7 Names Inspired By Poetry

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From Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, Gilgamesh to Dylan, poets have left an indelible mark on our culture. Let's take a look at a few famous things named after poets and their works as we explore the awesome influence of poetry in modern culture.

1. The Evangeline Trail
Along the coast of Nova Scotia winds the striking Evangeline Trail, a path through some of North America's oldest European settlements, spanning almost 400 years of culture and natural beauty. It was christened for the title character in Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie, a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. On this track, you can speed along 181 miles of coastline through villages and forts and finally hop on a ferry to the eastern edge of Maine. Driving in dactylic hexameter is optional.

2. The Baltimore Ravens
The NFL team currently residing in Baltimore is actually named for Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven. I can only imagine the quote "What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore / meant in croaking `Nevermore'" is some vague allusion to Ray Lewis during a night club confrontation.

3. Your Achilles' Heel

Achilles had it all. Greek hero? Check. Awesome fighting skills? Check. Most handsome fighter aligned against Troy? Double check. Invincibility? Well, almost. Legend had it that his mother dipped him in the river Styx as a baby, granting him invulnerability except for an area on his ankle where she lowered him into the waters. My mother tried something similar with me: she listened to Styx non-stop when I was in the womb. (All I received were weak knees and chronic asthma.)

The common misconception is that Achilles' death (and hence the origin of the phrase Achilles' Heel) appears in Homer's Iliad. It did not. However, this tale actually made several appearances in other ancient Greek and Roman mythical poetry and, in 1693, a Flemish and Dutch anatomist by the name of Philip Verheyen first designated the tendon in the back of the ankle for ancient hero.

4. FLW's Favorite Statue
Richard Brock, an artist who worked closely with Frank Lloyd Wright, created a statue depicting the muse of architecture constructing a spire from geometric building blocks. Named for an Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem, Flower In The Crannied Wall still remains at Wright's home in Spring Green, Wisconsin. It was one of Wright's favorite statues, although in recent years it has fallen into slight disrepair.

5. Clipper Ships & Whisky
Robert Burns' poem Tam o' Shanter is a tale of drinking, morality, desire and relationships in general. Written in a combination of English and Scots, the main character is drawn to Nannie Dee, a dancing witch with a Cutty-sark (a blouse or undergarment) much too small for her. Overcome with attraction, he eventually cries out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark." It's a powerful metaphor for lust and regret.

Perfect name for a whisky, right? Actually, the whisky takes it's name from the last merchant clipper ship ever constructed, The Cutty-Sark. Launched in 1869, it had Nannie Dee as her figurehead.

6. What Dreams May Come
The 1998 film What Dreams May Come was based on the novel by Richard Matheson. The title itself appears as a line in one of the most famous soliloquies from Shakespeare, Hamlet's "To be, or not to be":

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil

If you have happened across this visually stunning movie about life, death, the soul and the afterlife, you know how well the title fits.

7. The Baudelaire Family
French poet Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a bit of a sensationalist or, at the very least, a provocateur during his lifetime. Check out this quote about his views on pleasure:

Personally, I think that the unique and supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing 'evil' -- and men and women know from birth that all pleasure lies in evil.

We'll go ahead and call him the anti-Google. But for those of you familiar with the 13 books in A Series of Unfortunate Events, you may recognize the surname. The Baudelaire family are the protagonists.
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We've obviously just scratched the surface. What are some other examples of media, architecture or geography named for poems or poets?

[Image courtesy of Pedal & Sea Adventures.]

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June 18, 2009 - 7:11am
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