Reading Poe

Hi everyone,

I recently mentioned a new book about Edgar Allan Poe issuing from the English Department at Missouri State University in Springfield. The volume (neither quaint nor curious but simply well done and interesting) was researched and written primarily by graduate students under the tutelage of professor James S. Baumlin who, with Craig A. Meyer and Ethan Prince, also edited the result. I wrote the foreword. I posted, on April, how you can obtain copies of the book (only $5.00) from the MSU book store.
Poe cover 2
Now it’s time to further explore the world of this masterful author and poet with a public reading from his work. Jim Baumlin has put together a roster of Poe’s works that are well worth reading and pondering. The event takes place next Friday evening (April 12). Here is the program. If you live within driving distance and would like to spend an evening with Edgar Allan Poe, I hope you’ll consider it.

The Tell-Tale Chautauqua: Poe Expressed
7:00-8:30 p.m. Friday, April 12
Library Center Auditorium
Springfield, Missouri

Readings and Songs of a Macabre Mood, Featuring the MSU Opera Theatre, with
Friends of MSU English Society
MSU Opera Theatre Directed by Ann Marie Daehn
Choreography by Darryl Clark
Linda Dunn, pianist

1. Film: Edgar Allan Poe (1909). Dir. D.W. Griffith. Perf. Barry O’Moore and Linda Arvidson.
2. Introductions by Lorraine Sandstrom, et al.
3. Thematic Introduction and Reading: E. A. Poe, “Alone” (1829). Perf. David L. Harrison.
4. Song: “Evening Star,” from Five Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (1986). Comp. James Poulsen. Soloist: Martin Wilson.
5. Reading: E. A. Poe, “The City in the Sea” (1831). Perf. Shannon M. Hays.
6. Trio: “Our Next Motion,” Witch Scene from Dido and Aeneas (1688). Comp. Henry Purcell. Soloists: Melody Gilbert, Brittany Griffin, and Doris Eng Chee Chua. With the MSU Opera Theater Chorus.
7. Reading: E. A. Poe, “Annabel Lee” (1849). Perf. Sara Docker.
8. Song: “Seal Man” (1922). Comp. Rebecca Clarke. Soloist: Angela Holland.
9. Reading: E. A. Poe, “The Bells” (1849). Perf. Donald Holliday.

10. Aria: “Queen of the Night,” from The Magic Flute (1791). Comp. Wolfgang A. Mozart. Soloist: Traci Prichard.
11. Reading: Excerpt from E. A. Poe, “Ligeia” (1848). Perf. Tita F. Baumlin.
12. Duet: From The Turn of the Screw (1954). Comp. Benjamin Britten. Soloists: Alyssa Phinney and Loriana Zavala.
13. Reading: Excerpt from E. A. Poe, “Shadow—A Parable” (1835). Perf. Darryl Clark.
14. Song: “When the Night Wind Howls,” from Ruddigore; or The Witch’s Curse (18). Comp. Gilbert and Sullivan. Soloists: Tylor Marsyla and Jared Swope. With the men of the MSU Opera Theatre Chorus.
15. Reading: Excerpt from “Poe’s Last Laugh” (2012). Comp. Professor Hestia. Perf. Tita F. Baumlin.

Foreword to Edgar Allan Poe

Hi everyone,

Laura Purdie Salas wondered if I might post the foreword to the newly released book about the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. I asked my editor, Jim Baumlin, for permission and he graciously granted the request. So here it is.

Poe cover
David L. Harrison

Burma-Shave was a brand of brushless shaving cream when I was a
boy in the 1940s. It was famous for its funny signs, which I loved to
memorize. There were usually five or six small signs spaced along the
roadside so when you spotted the first one, you started anticipating
those to come.

Does your husband
Grunt and grumble
Rant and rave
Shoot the brute some

Hardly a driver
Is now alive
Who passed
On hills
At 75

This was not my first experience with memorization. I was already
famous (with my parents plus one aunt and one uncle) for
memorizing the Gettysburg Address. And what did all those words
committed to memory teach me? They taught me the pleasure of
carrying beautifully written ideas around in my head.

Does that sound silly? I don’t mean that I became a memorization
freak, but I did like thinking, sometimes, about those words in my
head put there by Abraham Lincoln and wondering how he decided
on just those words and none others and how he managed to arrange
those particular words to create such a powerful message. “Four score
and seven years ago” reads like poetry. It has a solemn cadence to it,
the perfect cadence to begin a somber speech in a sad place. He could
have said, “Eighty-seven years ago,” but there would have been no
magic in it. It’s not just what you say; it’s also how you say it.

Not long later I discovered Edgar Allan Poe. I read “The Raven”
and was transported into the world of a master story teller, sitting
alone and forlorn, “pondering … over many a quaint and curious
volume of forgotten lore.” This was a long way from Burma-Shave
signs! And although Lincoln’s great speech was exquisitely crafted,
this guy Poe was a poet in a class by himself.

So what do you think I did? I memorized “The Raven,” of course.
Like, who wouldn’t? I’m not telling you you have to memorize
anything. But I am telling you that to read a poem or story by Edgar
Allan Poe is to sit in the presence of a unique American genius. Few in
any age have matched him for creating a mood, word-painting
indelible images, and capturing an audience the way Poe does.

He was born in Boston in 1809 and died in Baltimore forty years
later. During much of his brief life he was described as melancholy,
erratic, and willful. He never made much money and was often in
need. Yet he became an important figure in American literature and
even now, more than one hundred sixty years after he died, his work
remains well known and respected.

That’s why I’m so glad that the book you are holding has been
created. When you start turning its pages, you’ll learn about the life
and times of Poe, the mystery of how he died, the many ways in which
his work has influenced other writers and whole genres of writing
and, best of all, you’ll get to sample rich servings of the man’s
remarkable work.

If you want a good chuckle, look up some Burma-Shave signs:
Train approaching
Whistle squealing
Avoid that run-down feeling

If you want to read one of history’s finest speeches, check out
Gettysburg Address:
… our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation …

But if you want to meet the haunting and often haunted melodies of
the works of Edgar Allan Poe—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir …
—turn the page and go!

David L. Harrison
Springfield, Missouri
1 February 2013

The book is a private printing that is available at the Library Center in Springfield and at select Big Read events. It can be purchased (for $5.00) exclusively at PawPrints Bookstore in the Plaster Student Union on the MSU campus. (417) 836-8959.

Edgar Allan Poe: A Guide for Readers Young and Old

Hi everyone,

Here’s a new book just out. Edgar Allan Poe: A Guide for Readers Young and Old (co-edited with Craig A. Meyer and Ethan Prince). Foreword by David L. Harrison. Springfield, MO: Moon City, 2013. xii + 106 pp.

Poe cover

This handsome volume was an ISL-designated class research/writing/editing project of ENG235: Critical Approaches to Literature, with artwork by students in Judith Fowler’s Art 101: Introduction to Drawing. The course was taught by Jim Baumlin, an English professor on the campus of Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. It was an NEA-funded project supporting the Springfield-Greene County Public Library District’s April 2013 “Big Read” on the works of E. A. Poe. The book is well researched and presented for an intended reading audience of middle school students and up. I applaud Dr. Baumlin and all of his students who worked long and hard to bring this book to the public. It was my pleasure to write the foreword.

The book is a private printing that is available at the Library Center in Springfield and at select Big Read events. It can be purchased (for $5.00) exclusively at PawPrints Bookstore in the Plaster Student Union on the MSU campus. (417) 836-8959