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poetry friday

Myra here.

As we celebrate the darker side of life with our current bimonthly theme on Monsters, Beasts, and Chimera: Spooks and Spectres, we try to find poems that fit this creepy and eerie feel (if you have suggestions, we would be more than happy to hear them).

I have always been drawn to shadows and spiderwebs as much as I am to blinding light and radiance. While I am moved by inspiring and fun poems, I also gravitate towards the gothic, the macabre, the moribund. And so we shall have the master of macabre, himself, Edgar Allan Poe, timeless in his mournful The Raven for Poetry Friday, hosted this week by the beautiful poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater from The Poem Farm.

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I am glad to have found Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven illustrated by an artist who is little known to me, until now: Ryan Price. An accomplished artist and printmaker, The Raven is Price’s first picture book and he shared his creative process in the Author’s note at the back:

First there was the challenge of depicting a long poem in which almost nothing happens. Then there was the difficulty of bringing this classic to life for a modern audience – one that might be unmoved by the poem’s archaic language and Poe’s near-clichéd raven, embedded as it is in popular culture…

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Ryan Price placed greater emphasis on the narrator’s dementia and the ghosts that continue to haunt Lenore’s grief-stricken loverman. At the same time, he has skilfully interwoven his own storyline through the images, thereby creating a story within another story, providing a whiff of suspicion, and allusions to murder most foul accompanied by black-as-night drawings, spectres of sketches, sepia-toned portraits, and old crumbling letters.

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There is also a brief biography of Edgar Allan Poe found at the end of the book. Such a tortured, anguished, miserable soul indeed. No wonder his dreamscapes were filled with twilit colours and phantasmagoric imageries. For teachers who wish to use this gorgeously-illustrated book in the classroom, here is a downloadable pdf resource created by Kids Can Press that also includes detailed discussion topics and activities. And here is a video clip of Christopher Walken reading Poe’s The Raven:

For my Poetry Friday offering this week, allow me to share the first five verses from The Raven as it never fails to gives me goosebumps.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

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And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more. 

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Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 195 (150)

*** Video ads other readers may find at the bottom of this post are NOT endorsed by GatheringBooks but are randomly included by WordPress to maintain their site. ***

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Singapore. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she serves as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads or meeting up with her book club friends, she is smashing that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life.

13 comments on “[Poetry Friday] Nevermore!

  1. I always enjoy revisiting the Raven! Those illustrations look intriguing. One of my kids has been talking about wanting to read “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Tell Tale Heart.” Me too — I am looking forward to getting back into those scary stories that I haven’t read since I was a teen.

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  2. I, too, am drawn to Poe’s macabre world, and that exciting feeling of flirting with danger and the dark “unknown.” The Raven is one of my favorites– I must get a copy of this book in my sweaty little palms! I will be featuring a wonderful haiku by Lorie Ann Grover about a raven this coming Tuesday at Today’s Little Ditty– you should drop by next week and take a look.

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  3. You are . . . a raven lunatic!!! mmwahahahahahaha

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  4. I love Poe, and so did my students, Myra. We read The Raven every October, br-r-r, so cold and dreary! The artist here has made the poem look even more sinister! How can that be! So glad you found and shared this!

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  5. Always enjoy revisiting The Raven. I am so in love with this poem. The meter is staggeringly wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Oooh! Thank you for sharing this book. I am so happy to know about it and the whole Visions in Poetry Series. Wonderful! I have my dark side too…love graveyards! Happy Poetry Friday!

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  7. Love Poe…and Walken’s reading was perfect. Thanks for sharing these treasures, Myra!

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  8. I love this poem. I have a collection of Poe’s works, but they’re illustrated with Steampunk illustrations, for Poe’s works are very dark, and Steampunks are cool (my thoughts). Oh, woe is Poe! For a dark and dreary, sometimes weary life. 🙂

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  9. Perfect (creepy) October reading, and viewing. It’s clear why Poe stays around.

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  10. Oh very wonderful to really re-read this, Myra, and I loved seeing Ryan Price’s work. [I have a poem in Squeeze that references a purple curtain and suddenly I realize that all the Poe I read as a kid might have been making a ghostly appearance there without my ever noticing!] Do you know e.e. cummings’ “hist whist” poem?

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  11. I haven’t seen this book. It’s a must have. “The Raven” is HUGE here in Baltimore, both because of our football team, but also because of all of the Poe history here. Another great Poe “monster” poem is “Alone.” One of my favorites!

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  12. Very cool. I think this would be a perfect Halloween read.

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  13. Pingback: [Poetry Friday] Poe’s Romance Nevermore – Gathering Books

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