January brings the birthday of one of my favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe. Thus, the first month of the year leaves me in a celebratory spirit of all things Gothic and, specifically, all things Poe. Poe is a fascinating writer who is credited with inventing the detective story. His writing was/is both beloved and spurned by many. He was an object of endless fascination of the French and emulated by such writers as Charles Baudelaire. Literary critics, academics and fellow writers have simultaneously praised and denounced him throughout history.
This year, we commemorate what would be Poe’s 206th birthday on January 19th (and strangely I know 3 people who share his birthday). He died in October of 1849 of mysterious causes. His demise remains a mystery to this day. In celebration of my beloved Poe, here are some recent mainstream references to this legendary American author.
This little article appeared in the Washington Post and was reposted by a news organization in New Zealand. Check this out for a little introduction to the Poe Houses in Baltimore, Md. and Richmond Va. There are many Poe Houses throughout the country as Poe himself was a bit of a wanderer.
In 2013, I made it to Baltimore to the graveside of Mr. Poe, but unfortunately I didn’t make it all the way to the Poe House there. Luckily, I can go back someday.
This podcast from Futility Closet talks about the history of the mysterious Poe Toaster who would leave Martel cognac and 3 roses every year on Poe’s birthday. But this tradition has not happened in about 5 years. According to the podcast, no one knows how this tradition began or what its significance is. Give this podcast a listen if you’d like to know more about this mysterious tradition that seems to have been happening for at least the 1950s. I enjoyed listening to it and learned a few things I hadn’t heard before.
19th Century literary studies and Poe’s contemporaries have traditionally snubbed Poe and his work. This article from the Wall Street Journal is a review of a new book by Jerome McGann called The Poet Edgar Allan Poe which presents a new analysis of Poe and his poetry, emphasizing that “poetry is performance.”
Here is another article, inspired by Jerome McGann’s new book (mentioned above). The author of this article pokes a little fun at the caricature of Poe that society has created and perpetuated: “Famous enough in his day to be poked at on the street by sadistic children screeching “Nevermore,” Poe, since his death in 1849, has never been absent from either the whispers of intrigue or the lustful gaze of pop culture. Among non-specialists what American poem is better known than “The Raven”? How many American writers have a face—oh that doughy face, lopsided in disappointment, mangled by grief—capable of being recognized by many an average high schooler? Whose mustachio is more famous? (Maybe Dalí’s, perhaps Tom Selleck’s.) Lonesome, tortured, cartoonish Poe. His life and legacy are myth, his early death at forty a mystery our best Auguste Dupins can’t solve to satisfaction.” A lot of this is projection of course. But overall, the article is interesting, and again I’m intrigued by McGann’s new book. It’s great to see scholarship continuing to be written about Poe and his work.
Any real Poe fan will be familiar with the numerous theories behind his mysterious death. Here is a great little article published recently by the Smithsonian which details all of them. Which do you think is the real story behind the mystery? I want to know the truth behind this mystery and also hope the mystery lasts forever. Fickle, aren’t I?
Here is another article published by the Smithsonian, this one in October of 2014. From Boston, to Baltimore, West Point in New York and Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina, Poe references and memorials can be found up and down the east coast of the United States. This is a great list of various places where you can find references to Poe. Visiting homes and places associated with writers is a really fun way to travel, I hope that I can see all of these places/relics that are affiliated with Poe some day!
First, this is a great title. It also turned out to be a fun little find. Slate Magazine wrote this short piece about Poe’s petition for bankruptcy in 1842. Slate Magazine! Poe shows up in the most random places!
Apparently Idris Elba has drafted a 3-part movie series in which a drunken Poe must save the world from the Devil. The script comes from a 1987 book called Poe Must Die written by Marc Olden. Sorry to say, I haven’t heard of this book much less have I read it. But I have to say, my curiousity has been piqued. Any takers?
Apparently Poe has made it Off-Broadway and it looks like I’m going to have to take a trip to NYC sometime in the near future to catch the show. This show has been around since at least 2009, though this is the first I’ve heard of it. People sure enjoy taking liberties with the mystery surrounding Poe’s death and thye really love taking liberties with his life. I’d happily sit in the audience for this one though.
Here is the description of the show from the official website: “His darkest story was his own. Beautiful and bizarre, playful and perverse, Nevermore — The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe is a whimsical and chilling musical play about the enigmatic writer who has fascinated the world for more than a century. With haunting music, poetic storytelling, and stunning stagecraft, Nevermore blurs the line between fact and fiction, nightmare and waking life, to create a unique theatrical experience that takes audiences on an unforgettable journey. Following sold-out runs in London and throughout North America, the internationally-acclaimed musical play comes to the New York stage in January 2015. Nevermore was written, composed, and directed by Jonathan Christenson, with production design by Bretta Gerecke.” Click here if you want to check out the show’s website.
Happy Birthday Mr. Poe! You are certainly not forgotten!