Seven decades ago papers were in the habit of publishing poetry. Sometimes wishful thinking leads me to desire a return to the practice, poetry would be better understood, especially in the realm of edgy post modernism which sometimes leaves me scratching my head. Franklin P. Adams or FPA as he was better known as since he signed his newspapers columns with only his initials, combined the ideas of poem and news in a series of parodies. Nearly all of his regular readers of newspaper verse would have found the following parody decidedly amusing because just about anyone who has attended an English-language school would recognize Annabel Lee. A moribund fantasy written in Edgar Allan Poe's sad and sweet melancholic voice it's a song that troubles one long after the funeral is over. For those who may not be familiar with the verse here is a prelude of Poe's poem for journalistic comparison:

Annabel Lee

    IT was many and many a year ago
    In this kingdom by the sea
    That a maiden there lived whom you may know
    By the name of Annabel Lee;
    And this maiden she lived with no other thought
    Than to love and be loved by me.

    I was a child, and she was a child,
    In this kingdom by the sea,
    But we loved with a love that was more than love,
    I and my Annabel Lee,
    With a love that the winged seraphs in heaven
    Coveted her and me.

    And that was the reason that, long ago,
    In this kingdom by the sea,
    A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
    My beautiful Annabel Lee,
    So that her high-born kinsmen came
    And bore her away from me,
    To shut her up in a sepulcher
    In this kingdom by the sea.

    The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
    Went envying her and me--
    Yes! that was the reason (as all men know
    In this kingdom by the sea)
    That a wind blew out of a cloud by night,
    Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

    But our love it was stronger by far than the love
    Of those that were older than we,
    Of many far wiser than we,
    And neither the angels in heaven above
    Nor the demons down under the sea
    Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

    For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee,
    And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
    Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
    And so, all the night tide, I lie down by the side
    Of my darling--my darling--my life and my bride,
    In her sepulcher there by the sea--
    In her tomb by the sounding sea.

    Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Here is FPA’s journalistic and poetic view of the same set of "facts” with regards to the fortune and fate of Poe’s beloved Annabel Lee:

    High-Born Kinsman Abducts Girl from Poet-Lover--Flu Said to Be Cause of Death-- Grand Jury to Probe
       Annabel L. Poe of 1834½ 3rd Ave., the beautiful young fiancee of Edmund Allyn Poe, a magazine writer from the South, was found dead early this morning on the beach off E. 8th Street.
        Poe seemed prostrated and, questioned by the police, said that one of her aristocratic relatives had taken her to the "seashore," but that the cold winds had given her "flu," from which she never "rallied."
        Detectives at work on the case believe, they say, that there was a suicide compact between the Poes and that Poe also intended to do away with himself.
       He refused to leave the spot where the woman's body had been found.

Deliciously funny. There is some great trivia in the Annabel Lee node for those who might be interested. Adams published this and several other parodies along the same vein in his 1910 book Something Else Again. It originally came out in "The Conning Tower" a column by FPA which ran in newspapers that are still readily recognized today, New York Tribune, the New York World, the New York Herald Tribune, and the New York Post. One way for novice writers on the literary scene to be fast tracked was to get their work selected for print in The Conning Tower. FPA encouraged verse lovers to volunteer their own offerings. He typically published light verse and several writers who went on to become distinguished poets credited their first break to Adams as an “arbiter of elegance.” He prided himself with the discovery of Dorothy Parker saying that he had "raised her from a couplet." One scriptwriter for the Marx Brothers movies, Morrie Ryskind (1895-1985), wrote:

    ”If Frank recommended a book, people bought the book. If he recommended a show, you went to see the show. He had a tremendous influence. It was the thing everybody read. You could become well known just by getting your name in there.”
The Conning Tower earned him the reputation of godfather of the contemporary newspaper column. Other up-and-coming literary stars promoted by FPA included Robert Benchley, James Thurber, Eugene O'Neill, and E.B. White.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois after graduating from the Armour Scientific Academy he attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for a year before finances forced him to return home. There he eventually became an insurance salesman. One of his first customers was George Ade a newspaper columnist humorist, and playwright. An inspiration to Adams he decided to try his hand at newspaper journalism. He first appeared in print with humorous verses in the "Poets' Corner" of the Chicago Journal, and he published a slim volume of his poems in 1902 under the title In Cupid's Court. A year later he left his career as an insurance salesman and accepted a position as contributor with the Chicago Tribune. An important figure in his day Franklin P. Adams is just about completely forgotten. Every single one of his books is out of print. Franklin P. Adams died from the effects of arteriosclerosis on March 23, 1960.


Biography of Franklin P. Adams:

Public domain text for Annabel Lee taken from:

Public domain text for What the Copy Desk Might Have Done to: "Annabel Lee” taken from:

Selected Poetry of Franklin Pierce Adams (1881-1960) :

What the Copy Desk Might Have Done to: "Annabel Lee” :

CST Approved.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.