The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe

Have you ever wished you could speak with an iconic writer about their style and choices for their most well known works?

I know I have!

Perhaps it is why I was so excited to have found this essay written by Edgar Allan Poe, The Philosophy of Composition where Poe does just that!

‘In “The Philosophy of Composition,” the essay is a methodical account of how he came to write “The Raven.” He describes the deliberate choices he made in composing the poem, and the choices reveal his aesthetic. He advises brevity to communicate the essential “effect” of a piece. Beauty is the “province” of his work, and “melancholy . . . the most legitimate of all the poetical tones.” Poe discusses theme, setting, sound, and the merits of refrain.’

You can read the entire essay presented by poetry foundation here.

Did you find Poe’s approach to writing useful, inspiring, validating?

If you could receive advice (even from beyond the grave) from another famous author, who would it be?


I love that Poe shares a note from Dickens with us. Poe’s own words throughout - the beauty and precision of language - was in itself inspiring. I’ve saved it to read again. Thank you for the link @DeAnna .

I would love to receive advice from more than one of my favourite authors. Having directed two of his plays - A Phoenix Too Frequent, and The Lady’s Not For Burning - my first choice would be Christopher Fry.

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I am so happy you enjoyed it, I will look for more!


I am a Poe fan from way back to my childhood, so I’m thrilled to read this! I’ve also recently become aware of a book on writing by another favored author, Ray Bradbury, called “Zen and the Art of Writing” that I’m looking forward to getting my hands on as well.
I love reading those kinds of writings from authors I’ve loved for so long. Thanks for sharing this one!


I have found overwhelming evidence that Edgar Allan Poe’s public claim to “The Raven” was itself a scam. It had been written, and submitted anonymously under “---- Quarles,” by Mathew Franklin Whittier, younger brother of the poet, John Greenleaf Whittier. Poe scooped it by three days in the NY “Evening Mirror,” replacing Mathew’s pseudonym with his own name. Thus, “The Philosophy of Composition” was also a scam–he merely reversed-engineered Mathew’s poem, pretending to have written it.