Edgar Allen Poe was born on January 19th 1809.
The first story I read by him was the Cask of Amontillado. A wonderful story of petty revenge, wine and masonry.
When I a wee lad - probably around 9 or 10 - I got a book called Tales of Mystery and Imagination. Who gives a 9 or 10 year old such a book, I don't know, but I was fascinated by what I read. Gloomy country estates and damp quarried rock and chill woods captured me. The language seemed heavy to begin but as you settled into the stories it was just the right language to transport you to that strange world.
Speaking of language - if you're looking for a sample of psychological suspense you can stop searching at The Tell-tale Heart. Great story.
But for Poe at his best look to the POEms. Annabel Lee and Lenore are two of my favourites but the granddaddy of them all is, of course, The Raven.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Say it out loud. Hear how it rolls off the tongue. Magnificent.
Poe's influences are all around. In high school I wrote an essay outlining specific instances of Poe's influences on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft. The Allan Parsons Project's great album named after and based on that first Poe book given to me is a classic for my generation. And where would the immortal Vincent Price have been without a whole host of low budget movies extremely loosely based upon Poe's works. Even the Simpson's has paid homage to Mr Poe.
I have my own favourite volume of Poe's works - it is a complete collection of all stories and poems from 1938. I picked it up at the annual Elora Festival Book Sale. Please note the chewed corner. It was like that when I bought it and was half the reason I picked it up.
So, it is with much appreciation that I wish you, Mr. Poe, a very happy 200th birthday wherever you may be (probably still in your coffin...buried alive).