The Ambassador Diaries of Jean de Bosschère and Edgar Poe

by Norman Dubie
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Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 452

Dubie’s primary intention in “The Ambassador Diaries of Jean de Bosschère and Edgar Poe” is to draw attention to the work of Aiken. The epigraphs prefacing sections 1 and 3 of the poem give the reader a taste of Aiken’s poetry—twelve lines of it—taken from one of Aiken’s major works, “Time in the Rock.” The numerous allusions to works by Aiken constitute an act of literary criticism: Dubie is saying that these works are important and should not be forgotten. Dubie’s poem also expresses ideas that are central to Aiken’s prose and poetry.

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The focus on Aiken’s life reflects Dubie’s belief that the writer should engage in a sort of self-psychoanalysis to become aware of the forces that have determined or influenced his or her attitudes, beliefs, and actions. This consciousness provides the writer with the wisdom to avoid destructive patterns of behavior. Dubie shows Aiken beginning this process in the line of verse he writes following his parents’ deaths—“Why did they whip poor Will?” Aiken was mentally and physically abused by his father, who would not have committed murder and suicide, Aiken believed, if he had developed such a consciousness. Aiken’s father was one of those “who sleep,” unaware of subconscious motivations. By mentioning the Nazis, Dubie reminds the reader of what can happen when an entire nation is “asleep.”

Aiken believed that poetry not only allowed the poet to increase his or her individual consciousness but also served to advance the consciousness of the human race. By embodying the process of achieving self-knowledge and presenting the discoveries of the poet, it leaves a record for others to learn from and build on. As Aiken wrote in one of the passages from “Time in the Rock” that Dubie uses as an epigraph, the writer’s job is “To be the ambassador/ Of all you are to all that is not you!” This sentiment raises the issue of literary tradition.

In “The Ambassador Diaries of Jean de Bosschère and Edgar Poe,” Dubie writes that Aiken has been made a “childless” ambassador, meaning that his work has been relegated to the provinces of literary history, away from the mainstream of tradition, where it will not foster successors. By writing his poem about Aiken, however, Dubie means to correct this situation. Dubie becomes an inheritor of Aiken’s work. As his allusions to Aiken’s works demonstrate, Dubie has assimilated Aiken’s consciousness, just as Aiken assimilated the consciousness of Poe and as future poets will assimilate the consciousness of Dubie. Many other writers also are the spiritual ancestors of these poets; in this way, the consciousness of the human race is increased.

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