Friday, October 26, 2007

Quoth The Raver: "Evermore!"

Every year, for the last three Halloweens, I have developed a tradition in costume of resurrecting The Ghost Of Edgar Allen Poe.

Although, I have not tested this formula here in Austin it was a very popular event in my old neighborhood of Somerville, Massachusetts.

Poe was born and raised in Boston, but settled in Baltimore, Maryland eventually out of disgust with his native hometown (Heh, just like us!). His grave site, near Baltimore, is visited by the mysterious Man in Black every year on Poe's birthday (January 19th - a fellow Capricorn!) whom leaves a bottle of Cognac and three red roses at his tomb in a wildly excellent tradition.

My tradition of summoning the great poet and storyteller of Gothic fame became very popular in Somerville, indeed, and not just because Poe was a famous Massachusetts' native son.

First of all, my garb was fascinating to the kids in its Victorian-style black suit, mascaraed thin mustache, white face paint, a cane & top hat, a black Raven resting on my shoulder, a Tell-Tale Heart pinned to my shirt-coat, and a little Black Cat hanging from one of my jacket pockets.

I would greet doorbell-ringers in a flamboyant and exalting display, "WHO DARES RING THE BELLS, THE BELLS, THE BELLS OF THE GREAT EDGAR ALLEN POE?"

If any of the younger trick-or-treaters didn't know who I was I'd challenge them by offering, "Well then, would you like a trick, a treat or a POEM!"

Now, you'd think kids would just run screaming in terror at the very notion of being offered to be read a poem on Halloween night. You'd think! But, I had more requests for poetry readings than you might imagine! In fact, as the tradition went on the kids that would remember me from Halloweens' past would insist, "Where's our poem!" when they returned to the house. And, of course, Mr. Poe would oblige them with either Annabelle Lee, The Bells or The Raven (the Classics!) and for the sake of brevity the most merciful reads.

Last year one young girl did go as far as requesting The Cask of Amontillado (she even pronounced it correctly!) - sorry, Sweetie, there are other kids piling up at our doorstep - no can do. Although, I couldn't honor the request I did give her an extra dollop of goodies for the sentiment. Head of the class!

I remember in particular one father and his little girl would come to the door and they just seemed to absolutely adore the tradition. She was so sweet and shy, tentative but unafraid, and always dressed as a Faerie Princess in pink with white angel wings. Dad was most excited as he seemed to like the idea that some nut in the neighborhood would actually uphold such a tradition. He gleefully announced to his Princess on one visit, "Looook, honey, there he is! He's here again, it's Edgar Allen Poe!"

I was a sort of minor celebrity I must admit.

That year I had rigged a giant black spider (and called it Boris...) to cover up my bucket of high-end Halloween treats. Strung up via a semi-elaborate system of pulley's and strings I would command my contraption in forte voce, "Up! Up! Release the candy, Boris, let the Princess have as much as she'd like!" And up the wiry little bug would go on its spindly thread lifting a black veil off of the booty-filled treasure pot.

"Oooooh, loook at thaaat!", Dad would gush easing her out of her initial trepidation, "Go on, honey, it's OK. It's Mr. Poe! You know he wouldn't hurt you."

Verily, Mr. Poe would never hurt anyone especially someone as precious as the little pink Faerie Princess.

The real Mr. Poe probably loved children; they were, after all, his future audience (especially on High Street every Halloween!).

Mr. Poe hurt himself, though.

To the point of death, in fact.

He drank himself to his grave (n.b. - agree most theories).

A fate not unfamiliar, nor uncommon, to many a tortured writer's soul. Life was beautiful but it was dark and cold, too. He suffered loss like all of us do. His wife, Virginia, passed away during their love's brief tenure together and it resulted in some of his undoing. And because he had the power of words to lead him through his grief I can only imagine that made him all the more sensitive to humanity's great plight: the awareness of one's own Mortality, now given damningly eternal tangibility by all of that poetic prose of his.

Don't hold on too tightly; it will all be gone sooner than you might want to fathom:

"Quoth the Raven - Nevermore."

See? It's all right there in black and white!

Many of us hoard money away in anticipation of the Grand Inevitability (some solace that!) as if this will ward off Death some how. Edgar hoarded words. He kept them saved in the vault of his fevered mind but would withdraw them, regardless of penalty, for every daring receiver's benefit. I believe, despite his dark sensibilities, that he ultimately admired mankind. Why else would he want to share such shadowy secrets and perverse passions with them?

'Here is what I have discovered, Dear Reader, now take Thanatos' Wisdom with you and change yourselves for the better. Live life fuller, I command thee!'

Well written dramatic "horror" should do just that (although, Poe might argue quite differently that what he wrote were mere horror stories).


When I was in elementary school a favorite English teacher of mine, Mr. Bill O'Shea, introduced his classroom to the morbidly wonderful imagination of Edgar Allen Poe. In the days leading up to Halloween, Mr. O'Shea would close the curtains and turn off all of the lights in our school room's back area and read to us each and every short and long selection from Poe by flashlight. He loved the author and he loved the season of Halloween and all of its questioning of the Western status quo belief systems.

Bill O'Shea gave each reading a special performance, too, tapping his foot in rhythm on the tile floor during The Tell Tale Heart, miming animated vitality into Hop-Frog, the lopsided dwarfish jester, who would exact his revenge on his tormentors by dumping hot oil on them from the rafters above! Bill would scream out imitating the revelers as they were being doused in the sticky scolding misery that was their ultimate doom. He would yowl loudly the remonstrances of the walled-up, brain eating Black Cat (don't get any ideas, Anubis!), and on and on would he channel fresh life into the great artist's gloomy tales ... it dually scared the crap out of the entire classroom.

It entranced me.

My love of stories and words was given bold new light (or dark...) back then. Mr. O'Shea had created a tremendous fan out of me and I wanted to share Edgar Allen Poe with everyone from there on in.

So, it was with no small amount of pride and pleasure that I found myself glowing one year when the Faerie Princess and her Dad came back for their annual visit. As they were leaving the mocked up Melancholy House Of Usher, Princess's Dad looked "Poe" square in his painted visage, and earnestly revealed, "This means a lot to her, thank you. No, really. And, it means' a lot to me, too. Thank you."

No, thank you, Edgar.

But, most of all, thank you, Bill O'Shea; you make Mr. Poe, and me, very proud.

Happy New Year... Evermore!,



Roobaby96 said...

This was very insightful for me. I too, LOVE Halloween, though I must confess, I have not been such a devout fan of Edgar Allen Poe until recently. Your passion for his works is apparent and I admire it. I also am writing to answer a question. A friend of mine left this poem for me one day and I haven't had success in figuring out what it is from. I THINK its Edgar Allen Poe, maybe you can solve the mystery for me. "Understand. I'll slip quietly away from the noisy crowd when I see the pale stars rising, blooming, over the oaks. I'll pursue solitary pathways through the pale twilit meadows with only this one dream: You come too." Please email me back if you have the answer for me.

Dennis said...

Hello Roobaby96,

Glad you enjoyed the po(e)st. I wrote this last year but it remains one of my favorite blog entries.

Now, the poem you're asking about, in some strange coincidence, is the very poem I use in the sidebar of this blog (You left no email address so I can't respond directly to you so I hope you find my blog again to see the answer).

It's called 'Pathways' by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke...


Understand, I'll slip quietly
away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale
stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.

I'll pursue solitary pathways
through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.

Rainer Maria Rilke

It's a beautiful piece of writing that succinctly sums up the point of view for those of us deeply entrenched in life's great romance.

It sounds like your friend is a true romantic then ... yeah, I admit it, much like myself.

Thanks for dropping by. And, Happy Halloween!