Month: October 2018

Poe Places: An East Coast Journey in the Footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: Petersburg

After marrying his cousin, Virginia Clemm, then age 13, in the spring of 1836 in Richmond, Virginia the two departed for their honeymoon coming to Petersburg, Virginia. They stayed on the second floor of the Hiram Haines Coffee House, owned by poet and writer Hiram Haines and his wife Mary Ann, who was a childhood friend of Poe’s.

It’s unsure whether they stayed as little as a few days or two weeks. The coffee house is no longer open and at the time I visited a sign was on the door with a real estate agency seemingly the building being for lease.

These Stones: a poem

i let myself fade to you
knowing the anchor is not through

it presses upon my hollow chest
no will to fight or protest

it dares me not to cry
as I push back the ache with an empty sigh

my head swirls, words circling, once again falling prey
as the rapture returns with its needful intent to slay

haunted by my own thoughts and the words you slur
from frustration and stubborn pride we both continually stir

resentment and desire to throw it all away, gives us constant whiplash this thing we promised
never to betray

what lies beneath us, the darkness that makes you and I
has always been our savior, never to stray away from or lie

yet we are challenged it seems every day
to embrace what we have, instead slipping further and further away.

i know not what rests in your head
if you’ve willed it away or wished it dead

as for me I cannot explain this bond refusing to break
perhaps fate found me you to cure this ache

or maybe a stepping stone for my soul to mend
from the torture I’ve caused it, unsure how to bend

or perhaps I to you to show you the way
beyond the path you thought you’d stay

or maybe the tool to purge a mind
from all that baggage trailing behind.

so when i let myself numb the world and think of you
the first thought I have is were your words true

from all that we’ve shared
it was always obvious to me just how much we cared

but it’s hard for me to accept that we have failed
after chartering waters neither of us have sailed.

how can we just let it all go after having the courage to let the most darkest pieces of ourselves
show?

emotions can be such a powerful drug
that can force us to push feelings under a rug

or cause us to act in disarray
react or say things we don’t mean to say.

insecurities own us, blind us to what’s really there
prisoners to our minds, stripping us bare.

i know this thing I feel is something all together new.
it’s that thing inside that keeps pulling me to you.

there it is the world, coming back into view
i push my thoughts away again, as I repeatedly do.

Poe Places: A Historical East Coast Journey in the Footsteps Of Edgar Allan Poe: Charlottesville

It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen muse and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.

This stop brings me to the city of Charlottesville in Virginia. It is here that Edgar attended the newly opened University of Virginia. In its second session, Poe was 136th of the 177 students that enrolled on February 14, 1826. He only attended two classes, The Schools of Ancient and Modern Languages. He excelled, having taken top honors in his final exams even without being known to spend much time studying.

University of Virginia in 1826

University of Virginia today

With his classes being only from seven until nine-thirty each morning, Poe had plenty of free time to meander around and participate in University activities. It was his membership with the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society that led to a Dead Poet’s Society kinda feels having several students regularly gathering around his small dorm room listening to private readings. His spirit, paired with his voice, and stories of hauntings and curses would send shivers to his peers.

Poe’s dorm room as it’s preserved

at University of Virginia

Unfortunately Poe left the University on December 15, 1826, and never returned. His stepfather, John Allan when enrolling him, did not fund him enough for his studies even after continued pleas from Poe. As a result, Edgar turned to gambling which did not come as natural for him as writing, leaving him with debt.

Today, within the University’s library in the WWW Exhibit, a letter is on display that was written by Poe and addressed to his stepfather dated September 21, 1826 talking about campus life, the continued construction of the campus including the famous Rotunda.

Within the Rotunda is a pane of glass taken from the window of Poe’s dorm room. Legend has it that he etched the following stanza before leaving the University.

O Thou timid one, do not let thy

Form slumber within these

Unhallowed walls,

For herein lies

The ghost of an awful crime.

Although his time was brief at the University of Virginia, it is known he began his writing for Tamerlane while a student and seems Charlottesville was a muse for another poem, A Tale of the Ragged Mountains. It is also thought that perhaps two lines from To Helen were inspired from the historic lawn of the University.

bewitching happenstance: a poem

She knew all along
it was there
dormant yet waiting
to kiss the wanton air
to dance out of the darkness
to own the light
to taste every demon
and soar in its delight

one day twas happenstance
he came along
singing to her soul
a bewitching song
that linked to every emotion
she’d hid life long

each fiber within came awake
silently beckoning for him to embrace
what she knew she always wanted
but too scared to face

Poe Places: A Historical East Coast Journey in the Footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: South Carolina

  1. It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen muse and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.

While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to be visited which I hope to do in the future.

This stop brings me to the small barrier island near Charleston, South Carolina called Sullivan’s Island. It is here on November 18, 1827 that an 18 year old Poe, having enlisted with the United States army under the alias Edgar A Perry, arrived to take post at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island.

Fort Moultrie on the tip of Sullivan’s Island

His position was of clerk and evidence seems to show that he was well liked by his officers and received two promotions while here, the second being Sgt. Major, the army’s highest enlisted rank. He still however didn’t seem to fit in with military life. His position fortunately afforded him down time where he was able to meander along the island.

Poe notably became friends with two prominent South Carolinians during his meandering, undoubtedly.

One was Dr. Edmond Ravenel, a conchologist and professor at the Medical College, who maintained a house on Sullivan”s Island and practiced on the island. He was known to have wandered the beaches searching for shells and over time acquired quite a collection which is now housed in the Charleston Museum. It is thought that he and Poe shared ideas and wandered the beaches together searching for treasures of the sea.

office of Dr. Ravenel on Sullivan’s Island

The other, Colonel William Drayton of Charleston whom he would later dedicate his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque to. It’s unsure the exact nature of their friendship but they would remain friends even after Drayton was transferred to Philadelphia.

His down time from his military duties reminded him too of his desire and need to write and write he did.

The island provided the inspiration and setting for The Gold Bug, published in 1843. During the time Poe arrived and spent on the island it was a place of swamps, ghostly legends, buried pirate treasure and African voodoo cults. Perfect indeed for the mind of Poe. It is thought too that the narrator of Gold Bug is modeled after his friend, Dr. Ravenel. The story itself offers all the elements of legend and folklore, much of which is still present to this day on Sullivan’s Island.  Further, Poe would also use Charleston as inspiration in a newspaper article titled The Balloob Hoax in 1844 and the Oblong Box in 1850.

The locals have claimed Poe and are quite proud of their bragging rights. Many of the streets are named after his works as well as the local library and a tavern that I undoubtedly nerded out at.

Now back to Dr. Ravenel. Of course Edgar is no stranger to legends and lore and this little island holds quite an interesting one. It is thought that Poe took a liking to a family member of Dr. Ravenel. Her name….Annabel Lee Ravenel. Yeah, you know where this is going. The two, with a disapproving father, would meet in secrecy at a local church. The Unitarian Church in Charleston. Of course I went.

Unitarian Church in Charleston

Of course the photographer and nature lover in me would go picture crazy. It’s a cemetery. It’s me. Lore of Poe. It’s expected. From a photography perspective the church grounds where the cemetery sits is fairly well manicured but sets the tone for just enough intrigue in the shadows that many of the overgrown areas offer. It’s a lovely church within the low country with its spanish moss. That for me is always breathtaking. Ok, ok, back to Poe and the reason I’m here.

So it is thought that Edgar and Annabel Lee would meet in the cemetery of the church because her father was very disapproving of Poe. Eventually Poe was transferred back up North, and Annabel fell ill and died. Allegedly, paranormal sightings of Annabel Lee sitting on a bench in the graveyard or walking along its paths seeking Poe reportedly still happen. I have to add here based on my own research over the years that it is well accepted that the infamous poem is in fact inspired from his wife and cousin, Virginia Clemm. But this lore makes for one heck of a dark romantic tale!

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Edgar only spent thirteen months on this small island that spands only a little over three miles. It’s quite clear however that it made quite the impact on his writing and the people of Sullivan’s Island are proud to honor that.