Was asked by the lovely crew from SuperNews Live to come down and have a chat about Edgar Allan Poe on their show Dark Times!
A nerdcation, if not obvious, is a trip that some people might consider pedestrian, strange, boring. I took such a trip this winter, and I found the trip quite the opposite. Perhaps, it’s because the recipe that is me includes one-part nerd.
Anyone who knows me, understands I’m a Poe – addict. January 19th 1809 is Poe’s date of birth, making this past Monday the 206th anniversary of his birth; hence, his birthday. The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virgina, planned a celebration. I decided, almost last minute, to fly cross country to the chilled Eastern U.S. to do my very own Poe Tour.
His mothers are buried there (there were two), his first true love’s house (he was 14, she was his friend’s mother) is a landmark, his first and last fiance (Elmira), the places he grew up, schooled, played, worked, proposed. I marked all of the locations and addresses, a walk in a dead writer’s footsteps that would culminate with the day long event at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, which promised to include readings, discussions, and cake.
If some of you find this boring, you’ll find what follows probably even more banal. Unless, you’re a visual person and browse the photos
My first stop was E.A. Poe’s birth mother. Her body lies somewhere on the grounds of St. John’s Church. St. John’s is famous for Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!” speech. I’m told Henry is buried there, as well as numerous other revolutionaries.
Poe’s Father, David Jr, purportedly said, the day that ruined my life was the day my son was born. He never wanted to be a father. After Edgar’s sister, Rosalie, was born, David Poe disappeared. His parents, Elizabeth Arnold and David, were actors. By the time Edgar was two, his mother perished.
Because her profession was considered a mere step above prostitution and no respectable person would agree to be buried near an actress, she was laid in the ground without a headstone or location notation. It seems three different organizations pulled together, built and placed a marker to honor Poe’s mother.
The day I arrived, the sun shined, melting the ice from the streets. The lovely magnolia tree nearby the grave dropped melting ice, giving me my own personal rainstorm.
I meandered around the cemetery. Remembering, honoring the dead.
Across the street from the Church is Elmira Royster’s home – or what was once her home.
She was Poe’s first fiance, her father disapproved of Poe, so they met secretly at the gardens (which is now the Lindon Row Inn – where I fortuitously reserved a room. My room overlooked the back garden patio where Poe is supposed to have taken Elmira’s hand and asked her to marry him, to wait for him until he returned from college).
Poe’s letters never reached Elmira (thanks to her father); she thought she’d been abandoned and entered the marriage arranged/approved by her father.
Many years later, after she’d been widowed, her maid involved herself in an argument at the front door, refusing entry to the tall, dark, caped stranger at the front door who insisted he be allowed to see Ms. Elmira on this Sunday morning. The lady of the house admitted him, listened to his argument. Anyone who’s seen someone they once loved knows what she was feeling, understands those “no, I shouldn’t, yes, I want to,” back and forth feelings she may have been experiencing as she told him, “I have church this morning, you may return another time.” No doubt she watched him go through the window slats and hoped he’d return. His cape blew back in the wind as he walked determinedly away, formulating a plan, even then, to win back his first love.
Poe did reappear, and too soon asked for her hand in marriage. She was one of the last people to see him before he left Richmond…. She was, officially, Poe’s first and last fiance.
Poe’s first true soul love (his words) was his friend’s mother; she supported his writing whereas his adoptive father did not. Mrs. Jane Stith Craig Stanard’s house is not far from either the church or Elmira’s house.
Coming home with his friend on an average school day, he met the lovely Mrs. Stanard. Maybe they said just a few words, but Poe was smitten and returned again and again. They talked of poetry. It was a gentile relationship, an appropriate one, even if possibly it made his friend uncomfortable. (She died when Poe was 15).
It’s known as the Craig House, is privately owned and boasts the original structure, although it has been restored. The house stands as the second oldest structure in Virginia.
Poe was never officially adopted, but the Allan’s are referred to as his adoptive parents. Edgar’s middle name Allan comes from their family. His adoptive mother, Francis Allen was a great love of Poe’s. She passed in 1929. His adoptive father doesn’t come across as a nice man. He didn’t appreciate Poe’s writings, his mannerisms, reminded him often that Edgar lived off his charity. There’s some evidence that Allan cheated on his wife, he had illegitimate children with another woman (even left them $ in his will). Poe didn’t seem to respect the man, and I believe that is part of the reason why. There are some allegations that Poe involved himself with married women and single women as well; however, when he married Virginia, and loved a woman, he seemed to be wholly involved and didn’t consider turning to another.
Mrs. Stanard’s headstone is closer to downtown. The cemetery is larger with long, winding, dirt roads, which supposedly are labeled A, B, C. Navigating it curiously, I found, by luck the intersection.
I must admit that in some strange way, I didn’t care to see Mr. Allan’s grave; however, his family plots were close to his the Stanards. I walked the ten feet from Mrs. Jane Stith Craig Stanard grave to the Allan’s. It further made me dislike this ghost of a man whom I could never know. Crazy, I know.
Allan married and had more children after Francis’ death. His marker is large, looming over Francis’ marker, his second wife’s marker is larger than his first wife’s. I’m not certain why that annoyed me so much, but it did. How could his first wife merit a headstone half the size of his second wife’s? Seems somehow – assholish.
The weather was getting the best of me. I’m a thin blooded creature, the eastern sun moved fast toward the west, the sky grew gray, and the sketchy neighborhood where the cemetery lies isn’t a place a woman should challenge her fears.
I searched for at a more modern venue for refreshment. Not knowing the area, unable to locate a Starbucks via my gps, I parked in the city center and opted for a 7/11 coffee.
A block to the north, much to my surprise, laid Capital Park. With another hour on my city meter, I walked up, coffee in hand, to see if I could locate the Edgar Allan Poe Statue. Although I was lead to believe the statue was difficult to find, hidden in some far off corner, I found it quite easily.
I’m searching for Poe. I’m searching for connection. To pick up the remains of the past, make certain it’s real. Fortunately, the Edgar Allen Poe Society has done much more than I.
The house Poe grew up in is long gone to a history we can only read about: wars, fire, reconstruction. The Poe Society has marked the building. The building is currently condemned.
A few weeks after Poe’s mother passed, the show went on without her. A new stage play drew in the city’s patrons which filled the seats. It grew quite warm inside. The actors took note, the patrons noticed. They turned to one another, “it’s quite warm in here tonight.” The play was exquisite. The lighting extreme, as if a real fire burned in the background. When a single actor yelled “Fire!” The audience laughed, applauded. When more actors screamed, “Fire!” The theater goers turned to one another, nodded, “quite realistic.”
Until some astute actors and patrons made for the door, then others realized that, indeed, this was not part of the play. By then, the theater was already engulfed. Both, actors and wealthy patrons, died together. They are sealed in the same crypt under the new church built over them. Monument Churchl. Poe’s adoptive family, the Allans, worshiped there.
How might it have been for the young Poe to have his mother’s friends, his adoptive parents’ friends under his feet as he sang hymns?
Next Stop – Poe Museum. They programmed a 206th Birthday Celebratioon – a day long event of readings, museum tours, music, walking tours (Poe – related spots), CAKE! and a champagne toast at midnight.
The small building on main street is easy to pass without notice, but it is the oldest residence in Virginia, built in the 1700’s. The residence became the Poe Museum in 1922 (I believe).
The museum is made up of four small buildings and an enchanted garden. The pergola in the back of the garden which houses Poe’s bust was built from the bricks from the Southern Literary Messenger where Poe once worked.
Friday, the museum was completely empty except for the curator, the director, and those who were setting up for the celebration. I had the museum to myself, completely alone with Poe.
It featured many of his personal items, a bed, vest, cane, etc, among other artifacts. It boasted portraits of the period as well as modern work. I’ll let you check out this pics on the museum website (although their pictures are not current) as I don’t think I was supposed to take pictures. 😉
Music. Tours. Art. Poe Lovers. It was a lovely day, a soul enriching day, (even if it was too chilly for my California tolerance).
There’s little in this post that you won’t find elsewhere – as far as information about Poe and his family. The pictures are mine. (please give credit if you copy them).
Why does someone leave the warm sunshine of a winter in southern California to go to the too cold city of Richmond, Virginia in January? And why?
It’s history. It’s literature. It’s a passion of mine to know more, see, touch, be in the presence of. I am filled up, revitalized. I learned more, enjoyed discovering my penchant for boutique hotels led me to the grounds of the garden where Poe once stood declaring his love for his first sweet heart. I stood where he once stood, walked a path he may have walked (yes, with thousands, possibly millions of others. but that’s okay with me).
Sometimes, one must get out of their own head, get out of their comfort zone, do something new, something questionable, something that will add to their life experience.
I’ve swam with sharks, now I’ve walked with the dead in a city rich with literary history, with American history.
If you’ve read this far – THANKS!
This is a reblog from January 2015
This bookstore is one of my favorites. They mix classics, used, and publisher buyouts for a unique collection of books. AND they happen to be between TWO COFFEE SHOPS! Both of which serve bomb pastries.
This book signing will feature our own psychic! She’ll be reading your fortune using the Tarot.
Plus other surprises!
More Info to follow!
Okay, so not bragging, but….. I’ve been hard at work….
The Healer’s Daughter in The Ear
The Healer’s Daughter is a departure for me. It marks a turns in my writing that came about just this year. It’s more mystical. Risky, maybe. A woman’s daughter describes her mother’s gift and discovers she has her very own gift, but will she actually use it?
The Healer’s Daughter will be featured in my summer release of How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party. It’s a book of short stories, all of which have a special or surprising twist.
Friends, Lovers, and Liars in Home Renovation
Originally titled Deception, it didn’t find a home. In fact, the topic of lies and cheating offended one editor. I think it may have hit too close to home. It, too, will be released in the summer release of How to Throw a Psychic a Surprise Party.
How to Throw a Psychic Surprise Party in The Electric Press Magazine
The title story for the book of short stories. Inspired by a show in which I saw a television host throw a “surprise” party for a psychic. It struck me – How do you throw a psychic a surprise party?
This story may answer that question. Maybe not. How much empathy can you muster?
Hunger and other poems as well as some photography in Voices of Eve
Not in the book of short stories. But well worth the read. Hunger is one of my favorite poems.
Also in the book of short stories –
The Crier: In a time when emotions are unheard of, people need a release.
The Mirror People: Ever wondered what’s inside the mirror? You know there’s something, right? Here’s a woman who collects them – she knows.
Bowie and the Basket Case: Anna’s things keep disappearing and reappearing. At first she thinks she’s misplaced them, but then she’s sure she hasn’t!
An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” Considering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?
This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.
Many years ago, All The Beautiful People was accepted for publication. But, then, as happens sometimes, I got the dreaded letter (yes, that’s how many years ago it was) in the mail stating that they had accepted too many things and something had to be bumped. The editor apologized and said they’d keep it in their files, but I should feel free to submit it elsewhere.
I did so.
A year later, that story was accepted for publication in another journal.
Even another year later, the original journal – with a new editor – wrote me via email and said they’d decided to use All the Beautiful People in their upcoming edition.
I responded that they were welcome to use the story; however, it had been accepted and was scheduled for publication by another journal. The publications would come out about six to nine months apart.
I never heard from that second journal and believed they had removed the story from their journal and their archives.
Six months later, I received a copy of the beautiful journal and my story within its pages. YET – they’d billed the story as a memoir – it was fiction – and they’d cut off the last paragraph.
I was a little embarrassed. The girl in the story does things I would never have never done. I was concerned what readers might think – that this might serve as some sort of legacy I couldn’t live down.
See – with the last paragraph – it could NEVER EVER EVER be mistaken as memoir. I sent off a quick email to tell them these two things.
The editor dashed off a quick and nasty response – that they had published it as received, adding some choice and unprofessional comments. She made it sound as if I’d sent it directly to her and that she hadn’t pulled it from their archives.
I responded with the history of the piece, date sent, date accepted, and by whom, date and reason it was taken out, and by whom, etc.
I received another quick and dirty response. I wish I would have kept that email – misspelled words, inappropriate language, and completely and utterly unprofessional. I decided to look this person up. I then forwarded her emails to her employer.
She had found All The Beautiful People in the other publication – the one which was attributed correctly and published fully – and accused me, in her fancy slang, of lying, cheating the system, and whatever else she felt necessary. Another email I forwarded to those who were really in charge of the journal.
I again responded – with the forward – the series of events that had transpired offering all the original letters, archived in my own files, and the emails, which I had still in my saved box.
I didn’t hear from any of them again. But they did put a tiny little line in an inconspicuous place on their website that the story was mislabeled as memoir and should read fiction.
Now, it could have easily been a little mistake to publish it as memoir; however, again, the last paragraph would have told ANY reader that was wrong. Therefore, the missing last paragraph and the misattribution made me wonder. Still, this problem could have been easily, politely, and professionally handled.
I was shocked to learn that the editor who had acted so poorly was a lecturer at a University and had a book or two to her own credit. I do not believe she continued as the editor after that, but I didn’t bother to check.
I learned two valuable lessons from this experience – KEEP EVERYTHING! and always act like a professional.
Write what scares you…..
This is a poetry prompt given to me in one of my graduate level classes.
I don’t think it has to be just for poetry.
Experts tell us we should do something that scares us every day. I don’t know. I’ve done quite a lot of things that scare me – crossing the highest bridge in North America, swimming with sharks, – but those are kinds of scary that gives you a rush. Still valid to write about.
But in that assignment and poem, I wrote about a missing girl. Because those are the types of things that do scare me – when children go missing.
Have you seen her pass this way?
Shoe found, white.
Blood on the laces….
Write about what scares you….
Feel free to share!
Writing a novel is not a destination; it’s a journey. It’s the hardest journey you will take with unclear signs, narrow paths, tricky u-turns, treacherous cliffs, an occasional dead end, and a steep road toward the end.
You will come out of this ragged, weary, exhausted, and wondering what it was all for. But then, your newborn book materializes before your eyes and you see it was all worth it.
Some people do not understand the basic rules of professionalism. Speaking to, writing, or responding to an editor or publisher should be undertaken with care. These people are our colleagues in the best sense of the word.
I’ve worked with a few literary journals and have talked to editors at others. The things authors say and do completely surprised me.
I’ve only had a single editor be so completely unprofessional I became embarrassed for her (and forwarded her email to her boss). On the other hand, I’ve dealt with a number of writers who have taken pride in their unprofessional behaviors.
One writer posted a snarky response (he supposedly emailed) to an editor. Whether he actually wrote that to an editor is one thing, it’s quite another message to post it on social media for all to see. He may have felt he had won the battle, so to speak, but what he actually did was show how unprofessional he behaved with a colleague, and what a risk other editors or publishers might find him to work with.
We can disagree with editors, publishers, other writers, but there’s no reason to verbally attack or otherwise be rude to anyone in the industry. Taking your private issues with public companies to social media is a mistake on any number of levels. Just like employers look at social media sites, so do publishers.
I had one publisher ask me for all my social media links. While some writers told me not to hand it over, I felt it was part of my job to have these available to people in the industry. I maintain social media sites for this reason. Publishers don’t want to just know if writers have a following, but how they’re interacting with readers, writers, and others on those social media sites.
Being rude in an email, speaking arrogantly on a call, and posting disagreements publicly will not further a career.
I do understand it’s quite popular in our society of late to act like an arse and expect to be treated like a king/queen; however, it gives a poor impression and people will not want to work with a person who acts like a spoiled child.
In some writers’ groups, when I’ve mentioned that I’d been contacted by an editor who requested changes, there came about a rise of instantaneous resistance.
So far, whenever an editor has contacted me about changes, the changes were minor: a comma here, a synonym there, once a nick-name which they ended up leaving in.
One of the these editors worked for The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal ($1.00 Stories). I believe him to be more experienced and credentialed in the requirements of publishable writing.
I willingly listened.
So before your writer hackles rise – listen, consider, then decide. Be polite and professional.