If a Poem Hasn’t Ripped Apart Your Soul, You Haven’t Experienced Poetry

Edgar Allan Poe? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: A hyperbolic statement about poetry has been credited to the major literary figure Edgar Allan Poe:

If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul, you haven’t experienced poetry.

Could this possibly be a genuine remark from Poe?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Edgar Allan Poe who died in 1849 wrote or said this statement. The attribution probably entered circulation via a known misquotation mechanism called ‘naming confusion’.

There is an account on Twitter called @Edgar_Allan_Poe that uses the handle “Edgar Allan Poe”. On May 7, 2014 the account tweeted the following. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry.

The tweet received more than 1,300 likes and more than 1,400 retweets by June 2021. Some who saw the tweet assumed that the statement had been crafted by the famous horror author, and propagated it with that attribution.

Yet, it is unlikely that the twitter account was being operated by the undead spirit of Poe; hence, the master of the macabre probably did not originate this quotation. Instead, the person behind the account @Edgar_Allan_Poe probably constructed it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

The quotation also crossed over onto other social networks such as Tumblr were it was reblogged by hundreds of accounts. For example, Chloe shared the statement with an attribution to Poe on a Tumblr called “I BELONG IN THE WOODS”: 2

IF A POEM HASN’T RIPPED APART YOUR SOUL; YOU HAVEN’T EXPERIENCED POETRY.
Edgar Allan Poe (via letteratura-litterature) (via kerro-milta-se-tuntuu)

The quotation also crossed back from Tumblr to Twitter with an attribution to Poe. For example, here is a tweet dated May 7, 2014: 3

“If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry.” – Edgar Allan Poe (via… http://tmblr.co/ZSjwiw1FCG6X_

In September 2014 “The Poe Museum” of Richmond, Virginia published a blog article titled “Did Poe Really Say That?” by Chris Semtner which emphatically rejected the ascription of the quotation to Poe: 4

“If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul, you haven’t experienced poetry.” Just because it appears on popular media sites like Tumblr and Pinterest doesn’t mean it is an authentic quote. I am firmly putting my foot down when I say Poe did not say this.

The quotation attributed to Poe continues to circulate via twitter in 2021 as these words are being written.

In conclusion, the twitter account @Edgar_Allan_Poe tweeted this remark in 2014. The name of the account caused confusion. Some people retransmitted the statement while giving credit directly to the famous horror author. However, the linkage to the nineteenth century Poe is spurious.

Image Notes: Artwork from Gustave Doré designed to illustrate the short story “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. Images have been cropped and resized.

(Great thanks to Stephen Bridge whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Bridge pointed to the skeptical article on the website of “The Poe Museum”.)

Notes:

  1. Tweet, From: Edgar Allan Poe @Edgar_Allan_Poe, Time: 9:25 AM, Date: May 7, 2014, Text: If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry. (Accessed on twitter.com on June 11, 2021) link
  2. Website: Tumblr – I BELONG IN THE WOODS, Date on website: May 7, 2021, Website description: Tumblr of twenty year old Chloe. (Accessed chloegotcursed.tumblr.com on June 12, 2021) link
  3. Tweet, From: Chlo. @Chloepyne98, Time: 3:19 AM, Date: May 7, 2014, Text: “If a poem hasn’t ripped apart your soul; you haven’t experienced poetry.” – Edgar Allan Poe. (Accessed on twitter.com on June 12, 2021) link
  4. Website: The Poe Museum – The Poe Blog, Article title: Did Poe Really Say That?, Article author: Chris Semtner, Date on website: September 10, 2014, Website description: Blog operated by The Poe Museum of Richmond, Virginia. (Accessed thepoeblog.org on June 11, 2021) link