Sesame Club continues ‘Poets and Poetry’ series at recent meeting

Sesame Club’s November/December meeting was held in the Oak Room at Pine Bluff Country Club.

President, Donna Davis, called the meeting to order and led the members in the reading of the Collect.

Reports were heard from officers and committee chairmen. It was decided to give donations to two charitable organizations which are busy during the holiday season: Neighbor to Neighbor and Salvation Army.

Davis presented the third program in the club’s series of study: “Poets and Poetry.” Quoting from “The Raven”, she opened the story of the life of Edgar Allan Poe.

He was born in 1809 in Boston — his parents were traveling actors and lived from one financial crisis to another. After his father abandoned the family and his mother died of tuberculosis, he lived with a Richmond, Va., merchant John Allan and his wife, Frances, but was never formally adopted.

In 1815, the Allans moved to England where Edgar was placed in a boarding school. Five years later, in 1820, the Allans returned to Richmond where Edgar was enrolled in school studying mathematics and the classics.

One of his school masters wrote, “As a scholar, he was ambitious to excel … His imaginative powers seemed to take precedence of all his other faculties; he gave proof of this in his juvenile compositions…” These two attributes would be repeated later in his life, “Mr. Poe has two prime qualities of genius; a faculty of vigorous yet minute analysis and a wonderful prolific imagination.”

Poe attended the University of Virginia for a short time in 1826, but without sufficient funds, soon had to leave. Unable to find work, he joined the Army. During this period, he paid to have his first book published, “Tamerlane and Other Poems” without his name, just “by a Bostonian.”

For a time, he attended West Point but continued to pursue his literary ambitions and left in 1831. His relationship with John Allan was severed at this point.

Poe’s first success, in 1833, was achieved with the short story, “MS. In A Bottle”, which won a prize offered by the “Saturday Visitor.” From then on, with varying fortune, he earned his living by his pen.

During his editorship of “Southern Literary Messenger” in Richmond, he began to drink heavily and experience violent mood swings. In spite of this, he became extremely productive, using the publication for his own work.

In 1836, he married his cousin, Virginia Clemm. In 1838, after losing his job, they moved to New York and then Philadelphia where he was assistant editor for “Burton’s Gentlemen’s Magazine”, which later became “Graham’s.” He was hired as editor for $850 a year.

Some of his best stories were in “Graham’s”, including “Murders in the Rue Morgue” in 1842, which debuted Poe’s inventive detective stories. He is considered the “father” of the modern detective and science f iction genres.

Poe wrote stories, satires, and poems but if his standing depended chiefly upon his few poems, his name would be recalled less frequently. His profound and plaintive poetry is finely wrought, pure, correct, and brilliant. His use of rhyme and meter made him one of the first lyric poets of the 19th Century.

After Virginia died in 1847, Poe immediately fell into a deep depression and drank heavily. He died at age 40, in 1849.

Among all literary men, Poe stands very much alone and should be judged by his own standard.

The hostesses, Bettie Pierce, Jacque Walker and Jane Townsend, invited members for dessert served at tables decorated with original Christmas centerpieces designed by Townsend.

Quotations from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” were read by six Sesame members as refreshments were served.

The next meeting of the Sesame Club will be Jan. 29, 2013.