Yesterday, for a mere 99 cents, I downloaded Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems, and I am excited about this. You may think that my giddiness has something to do with Poe’s work as a mystery writer. It does in part. But my first exposure to Poe was through his poetry.
When I was a child we had a set of books filled with stories and verses suitable for young readers. I remember curling up with the poetry volume and reciting the poems aloud. There were several of Poe’ s poems: Annabelle Lee, El Dorado, and The Bells. Sometimes I would wander around reciting the refrain from this last one, letting my intuition guide me in finding the rhythm: “From the BELLS, bells, BELLS, bells, BELLS, BELLS, bells…” Sort of the thing you might expect a young child to do.
When I was a little older, my fifth grade teacher did a unit on poetry and made us each memorize and recite before the entire class a poem of our choice. I chose El Dorado. With a great deal of dramatic flourish I spouted the final stanza of the poem:
“Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,”
The shade replied-
“If you seek for Eldorado!”
To my astonishment the class applauded. I learned that day about the emotional power of the written and articulated word.
Fast forward to junior high school: my English teacher had us analyze The Raven. It was in that lesson where I learned to savor unusual words and seek their meanings. “Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe…” comes to mind. I also learned to look at the meaning behind the words of a poem. In this particular piece I learned it was not just about a talking raven; the poem was about death and love and madness. The lesson I took from The Raven taught me the necessity of reading between the lines and going deeper into a writer’s work, to not take anything on face value and move beyond superficiality.
So finding the complete works of Poe in such an accessible format brought me back to these essential childhood lessons, and I am thrilled.
So if any of my friends find me wandering about muttering about tinkling bells and the Night’s Plutonian shore, don’t go looking for a butterfly net — yet.