This is the first of 3 posts celebrating Edgar Allen Poe’s 203rd birthday on Thursday the 19th.
Lofoten is where my great-grandparents were from. My great-grandfather was a fisherman, like the Old man in Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrӧm”. The search for one’s roots always involves a bit of myth-making, and I find this a fortuitous geneology. (I live in a country that makes a fair bit of money from ancestral tourism, and it’s with some chagrin I admit to wanting to visit these islands.) But I first knew of this place from the Poe story.
The Maelstrӧm itself is exaggerated by Poe: it’s a swallower of ships and devourer of whales, appearing as “a smooth, shining and jet-black wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some forty-five degrees, speeding dizzily, round and round with a swaying and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling voice…”
For all his sentimentality and persistent melancholy, Poe’s work has been one of the earliest influences on my own writing. I am indebted to him, not least for giving me a certain mythic vision of my roots, even if it is the howling, watery maw of hell itself!