It was in seventh grade that I have my very first strong memory of E.A. Poe. The English teacher that I had brought in one of the other teachers, a male teacher the name of whom escapes me. And he read to us a fiery and brimstone filled rendition of the “Tell Tale Heart”. And I was hooked.
I’d heard “The Raven” before, and I was vaguely familiar with some of the other more tame poetry, but the Tell Tale Heart, with the drama and the majesty of it all just spoke to my dark little heart, set my mind a flutter and flittering through the imaginations that had long before been kept locked away and hidden.
And then the eighth grade came along and there was an entire unit done on Poe, specifically the “Masque of the Red Death”. Oh the horror, oh the excitement. The vocabulary words came leaping off the pages and into sentences that the teacher insists to me that she still uses as examples today. And to then make it even more interesting, we dove into analysis of the story, the meanings deep within the words. The order of the rooms and why they were that color and in that order. And then, to make it even more sticking, the models that we were bade to create, to show the path from white to black, following the instructions of the story itself to map out the pathway.
Since then, E. A. Poe has been a delight of mine. Certainly I went through the ‘goth’ phase with him, where the obsession was upon the macabre, the morbid, the devastation of the human mind and soul and the painful longing that depression can bring upon a person. But I grew out of that when I became to further research the man and his works and his life. My Junior Year research paper was on Poe, the topic being “The Art of First Person Perspective and the Effects upon the Psyche of the Reader of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe”.
Quite a mouthful, but a fitting subject for the man considered the master of the macabre, the father of the modern detective story, the father of modern science fiction, and the master of the psychological thriller. Not to mention one of the creators, if not the creator, of the short story. Well, not creator, but certainly the Refiner.
It was this love affair with E.A. Poe’s works that brought my family’s attention to the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore. At the young age of fourteen, perhaps thirteen, my father found that the Poe House was holding a Birthday Celebration to the great author and he purchased us tickets. We sat up in the balcony for the celebration and it was fantastic. Artistic interpretations of the works I had come to love, coming to life before my eyes. “The Raven”, “The Tell Tale Heart”, “Hop Frog”, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “Annabell Lee”. All of them, live and being given life, being given breath and depth and glamor.
My brother fell asleep on the floor in front of us, but my parents and I were hooked. They’ve gone back nearly every year since then, and every opportunity that I’ve had to attend, I have. Throughout high school, we attended, and the event was more fantastic than the last.
Tonight, I attended what was sure to be my last Poe’s Birthday Celebration since I am leaving the country in just over four weeks. However, I was saddened to hear that it may well be the very last Celebration, not just my last. The exact details are a bit fuzzy, but the essential gist is that the House and Museum are owned by the City of Baltimore. And that due to budgets being tight, the City of Baltimore has decided to completely cut all funding to the House and Museum.
Not reduce, but cut. Completely.
In a time when our nation’s education system is performing so poorly. In a time when getting kids to sit down and read anything is a chore, why oh why would you cut the funding of a program that can enrich so many young lives? Why cut funding to a part of the city and the country’s rich history and heritage? So many children, so many adults, were, are, and can be inspired by just the littlest thing, why throw that away?
It’s an emotional subject and one that is hard to handle and even harder to figure my way around at the moment. But once I figure out just how I want to attack this, just how I want to go about taking care of business, there will be many things done and said.
The City of Baltimore needs to be made aware that people are concerned over this, that there is a large population in their area and in the world that care about E. A. Poe and continuing to provide the services that educating out students about Literature can bring to them.
I don’t quite know how I intend to take my stand, but I certainly intend to do so.