The Raven (first published 166 years ago today)

It was January 29th, 1845 when this poem of unprecedented popularity was first published. Or so I learned when looking at the paper this morning during breakfast. I’ve read “most of Poe” over the years and have revisited this poem several times. In October of 2009, for my book club’s annual “ghost story month,” we read a selection of works by Poe, including this one. A few of us also viewed a YouTube clip of Vincent Price’s famous recitation. It remains one of the most famous poems of all time.

My first memories of the poem are of my dad reading it. When he was growing up, he was a huge fan of those ‘spooky’ radio programs, and I remember him imitating “The Shadow” and other creepy voices he grew up with. He was actually pretty good at scary voices and would often frighten my two brothers and me on our almost annual summer camping trips, telling ghost stories (more often than not beginning with “once upon a time, there were three little boys…”) until my youngest brother would get too scared and Mom would make him stop. My little brother’s lack of fortitude to endure these stories was a constant source of exasperation to my other brother and me.

Dad was always interested in memory and memorization (he was a teacher) and even late into his life was working on memorizing poetry. He even wrote some basic computer programs to aid his memorization. The Raven, however, was a poem he memorized long before the computer age, and his retelling of it to us kids was injected with just the right amount of the supernatural to keep us enthralled, even if we didn’t fully understand the deeper meaning of the poem. Dad was also a mathematician and I think he appreciated the structure and rhythm of poetry in a way I’ve never fully been able to. The older I get, though, the closer I think I am to having something approaching admiration for the poetic forms. Maybe someday I will become a connoisseur myself. (please don’t hold your breath, though)

So, happy birthday to The Raven. Go out and read a Poe story in celebration, or perhaps tap a cask of Amontillado… 🙂

What do you think of Poe? What are some of your favorite poems or poets? I’d love to hear about them…

-Jay

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6 Comments

  1. Dale Barthauer said,

    January 29, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Jay,
    While I don’t remember reading The Raven in school, I always remember The Cask of Amontillado! That one always stands out as the greatest short story I read in school.

    I’m reading The Iliad right now and am really enjoying it. Although the version I got is a prose version. I’ve always liked Robert Frost, especially the Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Day (I think that’s the title). I’ll also throw in Bob Dylan as one of my favorite poets.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      January 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Hi Dale,
      I think “epic poetry” would have to be a class in itself. Glad to hear you’re enjoying The Iliad though.

      The Cask of Amontillado is one of my favorites too. I love the motto of the main character’s family: “nemo me impune lacessit” or something close to that, meaning something like, no one injures me without retribution… Love it!

      I wouldn’t argue Dylan’s poetic credentials either.

      -Jay

      Like

  2. Jillian said,

    January 29, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I haven’t read much Poe yet, and have unfortunately never read “The Raven.” But I LOVE the bit I have read. Just last week I read “The Tell-Tale Heart” for the first time — creepy! I like “The Cask of Amontillado” too, as well “The Cat’s Eye” (I think it’s called…)

    Like

    • Jay said,

      January 30, 2011 at 10:56 am

      Hi Jillian,
      The Tell-Tale Heart is another favorite. I posted recently about how the new Stephen King novella, 1922, is somewhat reminiscent of that Poe tale, because of the powerful guilt and paranoia of the main character.

      You should try The Raven. It’s pretty short and it really does “read like a poem”, with it’s natural rhythm and meter than even non-poetry lovers like myself can handle.

      -Jay

      Like

  3. Kathy Sauceda said,

    January 29, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    I vote for the Tell-Tale Heart. Loved that one.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      January 30, 2011 at 10:58 am

      Me too. Not my absolute favorite, but great. It’s very short too; I’m always impressed when something that short in number of words can make such a deep, lasting impression.

      Like


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