Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston in 1809, but was orphaned in 1811 and went to live with a foster family in Virginia. The relationship was conflicted, and the Allans withdrew their financial support after Poe had completed only one semester at the University of Virginia. He enlisted in the Army, then enrolled briefly in West Point, meanwhile publishing three volumes of poetry: Tamerlane (1827), Al Aaraaf (1829), and Poems (1831). From 1831 to 1835, he lived in Baltimore with his aunt, where despite his increasing literary success, he began a lifelong struggle with poverty and addiction to alcohol. In May 1836, he married his first cousin, Virginia Clemm, a child of thirteen. In April 1844, he moved his family to New York, and in January of the following year, his literary fortunes turned when his poem "The Raven" appeared in the New York Evening News. Overnight, he became the most talked-about man of letters in America. Early in 1847 his wife died of tuberculosis and he sank further into alcoholism. On October 3, 1849 he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, delirious, and died four days later from an unknown cause.
Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, is Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College. His books include the poetry collection Anthracite Country; the novel The Last Station; and biographies of John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, and Robert Frost, the last of which won the Chicago Tribune-Heartland Award for the best work of nonfiction of 2000. Among the many books he has edited are The Columbia History of American Poetry and The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature.
April Bernard's books of poems are Blackbird Bye Bye, which won the Walt Whitman Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Psalms; Swan Electric; and Romanticism. She has also published a novel, Pirate Jenny. A former magazine editor for many years, she is now a professor of literature at Bennington College and is also on the faculty of the Bennington MFA writing seminars.show more