The Poe Toaster

E. A. Poe, public domain via Wikipedia

Edgar Allan Poe is sort of the quintessential goth author. Not only did he write dark, romantic poetry and horror that holds up even today, but he also had a dark and tragic life and mysterious death. Talk about the whole gothic package.  Of course, some of his dark reputation is total slander, and some of his works have not worn well. (He may be the grandfather of sci fi, but his child has grown way beyond him.) But his writing style and his sheer inventiveness have left their mark not just on goths the world over, but on more general literary history as well.

I’ve read (more than) my fair share of Poe, but growing up it never occurred to me to carry him around for “goth points” or anything like that. I partly grew up about 20 minutes outside of Baltimore, a city so into Poe that we named our football team the Ravens. And dressed them in purple and black uniforms, because spooky. Where I grew up, it was weird if you didn’t read Poe for fun at least on Halloween.

Edgar Allan Poe isn’t really from Baltimore, but he died and was buried there so the city claims the hell out of him. He’s kind of got two headstones actually, both in the same churchyard. Poe’s grave was originally unmarked and not well tended, and eventually that sadness was kind of overcorrected–there’s a proper headstone at his grave and also a rather large monument stone at the corner of the churchyard.

Poe Toaster, from Life Magazine. I think. 

The corner memorial was partly paid for by schoolchildren collecting pennies, and people still throw pennies in memory. But the more famous tradition is the Poe Toaster, who used to visit the grave on Poe’s birthday every year, toasting him with cognac and leaving three roses and the cognac’s remains in salute to the author. The original Toaster remains a mystery, and he (or his son–the tradition lasted a good 75 years) quit coming in 2010, but the Maryland Historical Society has recently started a sort of annual Poe Toaster reenactment.

I’ve been to Poe’s grave exactly once, ages ago, when my sister was sick in the hospital across the street. Appropriately sad circumstances for paying Poe a visit. My sister still lives near there and I’m planning to visit in June, so it might be time to once again pay my respects.

Public Domain, Andrew Horne via Wikipedia

Spooky New Year

For me, goth is about what’s on the inside. Seeking out the dark and romantic and weird is a lot more important to me than getting my eyeliner right. This is why I’ve been getting back into horror and gothic novels. I’m all old and stuff, so I get distracted by bills and kids and basic life stuff, and this new year I want to carve out time (with a sharp, bejeweled dagger) to reconnect with the dark and spooky.

madame-kaliBefore Christmas I finally finished Penny Dreadful and just about fainted from awesome. Madame Kali (leader of the nightwalkers) is my new role model. In a world full of young and pretty things, she refuses to fade away with age. Not her. She’s just entering the prime of her evil power and she’s clearly as seductive as ever. I love all the characters, but I want to be her as I get older and older. But more than showing me how to age more spookily, Penny Dreadful reminded me how much I’ve missed delving into horror and romance, so this year I’m trying to get back to it.

Most of my New Year’s resolutions are book-related, and one is to read 12 gothic and/or classic horror novels to feed my geeky, gothy mind and heart. This month I’m finally going to finish one of the original gothic novels, The Mysteries of Udolpho. I’m about 3/4 of the way through it, and I’ll tell you all about it when I’m done.

It’s free for Kindle, by the way. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s read it. udolpho