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Arts & Entertainment

Connecting Edgar Allan Poe to His Birthplace, Boston

Quoth the Boston Public Library, “Evermore.”

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Even though Baltimore lays claim to Edgar Allan Poe, going so far as to name its football team after his great poem, Charm City is not the only one with dibs on the master of the macabre.

Poe was born in Boston. This year marks the bicentennial of that event, and while other East Coast cities celebrate their Poe connections — Richmond, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York all have a museum or a historic house commemorating his local standing — Boston has yet to create a tribute to the 19th-century writer.

A new exhibition at the Boston Public Library helps set the record straight. The Raven in the Frog Pond: Edgar Allan Poe and the City of Boston opens tonight, December 17, at 6 p.m., at the Central Library in Copley Square. Presenting newly uncovered information about Poe’s time in Boston, the exhibition delves into urban legends that surround the story of Poe and Boston, looking particularly at Poe’s quarrel with the city’s literary figures.

Tonight’s opening features what is being dubbed “The Great Poe Debate,” moderated by Charles Pierce of Boston Globe and National Public Radio fame, starting at 7 p.m. in the BPL’s Rabb Lecture Hall. Poe supporters from Baltimore, Boston, and Philadelphia will make the case for each city’s claim to his legacy.

“Poe was no foe to Boston,” says Amy E. Ryan, president of the Boston Public Library. “The library is proud to help dispel that myth.”

The exhibition tracks Poe family history from his mother’s and grandmother’s arrival at Long Wharf in 1796 to the neighborhood he was born in 1809 to the Boston Common Frog Pond he frequently joked about to Castle Island, where he was a soldier in his late teens. Poe’s connection to Washington Street, where his first book was printed, and to the Federal Street/Odeon Theater, where three generations of his family performed, is also examined.

The Raven in the Frog Pond: Edgar Allan Poe and the City of Boston runs through March 2010, at the main library, 700 Boylston St. Gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. “The Great Poe Debate” begins at 7 p.m. tonight, Thursday, December 17, in the library’s Rabb Lecture Hall. All exhibitions and events at the BPL are free and open to the public.

Seth Rolbein can be reached at srolbein@bu.edu.

3 Comments

3 Comments on Connecting Edgar Allan Poe to His Birthplace, Boston

  • Anonymous on 12.17.2009 at 8:27 am

    Poe and Boston

    It’s impossible to ever have a winner in this Great Poe Debate, because the truth is that no one place can lay any real claim to him or his legacy. He was one of those odd figures that “belonged” nowhere…and thus, you might say, now belongs everywhere.

  • Patricia Bullock on 12.17.2009 at 12:21 pm

    Poe's life

    Why did you leave out Providence as one of Poe’s stops in his tumultuous life? The house is on Benefit Street. Check this link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Helen_Whitman

  • Anonymous on 12.17.2009 at 1:01 pm

    Ahh the winged speller of cloudy days and melancholic brew. It is the other-side of blackness, a surreal that opposes fantasy and at the same time lay not tentative claims to reality. It is the mudane cheerlessness that speaks volumes, the resonnance of echos, that touch the reader’s heart and crepuscular imaginings. Heaven or demon, rest of your soul!

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