“If ghost trees could speak in tongues/they would speak here and now/converse with Poe’s spirit sailing/rolling inland from Lake Huron” –Debbie Okun Hill
Halloween faded like a tree spirit at the stroke of ‘midnight dreary’ but the image of American poet/short story writer Edgar Allan Poe and his raven remain at my desk.
He’s dead of course. The Poet! He’s been gone since October 7, 1849. Not sure about his ‘nevermore’ quipping raven. However, at this time of year, Poe and his fascination with the macabre and other mystical happenings often resurface in social media photos, quotes, and posts.
Last Tuesday, October 25, the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan, USA, celebrated Poe’s literary contributions through the “Dreaming Dreams Author Meet and Greet” event. The BIG READ DEARBORN festivities included a welcome and a refreshment table plus readings by 18 of the over 150 contributors of the 454-page Poe-themed anthology. According to the event program, “All the proceeds (from book sales) go toward future community-wide reading events in Dearborn.” Definitely, a good cause to support.
Bravo to all the Big Read Dearborn partners and sponsors and contributors who made this project come alive!
My own contribution was small: a two and a half page poetic dream sequence inspired by Poe’s poem “The Raven” and a visit I took to Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on January 30, 2013. At the time, the Carolinian Forest was losing its ash trees to the emerald ash borer and I was struck by the loss and how the fog was rolling in like Poe’s spirit from Lake Huron. This magical image or gift, as I like to call it, happens seldom, so I knew I had to record the sensation before the words dissipated back into the fog. The sighting of two crows (not ravens) stirred my imagination even more.
Now almost four years later, my Poe-inspired poem shares a home with other literary offerings in a beautiful anthology Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before. However, what made this journey to the Henry Ford Centennial Library even more special was that I had never stepped into this beautiful building before. If you are a visitor to the area, I strongly recommend that you stop by. The natural light from all the windows is especially noteworthy and I liked how parking was not an issue.
Although, I’ve visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village on several occasions and even toured the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, I never knew that the library’s 15.3 acre property was deeded by the Ford Motor Company with construction of the memorial building made possible with a generous grant from the Ford Foundation. An additional grant helped with equipment and supplies.
Once inside the building, the first floor Rotunda area warmly welcomes visitors. On this occasion, Edgar Allan Poe stands life-size in ‘cardboard spirit’ for photo opportunities with emerging and established writers. The auditorium was also spacious and filled with spectators and readers. To sit in the audience and listen to all the writers (from the young fellow who needed some added help to reach the microphone to the retiree who shuffled to the podium) was inspiring. Creativity is alive and well. To single out just one or two works would be inappropriate as all the readers deserved applause. Overall the creative contributions rose from eight chapters: Celestial, Dreams, Ghost, Horror, Madness, Mystery, Poetry and Tribute.
If I may quote from the anthology’s back cover: “In this collection of Poe inspired stories and poems, you will find dreams (and nightmares), ghost stories, horrors, madness, mystery, imagination, and even some humor. Read these pages, and dream dreams never dreamt before.”
In the anthology’s introduction, Wolf Disner wrote: “The purpose of this collection is to honor him (Poe) and celebrate his works. Maybe it will even bring him back to life. Stranger things have happened. Trust me.”
If you are a writer, I hope you will keep your eyes open for such magical gifts and experiences. If you are a reader, keep reading….for reading opens up the imagination, takes you places and teaches you insights you may never have thought possible.
For additional information about the Henry Ford Centennial Library, check out their website.
For additional information about Big Read Dearborn and the Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before edited by Henry Fischer, Patty Podzikowski, Dan Lodge and Kathryn Takach ISBN 978-1-53529-090-6 click here. The anthology was published by the Dearborn Public Library as part of The Big Read Dearborn, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and managed by Arts Midwest.
*quote is from the poem “Meeting Poe in Canatara Park” by Debbie Okun Hill published in Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared to Dream Before, page 403 Copyright © Debbie Okun Hill 2016 used with permission from the author.