Poe’s Eureka in Dialogue #3

Posted on: January 13th, 2014 by
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Robert Michael Oliver created and performed Embodying Poe, the one-man show from which Poe’s Eureka is taken in 2011. Combined with “The Raven,” “Ulalume,” and “Silence: a Fable,” Eureka: a prose poem (selections) concluded the piece. It has been called “a standing prayer” to Poe’s quest for spiritual realization.

Michael, who has developed an aesthetic based on the performance of literary forms, discusses his process below.

“The process of conceptualizing literature for performance or film presents some unique challenges. Because we are not adapting a text to stage or film, that is, we do not change the language of the text to fit the dramatic or narrative dynamics of performance, we must find the text’s performative through-line within its literary structure.

Oliver in Eureka2“For me, that through-line exists within the piece’s persona or voice: it is the persona’s psychic movement if you will. Thus, I dramatize the movement of the psyche as it changes within the literary piece.

“The conceptualization process for Eureka was particularly challenging because, as a fusion of essay and poem, its persona is as much Poe’s and his individual quest for spiritual realization as it is the authoritative voice of the essay itself.

Oliver in Eureka“In real life these two through-lines were realized both introspectively within Poe as he journeyed for discovery, and extrovertedly as he stepped before the public and attempted to explain his mystical conclusions to a doubting, quite Christian public. Because Eureka was, in part, developed from those speeches he delivered to that public, it contains the urgency of conviction, much more so than his other poems do.

“We have worked to capture that dichotomy within the film, between Poe the private seeker for truth and Poe the public figure wanting people to accept his conclusions and in this case celebrate his profound discovery as he most assuredly celebrated it.”

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