It might be a bit premature for me to tell this story. However, this weekend saw birthday celebrations for Edgar Allan Poe from Richmond, Virginia, all the way to Sydney, Australia (and I’m sure there were more elsewhere). So it seems fitting that I tell this story now.
Last summer, I was enjoying a beer and some alone time at a local bar. (No, we don’t call them “saloons” here in Oklahoma.) I was joined by a stranger, one wearing a heavy coat and hat — which is an odd thing to wear during an Oklahoma summer. I think the temperature was somewhere in the upper 90s. But he wasn’t sweating, so I guess he was just used to someplace very warm.
Taking the stool next to mine, the gentlemen introduced himself as “Barton Lawrence Zachery Bubb.” He spelled that last name for me. Instead of commenting on the heat, Mr. Bubb asked if I knew anything about literature — specifically, American literature of the 1800s. That was a warning sign because, yeah, I teach exactly that subject at this town’s university. But I wanted to see where this was heading, so I told him that indeed I do know one or two things about American literature of the 1800s.
That’s when Mr. Bubb retrieved a wooden box he had placed on the far stool and slid it towards me. He let me look inside, cautioning me to take care with the yellowed, curling pages within. I saw right away that it was a handwritten manuscript of short poems. Five lines a piece. An a-a-b-b-a rhyme scheme with the “b” lines shorter than the others. That distinctive “There once was a man from Nantucket” rhythm, which I’ve since learned is called amphibrachic.
“Are all of them limericks?” I ventured.
“100 limericks,” said the man. “Exactly 100.” He looked around the bar a moment before lowering his voice. “But not just limericks, my friend. These are the lost limericks—of Edgar Allan Poe.”
To be sure, I was skeptical. Perhaps not skeptical enough, though, because after another beer or two, I wound up purchasing that collection of limericks at a considerable cost. No, I wasn’t convinced then and there that they had been penned by Edgar Allan Poe. Instead, my thinking was: what if I can find proof that they actually had been penned by Edgar Allan Poe? That just might be a literature professor’s ticket out of Oklahoma.
Another warning sign appeared when Barton Lawrence Zachery Bubb lifted a contract out of that heavy coat to ensure that I would pay for the manuscript in a timely fashion. It wasn’t the contract itself that worried me. It was his signature. In my mind’s eye, I realized that his initials are this:
It has a devilish ring to it, no?
As it turns out, I’ve never been able to determine if the limericks were actually written by Poe himself. All I know is that they deal with Poe’s works, his life, and other subjects that might have been of interest to the great author. This uncertainty of authorship isn’t preventing me from publishing the collection — I’ll let readers decide for themselves. Watch for The Lost Limericks of Edgar Allan Poe to be published by Brom Bones Books in just a few months.
In fact, the official release date will be April 1, 2018.