Edgar Allan Poe Square Dedicated in Boston
mayor menino unveils square, part of bc prof paul lewis’s effort to reclaim author’s hub legacy
Office of Public Affairs
CHESTNUT HILL, MA (April 2009) – Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino officially designated the intersection of Boylston Street and Charles Street South, off Boston Common, as Edgar Allan Poe Square - in honor of the bicentennial anniversary of the author's 1809 birth in Boston.
The mayor was joined by Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish and a number of Poe fans, in particular Boston College English Prof. Paul Lewis, who has led a months-long campaign advocating the reclaiming of the 'master of the macabre' for Boston.
Looking past the many criticisms Poe leveled at his hometown and its writers, Menino said the city had waited long enough to mark Poe’s impact on literary history.
“It’s time to celebrate our connections to the life, world and work of one of the world’s most influential writers. That’s why I’m proud to dedicate this corner of Boylston Street and Charles Street South Edgar Allan Poe Square,” the mayor said.
“It’s time for the raven to join the ducklings and swans of the Public Garden as our favorite birds,” Menino said, referring to the sculpted bronze ducklings that memorialize the Robert McCloskey children’s book Make Way for Ducklings and the famous swan boat ride.
Poe was born Jan. 19, 1809 at 62 Carver Street, near the intersection with Broadway, a since-demolished crossroads near what is now the State Transportation Building. Poe served in the United States Army at Boston’s Fort Independence and signed his first published work, "By a Bostonian." But his tumultuous relationship with his native city and its literary icons sent him to Baltimore and Philadelphia, cities that also lay claim to Poe’s legacy.
Cornish said he’d found Poe’s works inspirational in his career as a poet and writer. “Poe has such a strong and universal voice,” Cornish said.
At the urging of BC's Lewis, Mayor Menino declared January 2009 "Edgar Allan Poe Appreciation Month." Sam Cornish presented the proclamation at BC's "The Raven Returns to Boston" celebration produced by Lewis that drew hundreds of Poe fans.
Lewis, who specializes in early American literature, Gothic fiction and contemporary humor American humor, said Poe was often at odds with the legendary transcendentalist writers of his generation, like Longfellow and Hawthorne. But that’s because Poe had a much more accessible idea about literature.
“The main idea about Poe is that he’s fun,” said Lewis. “Boston’s famous writers are very impressive and very serious. But Poe was fun.”
Menino suggested future efforts to remember the inventor of the detective story could include the addition of a Poe statue in the square, which sits near the entrance to the L.J. Peretti Company cigar store.
Coming up in December, Lewis will curate a Poe exhibit tentatively titled “A Raven in the Frog Pond,” which is scheduled to run through March at the Boston Public Library.
# # #