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The Big Read: Shades of Poe

Vincent Price in Roger Corman's production of "The Fall of the House of Usher."
American International Pictures
Vincent Price in Roger Corman's production of "The Fall of the House of Usher."

A Month-Long Celebration of Edgar Allan Poe

The Big Read: Shades of Poe
GUESTS: Walter Ritter, Executive Director of Write Out Loud Veronica Murphy, Artistic Director of Write Out Loud

Yesterday, Write Out Loud kicked off The Big Read: Shades of Poe, its month long celebration of writer Edgar Allan Poe that is being run in partnership with NEA's The Big Read and the San Diego Public Library.

The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to inspire people to pick up a good book. It was prompted by a 2004 report by the NEA that found literary reading in America on the decline especially among young people. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. Communities are encouraged to focus on a book or author for a month-long series of events. Yesterday, WriteOutLoud in San Diego kicked off Shades of Poe, it's month-long celebration of Edgar Allan Poe. WriteOutLoud is a non-profit organization committed to inspire, challenge and entertain by reading short stories aloud for a live audience. The organization was founded by my guests, San Diego actors Veronica Murphy and Walter Ritter.

Here is an article Ritter wrote about "Why Reading Matters."

Here is a list of the planned events.

The Orangutan
Walter Ritter reads the Poe-inspired student poem "The Orangutan" by Ronan Elliott.

Once upon a dreadful evening, while my insulted guests were leaving, And refused to grant forgiveness that I continued to implore, Saying, “Cease your mocking drama, for my mother’s not a llama, and my father is Chinese and not a half-ton angry boar, Just Chinese and nothing more. So I sat down brokenhearted as my affronted guest departed, And I turned my thoughts to pondering my dear deceased Lenore. ‘Twas a long and dreary nighttide as I thought of my Lenore, Only her and nothing more. All at once there came a knocking, like angelic voices talking, (that is, if angels’ voices were like someone knocking on my door). So I stood and traversed thither, to the door I cried, “Come hither! For can it be my dearest love is knocking on my door? O can it be my dear Lenore? What I saw beyond my door was scary, for in the darkness, something hairy Stood where I had hoped to find my long-lost love Lenore. I cried, “Lenore! Come in, I beg you! Although you haven’t shaved your legs, You will be mine until we land upon death’s distant shore!” “Hoo Hoo! Ahh Ahh!” quoth Lenore. I flung the door wide open and in through the door my true love bounded And swung from chandelier up to the bust above my door. I spoke, “Lenore, you left me lonesome! But I still love you, though you’ve grown some, And now you’re much more orange than you ever were before.” “Hoo Hoo! Ahh Ahh!” quoth Lenore. Then, mid my moment of elation I was struck hard by realization For it crushed my heart to realize just who sat above my door. To me, my love had always mattered, and so my broken heart now shattered. For an Orangutan sat thither twixt the ceiling and the floor, An Orangutan sat thither from the stately days of Yore, An Orangutan and nothing more.

April 2 –Opening night at The Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza. Presentations include a San Diego Opera – Words and Music student written opera developed at Southwest High School – The Cask of Amontillado, performed by David McBean and Nic Reveles. Selections from student written musical by Morgan Hollingsworth. Professional actors will present other student creations, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. – 7:00 pm

April 3 –Poe Classic Film screening by Roger Corman, featuring Vincent Price. Mira Mesa Library, 8405 New Salem Street, San Diego, CA 92126 – 4:00 pm

April 4 – Edgar Allan POE(try) - An interactive, edgy Edgar Allan POE(try) workshop presented by POE(tess) Felicia Morgenstern, award-winning author of "The Night Mother Earth Told Father Sky She Was Tired of the Missionary Position" and founder of Poetic Passports. Kensington Library, 4121 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116 6:30 pm

The Raven (Complete Poem)
David Myers reads Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."

THE RAVEN by Edgar Allan Poe 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 visiter,” 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 name 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 visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door — Some late visiter 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 stillness 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. [column 5:] 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 upon 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 farther 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 my sad fancy 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 hath 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 name Lenore — Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name 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!

April 5 – Edgar Allan Poe’s Life, Love, Work and Influence – A Poe-centric Evening Event presented by POE(tess) Felicia Morgenstern at Progress in South Park, 2225 30th Street, San Diego, CA 92104 – 7:00 pm

April 7, 14, 21, 28 – Readings of Poe’s Poems at each of the MTS stations in Santee (April 7), Chula Vista (April 14), La Mesa (April 21), Old Town (April 28). Distributing Poe reader’s guides and bookmarks. Giant pupett will attend 2:00 – 4:00 pm

April 8, 15, 22, 29 – POEments – Featured moments of Poe Poems and Poe inspired musical selections as part of Spreckels Organ Society Sunday Afternoon Concerts, Carol Williams organist. Concerts begin at 2:00 pm

April 9 – In The Shadow of the Master – A reading of a Poe mystery story and stories by other favorite mystery writers. Author Jan Burke will speak about Poe’s influence on the genre. Old Town Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street, San Diego, CA 92110. This is a ticketed event. Call Write Out Loud at 619-297-8953 to purchase tickets. – 7:00 pm

The Fall of the House of Usher
Walter Ritter reads the final paragraph from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher."

From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon which now shone vividly through that once barely-discernible fissure of which I have before spoken as extending from the roof of the building, in a zigzag direction, to the base. While I gazed, this fissure rapidly widened – there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind – the entire orb of the satellite burst at once upon my sight – my brain reeled as I saw the mighty walls rushing asunder – there was a long tumultuous shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters – and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly and silently over the fragments of the “House of Usher.”

April 10 – Mo Poe Favorite works of Edgar Allan Poe will be read by students from Wangenheim Middle School and professionals from Write Out Loud. Bill Nericcio, Professor of English at SDSU discusses the influence of Poe on the current fantasy phenomenon. Mira Mesa Library, 8405 New Salem Street, San Diego, CA 92126 – 6:30

April 11- The Language of Poe – Charles Harrington Elster, author and co-founder of "A Way With Words," will speak about the language of Edgar Allan Poe. Write Out Loud will read select Poe literature. Kensington Library, 4121 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116 6:30 pm

April 13 – Writerz Blok Graffiti Art Workshop - Background on grafitti art history, techniques for creating grafitti art and how to incorporate Poe's work into graffiti art. Logan Heights Library, 567 South 28th St, San Diego, CA 92113 4:00 – 5:30 pm

April 13 – "The Raven" and Other Stories, by the editorial staff of IDW Publishing. Write Out Loud will read select Poe stories. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. #302, San Diego, CA 92111 7:00 pm.

April 13 – "Pit and the Pendulum" – A one man performance immediately following Intrepid Shakespeare’s 8:00 pm performance of “Turn of the Screw” at San Dieguito Academy, 800 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas, 92024 9:30 pm

Tell-Tale Heart
Linda Libby reads from Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"

True! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been, and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story. Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution — with what foresight — with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it — oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly — very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man's sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! — would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously — oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked) — I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. And this I did for seven long nights — every night just at midnight — but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he has passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

April 14 – Writerz Blok Graffiti Art Workshop – Graffiti artists help students design, create and complete graffiti art based on Poe's literature, working together on a large portable frame. Artwork will be displayed in the library in April. Logan Heights Library, 567 South 28th St, San Diego, CA 92113 11:30 am – 2:30 pm

*April 16 – Orpheus Speaks – The Music of Poe –Nicolas Reveles, Education Director of San Diego Opera will discuss Poe’s influence on the French Symbolists. Write Out Loud will read selections of Poe, Mallarme, and other stories of music and art. Athenaeum Library of Art & Music, 1008 Wall Street, La Jolla, CA 92037. This is a ticketed event. Call The Athenaeum at 858-454-5872 to purchase tickets – 7:30 pm

April 17 – In The Shadow of the Master – A reading of a Poe mystery story and stories by other favorite mystery writers. Author Alan Russell will speak about Poe’s influence on the genre. Schulman Auditorium, Carlsbad City Library, 1775 Dove Lane, Carlsbad, CA 92011. This is a ticketed event. Call Write Out Loud at 619-297-8953 to purchase tickets. – 7:00 pm

Vincent Price in "The Masque of Red Death."
American International Pictures
Vincent Price in "The Masque of Red Death."

April 17 – Poe Classic Film – "The Masque of the Red Death," directed by Roger Corman, featuring Vincent Price. Mira Mesa Library, 8405 New Salem Street, San Diego, CA 92126 – 6:00 pm

April 18 – Edgar Allan Poe and other gothic literature alive and aloud. Kensington Library, 4121 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116 – 6:30 pm

April 19 – Poe Lives Student works inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, including Dance, Music and Literature presented by students and professional artists. Salvation Army’s Kroc Center, 6845 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92115 – 7:00 pm

Landor's Cottage
Veronica Murphy reads an unusual excerpt of Edgar Allan Poe's writing, "Landor's Cottage."

The expanse of the green turf was relieved, here and there, by an occasional showy shrub, such as the hydrangea, or the common snowball, or the aromatic seringa; or, more frequently, by a clump of geraniums blossoming gorgeously in great varieties. These latter grew in pots, which were carefully buried in the soil, so as to give the plants the appearance of being indigenous. Besides all this, the lawn's velvet was exquisitely spotted with sheep-a considerable flock of which roamed about the vale, in company with three tamed deer, and a vast number of brilliantly-plumed ducks. A very large mastiff seemed to be in vigilant attendance upon these animals, each and all.


April 21 – "Cask of Amontillado" Brick by Brick Reading at Quilt Gathering – Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, 4002 Wallace Street, San Diego, CA 92110 – 1:00 pm

April 22 – The Nature of Poe – Write Out Loud reads Poe’s Nature/Garden pieces, "The Domain of Arnheim" and "Landor’s Cottage," at Mission Trails Park, One Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119 – 3:00 pm

April 23 – Nancy Holder, NY Times best selling author, discusses Poe and his influence on horror writing. In honor of World Book Night, 20 copies of The Great Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe will be distributed. Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111 – 7:00 pm

April 23 -Shot by Shot film series at the Whistle Stop, 2236 Fern Street in South Park will show Poe shorts and have a Poe reading by Monster Island Resort Podcast and Horrible Imaginings' Miguel Rodriguez at 8:00pm.

April 24 –Arthur Salm, author and former book editor of San Diego UT, leads a discussion of Edgar Allan Poe with local authors Charles Harrington Elster. Abigail Padgett and Peter Rowe. Mission Valley Library, 2123 Fenton Parkway, San Diego, CA 92108 – 6:30 pm.

April 25 –Poe’s a Poppin! – Logan Heights Choral Ensemble for Kids, lead by Justine Hansen will sing Poe inspired songs. Teens from Kim Noriega’s poetry workshops will present a ‘call and response’ poetry reading combining Poe’s poems and their own original work. Original Poe inspired music will be presented by The Felines. Logan Heights Library, 567 South 28th Street, San Diego, CA 92113 – 5:00 pm

April 26 – Arts and Literature Family Night – Families will enjoy a student dance presentation, inspired by Poe and choreographed by Evoke Dance Theatre. Evoke will lead a group “Raven” dance and families will have an opportunity to create Poe inspired art projects. Each family will go home with a copy of Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allan Crow. Salvation Army’s Kroc Center, 6845 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92115 – 6:30 pm

El Dorado
Walter Ritter reads from Edgar Allan Poe's "El Dorado."

Gaily bedight, A gallant knight, In sunshine and in shadow, Had journeyed long, Singing a song, In search of Eldorado. But he grew old- This knight so bold- And o'er his heart a shadow Fell as he found No spot of ground That looked like Eldorado. And, as his strength Failed him at length, He met a pilgrim shadow- "Shadow," said he, "Where can it be- This land of Eldorado?" "Over the Mountains Of the Moon, Down the Valley of the Shadow, Ride, boldly ride," The shade replied- "If you seek for Eldorado!"

April 28 – Premature Burial – Inspired by Poe’s haunting story The Premature Burial, have your photo taken in a 19th Century coffin, but first, write your own epitaph to be included in the photo. A Literary Séance will be conducted by Madame Olga, bringing back the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelly, to decide which of them is the more important writer of Gothic Horror. Casa de Estudillo in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, 4002 Wallace Street, San Diego, CA 92110. – 2:00 – 4:00 pm.

April 29 and 30 – Scott Marks, film critic/historian, joins us both nights to talk about classic Corman films based on Poe. "The Pit and the Pendulum" on Sunday and "The Fall of the House of Usher" on Monday. San Diego Central Library, 820 E Street, San Diego, CA 92101 – 2:00 on Sunday & 6:30 on Monday

May 1 – Grossmont Community College Literary Arts Festival – Write Out Loud will read favorite and lesser known selections of Edgar Allan Poe and others. Grossmont College, 8800 Grossmont College Drive, La Mesa, CA 91942 – 2:00 pm

May 1 – "Cask of Amontillado" read by Write Out Loud with special guest, Mark Arapostathis, Vice-Mayor of La Mesa. No host wine bar. San Pasqual Wine Tasting Room, 8364 La Mesa Blvd, La Mesa, CA 91942

You can also listen to Poe set to music by Orange County's Kristen Lawrence.

For more information call 619-297-8953 or visit Write Out Loud.