Annie Finch writes on Blog Harriet:
“It is my great honor and pleasure to announce here on Harriet the founding of a new national holiday. Tomorrow will be the first Dead Poets Remembrance day. Unlike my recent “Kegels for Poets” post, this one is completely for real:
At the beginning stop of a 22-State “Dead Poets Grand Tour,” thirteen current and former State poets laureate, in cooperation with the Dead Poets Society of America, have chosen Shakespeare’s birthday to announce a new national literary holiday.
The holiday will be called the Dead Poets Remembrance Day, and will be held in locations around the nation next October 7th.
Fittingly, October 7th is the day that Edgar Allan Poe died.
“We are launching this tour in order to encourage groups of people in every state to get together on October 7th to honor our dead poets by reading at their graves,” said Walter Skold, the founder of the Dead Poets Society of America.
Along the way the Poemobile is going to visit the graves of some of the most and least-well known poets in the US, including Robert Lowell, Donald Justice, James Whitcomb Riley, Lydia Sigourney, John Trumball, Henry Timrod, Abram Ryan, and Sarah Whitman.”
Thanks for sharing this Dead Poets Society news, Annie.
I met Donald Justice a few times but I don’t know him well enough that his death has impacted my life; I would rather it not. I like to think of Donald Justice as still living. I don’t think I would want to stand at his grave, even if people were reading his poetry.
Poe, on the other hand: he’s really dead and has always been dead for all of us who are now alive.
But another thing about Poe. He didn’t just die. He was murdered, and his murder was covered up. If we’re going to use the day of Poe’s death, October 7th, to honor poets who are dead, isn’t that going to cause a lot of unrest in the land of the unliving?
I’m not a morbid person, but I do feel we should try and get to the bottom of Poe’s death, not just for the sake of Poe, but for the sake of everyone, because we’re all responsible for the cover-up of Poe’s death to a certain extent. OK, that’s a stretch. Just a few directly are, but if we add the scholars who have deliberately chosen to keep Poe-slander alive, that’s even more of us; but no, we can’t blame everybody. But I think I can say this to everyone reading this now: Every day Poe’s death remains unsolved keeps alive a curse, and most of the nine muses are not happy, not to mention Poe’s fellow citizens and all who love poetry and justice—and love a good mystery story! This one’s real, people.
Scarriet has made the case in The Lion and the Little Dog. (scroll down past whitman)
Poe was an inventor and breaker of codes, he went by other names, he attended West Point, he was an athlete as a young man, he was raised in a household where Supreme Court Justices would drop by for dinner; Poe, was nothing like those ignorant myths that have grown up around in him in the wake of Griswold’s libel, spun when Poe was expiring—the opposite, in fact. Think of Poe as you know him—now think of the opposite in every respect. The opposite is much closer to the real Poe.
Poe was more inventive and influential in a dozen of his hobbies than the very talented and well-connected are in their chosen career; Poe was famous and famous for a reason, for the simple reason that he was enormously talented; (sometimes this happens,) and this famous writer was picked up by his enemies, not his friends, as always gets reported (remember: think opposite) in Baltimore, in a state of distress, and then imprisoned for 3 days with no word of his dark and dingy whereabouts leaked to any newspaper or friend, and when he mysteriously expired, a hurried burial, without an autopsy, was conducted by the same “friends” who miraculously “found him,” and 24 hours later his worst enemy was telling the world nothing about the actual death or any of its circumstances, and everything about the poet’s flawed character in Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.
The Poe Scholar John Evangelist Walsh has done a great service in showing Poe scholarship how it should be done: look at the persons involved, the persons who fabricated stories of Poe’s death (the cooping theory, for instance), the persons who were known to dislike Poe, the persons who had reasons to want Poe dead, the persons who had plotted against Poe while he was alive—hellooo, Horace Greeley!
Misunderstood geniuses grow on trees. Poe is that invaluable rarity: the understood genius. His output in various genres was not large; but he created templates; he did not write at length on the same thing, he did not write endlessley in the same way, but applied his genius far and wide; one is not supposed to do what he did—succeed in so many interconnected ways; anyone can write code; Poe explained code.
This investigation of Poe will open up whole new worlds: the true nature of Horace Greeley…Greeley’s secret dealings with Boss Tweed, Greeley’s negotiations with Napolean III during the Civil War…
Also, universities will attract the best history and literature students in the world by starting a new department called “Death of Poe Studies.” Do I kid? Perhaps.
It is very fitting, Annie, that the first “Dead Poets Remembrance Day” is on Shakespeare’s birthday, for Poe is truly our Shakespeare.
It is important to honor the dead and remember their poetry. But if the day of Poe’s death is going to be the hook for this—as well it should, why not?—I suggest we nudge ourselves out of our long national slumber and begin to investigate the greatest mystery and tragedy of American Letters, the life and death of Edgar Allan Poe.