Wicked Wednesday — Our Introduction to Poe’s Works

Edith at camp after fourth grade, taking a break from reading Poe
Edith at camp after fourth grade, taking a break from reading Poe

To celebrate Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday and the Edgar Allan Cozy anthology, today we talk about how we first “met” Poe. So Wickeds can you remember your very first Poe?

Edith: Oh, wow. I was in about fourth grade. I was reading anything (and everything) on my family’s extensive bookshelves. Sherlock Holmes was already one of my go-to reads. I don’t remember if my mom pointed me to Poe or if I just found his collected works. I do remember my terror at reading “Cask of Amontillado,” “Tell-Tale Heart,” and more. But it was terror mixed with the delight of reading a fabulous story, something I couldn’t put down.

Sadie/Susannah/Jane: My first real memory of Poe is doing a 7th grade English “unit” on his works. Pretty sure I had read the poetry and stories before that, but I distinctly remember turning in an essay to Mr. Palumbo (a teacher we all had a crush on–dark hair, big brown eyes, a seventies mustache, and a martial arts expert in a time and place where that was quite exotic) analyzing Poe’s deteriorating mental state as reflected in his poetry. It was, if I do say so myself, a masterpiece of junior high literary criticism and psychological diagnoses. And I’ve loved Poe ever since!

EdAllanCozyCoverLiz: I’d read my share of Poe early on, but in college I took a really cool lit class. My teacher, Professor McHale, taught us how to really dig in and analyze literature, and he loved Poe. We did a lot of work with his stories, and it made me look at him in a whole new light. Always liked him, but that made me a huge fan.

Sherry: I was spending the night with my friend Julie. We were sleeping in her basement and late at night turned on the TV with the sound down so her mom wouldn’t hear us. The movie The Pit and The Pendulum with Vincent Price was on. I was terrified and fascinated. I think the first two stories I read by Poe were The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart. I could hear that heart beating for days when I was young.

Barb: Okay. I don’t remember. I am old. I think it was probably in one of the six schools I attended during what are now described as the middle school years. So since I have nothing pithy to say, I asked my daughter Kate who teaches short stories at the college level. She said students love discussing premediation vs. crime of passion vs. insanity in “Tell-Tale Heart,” but the one I really thought would be fun was re-imagining the narrator as female, since the he/she is never identified. It really changes the story.

Jessie: I read The Cask of Amontillado in high school. I have never been a fan of below-ground spaces and that really helped solidify that feeling.

Julie: I remember The Cask of Amontillado and freaking out. When I read the Dupin stories in a “History of the Mystery Novel” class, I rediscovered and newly appreciated Poe. Though some of his stories still freak me out.

Readers: Your first Poe experience? Are you a fan or not?

21 Thoughts

  1. This is so great! I started reading Poe when I was visiting my grandmother in Boston. I was 8. She had a huge volume of his complete works. I read it each time I visited. My father used to recite Annabel Lee and The Raven to me by heart.

    Do any of you know if there is a miniature available of the new statue of Poe in Boston. I love it and crave a mini. If not a mini I would take a good photo to mat and frame. Can’t find anything on line. I have a crush on the statue!

    I’ve just given up how weird I am. Haven’t I?

  2. Sometime in my teens I acquired a Poe anthology (which of course I still have), and read it cover to cover. For much of my early reading life I was a very uncritical readers, so I’m sure I found his dramatic literary style intriguing.

    I haven’t seen the statue yet, but when Bouchercon was held in Baltimore, a group of us writers made a pilgrimage to Poe’s house there. I think he had a bed and not much else in the attic. It was a small place to contain such a large imagination!

  3. I’ve always loved Poe, and The Raven is my favorite poem. Two years ago on my birthday, my husband had no way to get out to buy me a gift, so I asked if I could read The Raven to him without him interrupting or making comments. He agreed, and it was such a joy to recite those luscious, alliterative words. But I first was introduced to Poe around sixth grade, when our teacher led our class to the cafeteria for a movie. I had no idea who Poe was, but the movie was The Telltale Heart. I was terrified, and couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. I kept wondering why our teacher made us watch such a horrifying film! I’d sure love to see that movie today.

  4. I’m pretty sure that my very first exposure to Poe was a very creepy radio version of the tell-tale heart. . .probably on the old “I Love A Mystery” radio program.

  5. As far as I remember, my introduction to Poe was memorizing “Eldorado” in 4th grade. I was fascinated by the rhythms and rhymes. I don’t remember when I read my first Poe story, but I saw the movie “Fall of the House of Usher” starring Vincent Price when I was about 11, and that really got me interested in reading anything by him that I could find. I still go back and reread his work, and discover something new every time.

  6. I’m older than Barb by far and I can’t remember either. I do love the raven, and the comic where he says “whatever”. 🙂

  7. I think it was from Janet Rudolph. Poe is sitting at his desk and the bird is on a perch saying “whatever” The title had passive-agressive in it…:-)

  8. I know I’ve read “The Tell-Tale Heart,” I think in early high school. It was while I was home schooled, and those years tend to blend together. Either way, I really did enjoy it. I think I’ve read “The Pit and the Pendulum” as well, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

    As I’ve been saying all week, I really do need to read more of his stories. Too much to read, too little time.

  9. Huge fan ,read the stories early on after one was ssigned in school, probably Cask, and then sought the others out. One of the gals in my writing group lives in Baltimore, so for our ” fun day” after a week of critique work, we did the tour of his house,mtiny and cramped, where the docent tells his life story and an actor bits from his stories. Then we visited his grave. great fun!

  10. My students loved to study Poe, so the teaching and my own high school classes have blended.. I remember “Annabel Lee” from my own H.S. years, and “Murders in the Rue Morgue” for sure. I gave an optional assignment of parodying Poe, and my students and I composed a Raven parody about finals. It was pretty good, actually, but I doubt I have a copy. Poe’s work is fun to play with, perhaps because it’s already so exaggerated and so well written. This intrigues, perhaps enough to bend my preference for books on paper. Next effort . . . Shakepeare?

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