For today would have been his birthday as well....He would have been a very young 203 years old. For many many years he has had an admirer, someone who leaves roses at his grave for his birthday but this year the great people of Baltimore, Maryland may be holding a vigil of their own for this strange visitor as, for the second year in a row, he/she/it has not shown up. With that in mind, of course I had to do a post. My great Poe has already lost one who kept this date. We could not let him pass this birthday, wherever he may be now (probably hanging with Janis instead of reincarnating as they both should) without giving him love on this, the date of his birth. His was a complicated life, sometimes filled with pain, and that pain along with his brilliance later combined on the page to make him a writer with talent that so many of us since have all but worshiped, his ability to suck one in to his world whether it be one of grief over love lost too soon or one of sinister disease lurking among its intended prey unrivaled by none. At least, not in my opinion. I wear a necklace of his likeness around my neck to remind me to write even when I don't want to and to give it all I have because if I don't, there is no point. I have a beautiful print of The Raven sitting at my side to remind me that even in darkness, there is light and beauty and it is that which belongs on the page. He is one of those writers that I will never get too much of and I am proud to say that I've loved him almost as long as I could read.
My friend Cassie and I were both obsessed with him rather early on. And so, being innovative by nature, we devised a plan. Neither of us could afford little pocket editions of BOTH The Raven and the Black Cat yet we had heard that each was great. So she bought one, I bought the other, and we switched off constantly reading them over and over. (I wonder if she remembers that. I'll have to ask her....) That was my first real taste of Poe's work and I couldn't get enough. I remember, I was in fourth grade then and I was in Mr. Topping's Poetry Club. The next Friday when we met I had in my hand a poem I wrote called The Kiss of Death which was, of course, inspired by my week spent with The Raven. A bit morbid for ten? Perhaps. Thankfully nothing I wrote, even then, seemed to surprise Mr. T. After that it was to the library I went, first the public and then, when we got a cool grown up library at the Middle School, the school library at Everts. The only nice thing I can say about my time there is that their library kicked ass to a bookwormish 6th grader, I loved the time I spent in it, and it was stocked with the best of Poe.
Now, around this time I had my first real fight with depression. Life wasn't going too great and, being between the ages of 10 and 12, I had not developed any techniques for really dealing with that. So I sank into these worlds, these tales that Edgar wove and I let them bring me comfort or, at least, take me away for a little while. Because he could always be counted on for that. He turned even the deepest sorrow into beauty and maybe somehow I internalized that concept without realizing it...or maybe all of us who create use the greatest pains in our lives to fuel it. At least then you haven't suffered in vain. And Poe certainly did not because here we are, two centuries later, with millions still reading his work, millions who know his name and have stories just as I have a story of that first time they read what he had to say. So, wherever his admirer has gone (and if it is possible, I hope next year there is a return made) we still love him. Right? Right.
Happy birthday, E.A.P. ! May you know all the joy in death that you rarely got from life and may you be in a place where you can see that so many of us still need what you gave even if you are long past having use for it.