This contest should evoke much amazement and laughter, as it pits the greatest writer to ever perform in English—Edgar Allan Poe—against Donald Trump, in Scarriet’s 8th annual March Madness Tournament, in which the playing is performed by Great Historic Words—which are what? The words themselves? Or the vast realities behind them?
This is not a play on words. We are playing with words. For high stakes. Like playing with fire, almost.
“Make America great again” does contain great meaning. America was once a David, a hero who conquered the British Empire—of which it was a part—and now America, run by an emotionally fed, corrupt, uni-party, “Deep State,” is in danger of becoming another British Empire itself, a mischief-making giant dragging after it misery, chaos, and pain.
Poe (1809-1849) belonged to the fiercely cunning and pragmatic America—mesmerizing poetry was only one part of Poe’s weaponry. Poe defied the British—the world’s superpower, then, and not always friendly to America—circles in Great Britain had secret designs to destroy her upstart colony. Poe helped create both science fiction and detective fiction—thought, curiosity, cunning, for the masses. Poe, in all he wrote, was the Ben Franklin of American Letters.
Franklin wrote, “Write with the learned. Pronounce with the vulgar.”
Poe wrote: “I will not be sure that men at present think more profoundly than half a century ago, but beyond question they think with more rapidity, with more skill, with more tact, with more of method, and less of excrescence in the thought. Besides all this, they have a vast increase in the thinking material; they have more facts, more to think about. For this reason, they are disposed to put the greatest amount of thought in the smallest compass and disperse it with the utmost attainable rapidity.”
Yes. Get to the point.
Now, more than ever.
“Watch how I get to the point” is reserved for Mozarts, for really good poets. Maybe for an Oscar Wilde giving an after-dinner speech. The rest of us should just get to the point. Quickly.
Poetry is occupied for its beautiful effects in its paying attention to the sweet immediacies of rhythm—the short story, on the other hand, has truth as its goal, by the very ratio in which artificial, formal, beautiful, and mathematical considerations are abandoned. This was Poe’s chief decree.
And yet. Just as Plato banned poetry from his Republic—in itself, a poem, to those who can read the great philosopher in the original Greek—so Poe’s prose nonetheless has a kind of beauty:
“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.” Poe (1839)
In a way, this famous prose passage of Poe’s does “get to the point.” The narrator of “The House of Usher” arrives at that house in the first sentence. Lesser authors would spend a page, or two, describing the countryside, the horse, the rider, the rider’s thoughts, the previous day’s journey, and so on.
Poe, with the long sentence, gives us a sense of length, duration—since the tone is melancholy, length is proper; brevity would give us a completely different mood: “So there I was. Riding to Usher.”
But the genius of Poe gives us seeming length—in one sentence—for Poe has also, in getting right to the point, brought the reader, in a sad and drugged, melancholy state, to the House of Usher—by the end of the very first sentence of his tale.
We don’t know about women in pink hats, but we think Poe himself would admire “Make America Great Again,” or MAGA, as a political slogan, as it says a lot in a few words—the brevity itself adding urgency to the plea.
Making is better than talking. Manufacturing is better than blather.
Nice. You’re running for president of ___.
Sound-wise, it chimes with “make” and “America.” Meaning-wise, it signals a go-for-broke, dominating, expansive, winning attitude. Great has just the right ultra-confident vibe; after all, America is often called the “greatest nation on earth.”
Recalls history, tradition, destiny, while implying “America is tarnished and requires a certain amount of urgent restoration.”
Should Poe win, who was being read in Russia before he was being read in France?
Should Poe win, who was a maverick, and thumbed his nose at MSM?
Should Poe win, who is an MFA Writing Program all to himself?
Should Poe win, the last real literary genius, who was a scientist, as well?
Make America great again.