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Megan Calvert & Edgar Allan Poe: Foreboding Amid The Familiar

Edgar Allan Poe (1849 "Annie" daguerreotype)

Megan Calvert, an undergraduate at the University of Montana-Missoula, grew up in the shadow of Montana's Mission Mountains. The gothic influence of 19th century American poet Edgar Allan Poe underlies this reflection on mountains, solitude, and comfort:

"The embrace of a mountain rivals no other.  No touch or hug, nor human bond.  The things they have taught me are mine forever.  Lessons I have learned living in my small mountain valley prove unmatched by the rest of the world that I watch.  I wonder as I wake to the ridges that reign over me.  I wonder what pieces of my soul have grown here, that in any other place would have withered and died.  My identity is a product of my environment.  I have lived my entire twenty-one years in the valley of surrounding mountains and I see no other way of living, none that holds the same exclusivity.  Exclusivity that proves both relieving and distressing.  The intimacy of a mountain town is a comfort and holds profound beauty. I often lose sight of the rest of the world.  At times I wonder if I am hiding in the arms of the mountains.  Sometimes I even resent the comfort that makes me fear the outside. My beloved fence of peaks have allowed for too much solitude.  In solitude, I can lose sight of how others might see things.  Would my torments ache the same if I had sprung from different ground? I cannot know what did not grow in me, nor who that person would be now.  I could not imagine a different life.  The mountains have molded me into the shape I am. I call the valleys my home and there the deepest reaches of my imagination remain.  Under the Big Sky I have seen a life just as grand, and also alone."

Here is a Poe poem about alienation within the familiar: “Alone:"

"From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were -- I have not seen
As others saw -- I could not bring
My passions from a common spring --
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow -- I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone --
And all I lov'd -- I lov'd alone --
Then -- in my childhood -- in the dawn
Of a most stormy life -- was drawn
From ev'ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still --
From the torrent, or the fountain --
From the red cliff of the mountain --
From the sun that 'round me roll'd
In its autumn tint of gold --
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass'd me flying by --
From the thunder, and the storm --
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view –"

(Broadcast: "Reflections West," 5/6/15. Listen weekly on the radio, Wednesdays at 4:54 p.m.)

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