Nevermore” written on the wall in blood. The perpetrator starts a murderous cult inspired by Poe as well. An apt ending to the last episode of the last season – “Quoth the raven…Nevermore” – was the series’ final words.

#8- Did you know Poe was also quoted in “Batman”? As a matter of fact, Poe has been referenced through DC Comics numerous times. At one time there was even a character with the same name who tried taking down Batman. In 1989’s version of “Batman”, the villainous Joker, played by Jack Nicholson, quoted “Take thy beak from out my heart”, which is a line from the infamous poem “The Raven.”

Poe’s Most Famous Works

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I love how “The Raven” begins. There have been many times when I would be lying awake, feeling the weight of the world, and I would think, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…” I often wondered what was the inspiration behind this particular poem.

“The Raven”, which was published in 1845, is now considered to be one of the greatest works of American literature ever written. It is certainly very well known. Most remember that the raven’s only word is “nevermore,” and that is generally the extent of the average person’s remembrance. This poem was written from a narrator’s point of view who is lamenting the loss of Lenore, his one and only true love. He is visited by the raven who insists “nevermore” repeatedly.

Common themes, such as death and loss, are explored by Poe in this popular poem, as they are in several other pieces of his literature.

“Annabel Lee” is a lyrical poem which also explores the themes of loss and death. It is believed that Poe wrote it in memory of his wife Virginia who had passed away just two years before. He never really seemed to recover from her loss. This is one of the poems that was written later in life as he continued to work in different styles. The poem definitely has a different sound than some of his other work. Unfortunately, Poe died two days before the poem was published in the New York Tribune.  

Again, one of our favorites is Poe’s short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” This story is about a man who is overcome with guilt after killing an old man that he had recently become obsessed with. The narrator, who insists he is not crazy, watches the old man sleep every night for a week. He would act as though nothing was amiss the next day. For whatever reason, he decides to kill the old man instead of merely watching him. Unfortunately, the old man awakes and cries out. That is when he first hears the man’s heart beating. He is terrified that someone is going to hear the old man’s heart beating because it is so loud. Now, if you want to find out what happens next, you will need to read it yourself! You might not want to read it before bed, though!