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