By:  Jack Swift

Johnson County Historian

Those of us who studied poetry to some extent in high school may have forgotten much of it. But I believe I am safe in saying that a pretty good bunch of us have never forgotten the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe. We might not be able to recite much of it, but when poems such as “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and short stories such as “The Pit and the Pendulum,” are mentioned; we know that Poe was the author. Poe was master of words. He used devises such as alliteration and onomatopoeia in his works. Alliteration is repeating the same consonant at the beginning of two or more words in a line or sentence. An example of alliteration is a line from Poe’s poem “The Raven”: “and the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.”   Onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like what it means, such as “buzz,” “whizz,” clang, etc. Those and other literary devices make reading poetry and often prose more pleasing to the ear as well as attention to the plot or theme of the work. I don’t suppose there is much poetry read outside of academia. There is so much to do in most of our lives that reading just for pleasure is second place or even further down the list for things to do. I am convinced that it would be good to turn the television off once in a while and enjoy the great gift of reading.
I must admit that once in a while I like to go back in time and enjoy some of the great poetry that has endured the test of time. I believe Poe’s work is worthy of the effort and time. Edgar Allan Poe was a very interesting person. His career included the being a writer, editor, poet and critic. He is famous for his tales and poems of horror and mystery. He was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He became known as the “Father of the Detective Story.” Even though Poe was very talented, he struggled financially and health problems continued. His death was shrouded in mystery. He left Richmond on September 27, 1849. His destination was supposed to be Philadelphia. He was found on October 3, in Baltimore in great distress. He was taken to Washington College Hospital where he died four days later. He was only 40.
A literary giant was gone.