On October 7, 1849 Edgar Allan Poe died in Baltimore, Maryland at the hospital. Poe is one of the most well-known American writers to have lived: writer, poet, editor, critic. And yet, though he was financially unstable, he is still said to have given birth to the detective novel with his cultivation of mystery and horror storytelling. We all know his two most famous poems, but his poetry is certainly underrated.
A few years ago, the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) declared October 7 as Dark Poetry Day in memory of his death and to honor all dark poets (thank you!) like myself.
Poe started my general interest in the macabre at a young age. I wasn’t allowed to read much horror, but Poe’s short stories were on the list since many times they were a school requirement. I devoured stories like “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the poem “The Raven,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” The Black Cat,” and many more. I don’t think I ever stopped thinking about them, even to this day, as they helped me learn and decipher a dark side of humantity and loss and gave me the bug for suspense and thrills.
In fact, Poe (along with few others) gave me the inspiration to write poetry; he, of course, the main inspiration for the dark ones later in life. I still tended to write lighter poetry in my early years overall, but his art with cadence and flow was still in my mind, as well as his emotional presence with words and imagery. His true catalyst in my writing was his short stories and I love them to this day. He was my first foray into the art of the short story and for which I’ll forever be grateful. Often times you’ll see some of my short stories and poetry still show shards of him today.
I know that writers these day tell fellow writers and readers to quit talking about the classics and old, dead writers. I won’t. I talk up new and diverse groups of writers every day. If I want to talk about Poe and how he influenced me, well… it’s my truth, so I’ll keep telling it. I’m a history fanatic and somehow liking these forebearers keeps their candle lit to me. From reading him, I forged a love for more classic, gothic lit. Furthermore, to appreciate writing and reading horror at all.
You can see why I was estatic when my son surprised me with a trip to one of Poe’s homes. We were taking my son back to school in January 2020 (I had to double check that because seems like two million years ago since Covid hit!) and took a diffent route so we could visit Baltimore, then head the hour into D.C. and George Washington University.
We went to visit the small home where Poe lived with his young wife and her mother for a time, which was turned into an even smaller museum. It was cool to see where his bedroom was – though it was such a tiny space, and the stairs so tight, I barely made it back down. We saw his telescope and writing desk and learned about his time there. We went to the library in Baltimore too, hoping to see their Poe Room, but it seems no one knew what we were talking about or that it had a tuft of his hair locked inside it! We found it upstairs and I peered in the window while the conference attendees glared back. They probably thought I wanted their donuts.
We headed down to visit his gravesite, which was a really neat experience. He’s buried at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground, as is his wife and mother-in-law with him (well… now they are) and his grandfather before him. No one is still sure what he died of even to this day, just that he was found delirious and taken to the hospital. He died at age 40. It felt so surreal to me to walk around his grave and I had a chuckle that even in death for him or his wife, there was drama!
We also visited a really cool statue of Poe outside of a law school, but it sure does need some care. I feel sad that so much memorializing Poe is damaged or decaying in Baltimore. However, it was still really fun to make this trip (and maybe I’ll share more about it in the future) and I hope to go to museums and statues in Philadelphia, Richmond, and places in NYC and Boston too. Plus next time I have to go to the tavern!
Not all, but some of the work in my debut dark poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., is inspired by him. One of those is my story “The Madness of the Woodpecker” which is its own ode to a portion of “A Tell-Tale Heart.” Some of my poetry is reminiscent of his style as well.
This collection, published three years ago by Unnerving Press, is going out of print for a bit at the end of October 2020. It’s a sad day, especially as I feel I was just announcing its publication! But that’s sometimes how it works in publishing; the revolving door. I will endeavor to have it re-published in coming years with a new cover as well as several more publications. Stay tuned for more poetry and short story work from me.
If you’d like to get Breathe. Breathe. in print format in this edition, there are less than a handful left in print. I would like to thank everyone over the years who has supported all my poetry and writing, as well as this particular collection, in which I bear my soul and surround it with fantastical as well as real.
Also something that’s a must-have for Poe collectors, is an illustrated “The Mask of the Red Death” by the stellar artist Steven Archer! It was Bran Stoker Award nominated last year. You can order now from Raw Dog Screaming Press!
Share with me in the comments your favorite Poe anything or some of your favorite dark poets, classic or current. Let’s spread poetry!
Happy Dark Poet’s Day and RIP Edgar Allan Poe!