i make no attempt to hide the fact, that for the better part of my life, i avoided reading, writing, and spelling like the swine flu. only recently have i discovered an appreciation for these arts. that being said, any literary discovery i make, some of which should have happened around the fifth grade, i enjoy sharing. please humor me.
the other week, i literally stumbled into a reading event. i was trying to figure out how to make the most of a saturday night, when my friend karen called and informed me, she was downtown at the orpheum about to listen to an edgar allan poe interpreter. hearing my hesitation to attend a reading of this poet, she mentioned it was free, to which i quickly began walking to the theater. upon entering and after stumbling on the front steps, i was handed a pamphlet and a free book of edgar allan poe's poems! i was informed by the free-book-hander-outer, i was taking part in the national endowments for the arts "big read" program, with the goal being to restore reading back to the center of american culture. there's no way she could have realized it, but getting me in the door should be considered a huge success for the program.
walking down the isles, i found the crowd to be a mixture of older literary types, teen aged emo hipsters, and a handful of people obviously here to receive extra credit in a reading class. i knew them well, i only received the grades i did in my high school reading class by attending every book signing barnes and noble offered that semester. i found a seat next to my friend and awaited the performance. the lights dimmed and from behind the curtain appeared david keltz, a well known poe interpreter dressed like poe himself. he spoke as the author, discussing events in his life, and reasons behind the poems he wrote. they were dark and morbid, but somehow...still very beautiful. i recognized "the cask of amontillado" and "the tell-tale heart", only because it had been required reading in high school, but that night, i found myself slowly getting into the readings, not because i had to, but rather because i wanted to.
with each story poe explained more about his life and poetry. to paraphrase badly from what i remember, poe wanted to fill his poems with emotion, and he felt there was no emotion more complex than those surrounding death, especially of a loved one. to turn those mix of emotions into poetry is one of the most beautiful things a writer can do.
he than started a reading of "annabel lee".
something magical happened. as he read "annable lee" i made a discovery! themes of love, death, deception, murder, suicide, and revenge all put into beautiful verse, the name annabel, a kingdom by the sea! these were all decemberists songs! from that instant of realization i couldn't stop making connections, and i hung on every word.
i have no idea how much of a fan colin meloy is of poe, but these two lyricists share a lot of the same themes. in meloy's own music catalog, he mentions the name ann, or annabel several times, even having a song titled "annabelle leigh". in"oceanside" a character named annabel is seen reclining by the ocean, creating a similar image to poe's character. poe also uses the phrase, "kingdom by the sea", which is almost the same way meloy describes l.a. in "los angeles, i'm yours".
i'm very aware this isn't a new discovery, as anyone familiar with poe would have noticed this upon hearing any decemberists song. the shock is also less, knowing meloy majored in creative writing and would be very familiar with stories of the macabre and other dark romanticism works, of which poe wrtoe in. meloy is simply bringing this genre to the forefront of culture again, only this time with a catchy indie-folk beat behind it...which i'm eternally grateful for.
before i go, here is poe's "annabel lee" which to me, is just as beautiful as my favorite decemberists song.
It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me
Yes! that was the reason
(as all men know, In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we
Of many far wiser than we
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In the sepulcher there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.