Where Were You … ? by Valerie J. Patterson

“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.”  An excerpt from  The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, 1843

Where were you when you first read or had read to you this fantastic short fiction by the grandfather of American Horror Fiction?  I was in 7th grade and I instantly fell in love with the intense imagery of Poe.  He became my writing hero.  I read everything I could–even if it wasn’t required reading for my Advance Placement English courses.  Later, when I taught English to home-bound students, I introduced them to Edgar Allan Poe–not just his fiction but also his poetry, which is just as incredible as his macabre fiction.

Poe’s life was incredibly tragic.  He was raised by an apathetic, cold, unloving foster father after he was orphaned when his mother died shortly after his father abandoned them.  In the end, it’s been written that he became an alcoholic and died in the street.  The success of being a writer and a poet evaded him, recognition not coming until well after his death.

Poe was a master at his craft.  He drew fantastic paintings with well chosen words.  The images his stories and poems created stuck with me long, long after reading them.

The Tell-Tale Heart was my first introduction to Poe.  It began a love affair with his work that continues today.  Oddly, his is the only macabre I read.  The others–like Stephen King–pale in comparison.  I won’t even buy them.  To me, it’s not about the gore.  It’s about the words and the images they create.  It’s about the words and the setting they create.  It’s about the words and the feelings they create.

It’s about the words!

Where were you when you had your first encounter with Poe?  Or your favorite author?  Why was it memorable?


I thought I’d leave you all with a little chuckle …

Twas the night of Halloween
And all through the town
Not a Lavada Dee nor a Laurie
Could even be found.

Tricia in her cape and
Jan in her gown
Looked hither and yonder
All through a quiet town.

The silence was eerie
The October weather dreary
At the end of their search
They both were rather weary.

On a dead-end street
On the wrong side of town
They passed the cemetery gates
Which were guarded by a clown.

The music was blaring
It was turned up real loud
I swear I saw Nancy
Wearing a shroud

Everyone entered the gates
Past the clown they did dash
To see Jillian and Jamie
Doing that Monster Mash.

Off to the side near a bramble bush strand
Stood Janette and Marion
Doing their version
Of the dance the CanCan!

They stopped when they saw us
And froze on the spot
Suddenly church bells were ringing
It was twelve on the dot.

The moon rose up brightly
And on a tombstone sat a cat
Michal took off running
And Lavada flew off with a bat.

The clown at the gate
Was clean out of sight
No one would believe us
If told what we saw that night.

If your name wasn’t mentioned
It wasn’t a slight
It’s hard to fit in everybody
And still have it sound right!

Happy Halloween
To all of you here
Maybe I’ll write a better poem
This time next year!



11 responses to “Where Were You … ? by Valerie J. Patterson

  1. Sadly, I was in high school and did not have the appreciation for words I do now. I’m going to have to go back and read a bit of Poe. Good time of year for that, too, eh?

    LOVE the poem. It gave me a great chuckle this morning. 🙂

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Laurie, yep, perfect time of year to read Poe. I really think Poe is one reason I wanted to be a writer. His work is so rich with imagery that it sticks with me long after I’ve read it. Glad you liked the poem, too! 😛

  2. Loved the poem.

    I have never been a fan of Poe. My ah ha moment was with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. And, like you in High School.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Hi Lavada! Not a Poe fan? That’s okay. I am a fan of Shakespeare, too. However, I didn’t really acquire an appreciation for him until college. So glad the poem was a hit! 😛

  3. Really love the poem, Valerie 🙂
    The writer who gave me the shivers was Dennis Wheatley. I was sixteen when I first read his work and found it hard to turn the bedside light out afterward.

    • Valerie J. Patterson

      Hi Tricia … I had to google Mr. Wheatley and only then did I recognize a couple titles, though I have not read any of his work. I will have to see if I can find his work in my favorite gently used bookstore. Really glad you enjoyed the poem. 😛

  4. Fantastic poem, Valerie!

    My first encounter with Poe was not through a book but on TV. I saw an old film ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ ~ very scary. I just Googled it. Made in 1961 and starring Vincent Price. It stayed with me for many nightmares!

  5. Valerie J. Patterson

    Thanks, Jan! Glad you enjoyed the poem. 😛 OOOO, anything with Vincent Price was scary! His face alone was scary. ha ha ha ha

    The Pit and The Pendulum is a very good read, so I would think this movie would be as well, even if it didn’t stick strict with the story.

  6. Read all of Poe beginning in middle school. Actually I be believe I read murders in rue morgue first. Love hi, John cusack is playing him soon in a bio pic can’t wait. I recently read a great book about his last days.

    Love the poem. And yeah, I’d do the monster mash with Jamie. Anytime. Fun Poe-m. Lol.

  7. Myinternet is down and I’m typing blindly on iPad. Forgive my typos

  8. Valerie J. Patterson

    Hi Jillian … Sorry I’m so late replying. Maybe give me a heads up on the biography on Poe. That would interest me. So glad you liked the poem. I wanted something fun. 😛

    PS … never worry about the typos. I knew what you meant.

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