I read in Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac” that on January 29, 1845 Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was published for the first time in the New York Evening Mirror.
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak, and weary”
it begins and I am remembering the first time I read the poem myself or at least came to begin to know it. Minnie and Grandfather gave me my first poetry anthology when I was ten or eleven. In the front of it are written my name, address and phone number with the line “if lost please return”. The anthology is “One Hundred and One Famous Poems”, (with a prose supplement),leather bound, ribbon marker, very grown up looking. I knew this was a book I was to keep and treasure and I have.
I pulled it off my bookshelf a minute ago and have it here with me now. “The Raven” by Poe and poems by Kimler, Kipling, Holmes, Longfellow, Wordsworth, Fields, Milton, Browning and others line its pages. I hear other beginning lines as I fan through the pages…
“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree”, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear”, “The gingham dog and the calico cat”, “When earth’s last picture is painted, and the tubes are twisted and dried”.
I do not have these poems memorized by a long shot but I realize this is more than just about a memory. It is a re/membering of my grandparents, lovers of the written word and this gift of a book of poetry to their young granddaughter who is ever so grateful for their attentiveness to nurture reading and writing that continues to this day. I think I’ll keep this book on my writing table for a bit and reweave more memories. Anyone else have a book like this on their shelves?