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USPS Stamp Commemorates Edgar Allan Poe’s 200th Birthday
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Today marks the 200th birthday of writer Edgar Allan Poe, most famous for his tales of the horror and suspense such as The Raven, The Black Cat, and The Tell-Tale Heart. In celebration, the United States Postal Service released this week a 42-cent First-Class commemorative postage stamp of the 19th century master of macabre, which was dedicated at the Library of Virginia in Richmond.

The stamp is on sale right now at the Postal Store Web site at or by calling 800-STAMP-24. (I know I’m definitely getting some of these stamps!)

The American writer and poet has gone on to influence countless writers and artists of all genres since his death in 1849 at the age of 40. Poe is said to have inspired the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of fiction’s great detective Sherlock Holmes), Dostoyevsky, Jules Vernes, and English Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as well as composer Claude Debussy and Impressionists artists of the time, amongst many creators of today’s pop culture.

My first introduction to Edgar Allan Poe was at age 5 when I hear his name mentioned in The Beatles’ “I Am The Walrus.” Then, when I was 10, a friend’s mom told me that she thought my father looked like Edgar Allan Poe, so I went to the library and looked for pictures of the writer, and wouldn’t you know it, my Dad did look like him! Right there I made a connection with the author, and proceeded to find more of his stories to read. The Raven was readily available, so I went with that one first. Admittedly, I didn’t quite understand it all, but something about the story really drew me in and made me want to read more stories like it. (I then read The Black Cat, which instead of frightening me, make me really want a black cat. Somehow, my parents obliged and home came my new black cat Raven.)

Soon after, I was lucky enough to get an old hardcover copy of The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe from a family friend. I carried this book — along with a pocket dictionary — around with me everywhere. I learned a lot of new words from these stories — “manifold,” “fettered,” and “pestilence,” to name a few. As a teenager, I was thrilled when I heard songs based on Poe stories from bands I liked, like Iron Maiden’s “Murders In The Rue Morgue” and Hades’ “Masque of the Red Death.” My strong love and familiarity of Poe eventually came in handy in high school and college when I took several Gothic Horror and Fiction classes, for which, of course, Poe was required reading.

I wish that books like Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness, a collection of a few Poe stories illustrated by Gris Grimly, had been around when I was a kid, as it would have made these stories more understandable to me at an early age (but hey, I have the book now!).

If you’re not familiar with Edgar Allan Poe’s works, you can read some of his stories for free online at World Wide School.

Also, check out what author Neil Gaiman wrote about Poe a while back.

Here’s some more information about the stamp:

The stamp portrait of Edgar Allan Poe is by award-winning artist Deas, whose research over the years has made him well acquainted with Poe’s appearance. In 1989, Deas published “The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe,” a comprehensive collection of images featuring authentic likenesses as well as derivative portraits.

The portrait for the stamp was done in oils on a wooden panel. The selvage art is by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), a French-born British illustrator whose works have appeared in such classics as “The Arabian Nights” (1907), “The Tempest” (1908), and “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” (1909). The selvage illustration is from “The Bells and Other Poems” (1912). The quotation on the stamp sheet is from Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven,” first published in 1845.

1 Comment »

  1. The Raven

    [First published in 1845]
    horizontal space Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
    `’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door –
    Only this, and nothing more.’

    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
    And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow; – vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow – sorrow for the lost Lenore –
    For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
    Nameless here for evermore.

    And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
    Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    `’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door –
    Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; –
    This it is, and nothing more,’

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
    `Sir,’ said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
    That I scarce was sure I heard you’ – here I opened wide the door; –
    Darkness there, and nothing more.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
    Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before
    But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!’
    This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!’
    Merely this and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
    Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    `Surely,’ said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
    Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore –
    Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; –
    ‘Tis the wind and nothing more!’

    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
    In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door –
    Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door –
    Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

    Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
    By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
    `Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,’ I said, `art sure no craven.
    Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore –
    Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
    Though its answer little meaning – little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door –
    Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
    With such name as `Nevermore.’

    But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
    That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
    Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before –
    On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
    Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
    `Doubtless,’ said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore –
    Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
    Of “Never-nevermore.”‘

    But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
    Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
    What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
    Meant in croaking `Nevermore.’

    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
    To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
    But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
    She shall press, ah, nevermore!

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
    Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    `Wretch,’ I cried, `thy God hath lent thee – by these angels he has sent thee
    Respite – respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
    Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    `Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil! –
    Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted –
    On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore –
    Is there – is there balm in Gilead? – tell me – tell me, I implore!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    `Prophet!’ said I, `thing of evil! – prophet still, if bird or devil!
    By that Heaven that bends above us – by that God we both adore –
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore –
    Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    `Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!’ I shrieked upstarting –
    `Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door!
    Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!’
    Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’

    And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
    On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
    And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
    Shall be lifted – nevermore!

    Comment by Sierra — January 20, 2009 @ 10:29 am

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