Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mamma, the Beach and Edgar Allan Poe

When I was 16, my mother presented me with this book.
I was a young novice poet, writing and brooding about broken hearts and love and wounds and teen angsty things...and I loved the dark words of my (then) favorite poet, Edgar Allen Poe. I learned from a friend that today he'd be 201 years old. My little antique book was published in 1882...I don't think I own anything else that is quite that old, or a possession that I've had quite as long.
My little Poe book has moved with me more times than I care to count. Packed and unpacked. Darkness and light. And always in the first box  I opened in the new place. My Poe book and my children and I have criss-crossed this country from cities and towns in Florida to Seattle,Washington, and then finally landing here in small town Michigan where we live our days celebrating each unique season. Though my three teenagers would disagree, there is something very charming about living here for the past seven years.
In each place I've ever lived, my little old Poe book became a reminder of my mother and from whence I came. It grounded me. It has always been there, resting quietly until I take it down from its place and gently turn the brittle pages and run my fingers over the lines of my favorite Poe poem, Annabel Lee.
I once recited it in High school English class, bringing with me my red "boom box", and on it, a recording of the ocean waves (I crept out that night before the assignment and traveled with a friend to the beach to record them.)  Barefoot and skipping in the shallow waves and twirling in the darkness, I practiced the poem aloud with the ocean mist in my hair and recorded the gentle rushing forth and receding of the waves. Yes, I was quite the romantic then and the world was wide open. Quite the dreamer at heart...and I suppose that hasn't changed much.
There was something about those last lines of Annabel Lee that resonated within me and furthered my love for poetry. For the past 28 years I have written off and on, sometimes going years uninspired to write...but always, my little antique Poe book was there waiting quietly for me. And my mother, never too far from my thoughts.

So, Happy Birthday Edgar...and thank you for your words pressed into the yellowed pages of a little brown book that made everywhere I lived a home, and inspired me to write. And thank you mama, for the very first gift of poetry...and the little old book that holds the memories of my young-ness and my spirit....and always reminds me from whence I came; of you mama, my forever home.


  1. I really and truly think I felt my heart smile reading this! What a fantastic gift for a mother to give a child and what richness it brought to you. Cheers to the romance of youth may it go forth in your days and bring renewed opportunities to skip in the waves and recite poetry!!

  2. Just love that you have this treasure of a book...and reading what you have written about it, stirred up all of those feelings that Annabel Lee always has been able to conjure up in THANK YOU from one Youthful Romantic Spirit to Another!

  3. YES

    I am honoring the glorious You who is most gifted with Words. I adore you recording the sounds and sights of your bodacious self swirling in the ocean. You have a gift w/ recording life, and playing it back.... Yes! Wherever you go, wherever home is, you are forever a-brave-young-heart dancing w/ the tides. Mmmm. such a lovely visual.


  4. Thank you for taking me back to Miss Simon's 7th grade English class where I first was introduced to Annabel Lee. Bliss. And what a priceless gift from a mother to a child - a simple little book that instills the love of reading and of poetry and opens up the world. I'm going to call my mom right away and thank her for those treasures she gave to me.

  5. Oh, for books and especially old books. What a beautiful post, Jennifer. Annabel Lee and the tintinnabulation of "The Bells" have always been my favorites. Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories of discovering the wonder of Poe in high school.


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