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Words ring true

Would Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 -- 1882) have been considered the equivalent of today's pop star? Because of the breadth and depth of his work, he would be more like a folk /rock star, such as Springsteen or Dylan. He was a writer, a linguist and a teacher who worked his way into his craft through academics. He has been attributed to helping shape early American Myth with works, such as "Paul Revere's Ride," "Hiawatha" and "The Courtship of Myles Standish." And yes, he was popular, as his image was on cigar boxes, beer bottles and other home goods.

"He championed paperbacks and insisted his poetry be in newspapers and on posters too," said Skaneateles poet Mary Gardner a member of the 'From The Heart' writer's group.

Her group decided to celebrate Longfellow's 200th birthday after Gardner read a tribute "Famous Once Again," by Nicholas A. Basbanes in the Smithsonian Magazine. Each constituent then researched Longfellow's writing to share last Thursday at noon at the Creekside Coffeehouse. Guests were invited, books unearthed and cupcakes baked.

"He loved to celebrate birthdays," Gardner said. "There was even a parade for his 70th."

But most of all, he was about the words. Words that were memorized and recited by many who lived during his lifetime.

A little background

Longfellow, a Mayflower descendent, was born in Maine. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825 where he later taught before garnering a professorship at Harvard. He lived among the giants of New England. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Oliver Wendell Holmes. These are among the intellectuals who helped to form thinking in the new land that was America.

"Longfellow did as much as any author to shape how 19th century Americans saw themselves," Gardner said in her introduction to the group. "He spoke and even taught English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Portugese, Danish, Dutch and Icelandic."

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