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Edgar Allan Poe Statue to be Dedicated Oct. 5: Project of Boston Poe Foundation, Led by BC Prof

poe 'evermore' in boston, thanks to bc prof. paul lewis' crusade

BOSTON, Mass.  (September 2014) --  The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston—chaired by Boston College Professor of English Paul Lewis--will dedicate and unveil sculptor Stefanie Rocknak’s statue, “Poe Returning to Boston,” on Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 2 p.m. in Edgar Allan Poe Square, at the intersection of Boylston Street and Charles Street South.

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“Poe Returning to Boston,” side view of full-size clay figure. (Photo by S. Rocknak)

Rocknak describes the statue—which memorializes Poe’s connections to his native city—as "a life-size figure in bronze, approximately 5’ 8” tall. Just off the train, Poe is walking south towards his place of birth. With a trunk full of ideas—and worldwide success—he is finally coming home.”

A staunch Poe-Boston proponent who has spearheaded a campaign to have the city reclaim this native son, Lewis’ efforts have gone a long way in cementing Poe’s ties to the Hub. Related events over the years have included a Poe bicentennial celebration on campus and throughout the city as well as a Boston Public Library exhibition, which he curated with BC student assistance, to shed light on Edgar Allan Poe’s relationship with his birthplace.

At Lewis’ urging, former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared January, 2009 “Edgar Allan Poe Appreciation Month” and designated  Poe Square — where the statue will be installed — in honor of the author’s Jan. 19, 1809 birth in Boston. Lewis also literally put Poe back on the map of Boston. He and his research team — which included BC undergraduate and graduate students — created a map identifying places “with Poe-rich connections” associated with his life and work in the city, and he leads popular walking tours of the area.

Prior to the statue dedication, at 12:30 p.m., the foundation will present a celebratory program—which will feature readings, brief speeches, and original musical settings of Poe poems—in the Georgian Room of the Boston Park Plaza Hotel (50 Park Plaza at Arlington Street; doors open at noon).  

Both the dedication and the program are open to the public free of charge; but due to space constraints, organizers note that there is a limit to the number of people that can be accommodated.  A designated area outside, near the statue, will be open to the public during the brief dedication.

 “The Rocknak sculpture will allow Boston to celebrate a native writer whose work is admired and enjoyed here and around the world,” according to Lewis. “The story of Poe’s engagement with Boston writers and editors, whom he called ‘Frogpondians,’ is a fascinating and important part of America’s literary history.”

In addition to Lewis, the program will feature Rocknak, WBUR arts reporter Andrea Shea, authors Matthew Pearl (The Poe Shadow) and Pulitzer Prize-winner Megan Marshall, composer Mary Bichner and the Planetary Quartet, Boston Art Commission Director Karin Goodfellow, Poe Studies Association President Philip E. Phillips, University of Massachusetts Professor Nadia Nurhussein, actor Stephen Walling, and independent scholar Rob Velella.

The dedication ceremony will feature comments by former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky, and a representative of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh.

“Boston is home to many artists, and their work is vital to our culture,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m pleased that Edgar Allan Poe is being honored in the heart of his hometown—his writings continue to inspire the art community, philosophers, and modern literary works.”

Although Poe probably lived in Boston for less than a year over the course of his lifetime, he published his first book (Tamerlane and Other Poems, 1827), his most famous short story (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” 1843), and many of his last works (including “A Dream within a Dream,” “Hop-Frog,” and “To My Mother,” 1849) within blocks of where the statue will be installed.

Of the completion of the statue, former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said: “In 2009 we named ‘Edgar Allan Poe Square’ and called for a piece of permanent art that would highlight the cultural history of the neighborhood. The fact that this project has moved from dream to reality in only a few years demonstrates that Bostonians are ready to celebrate their connection to Poe.” 

The statue is part of Boston's new Literary Cultural District, which is the first of its kind in the US.

Project Background
Supported by a planning grant from the city’s Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund, the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston moved through a five-year undertaking. In 2009, ways to memorialize Poe’s connections to the city of his birth were considered. A 2011 call for artists resulted in 265 applications from which three finalists were chosen. After some 1,500 people commented on these designs, the statue “Poe Returning to Boston” by Stefanie Rocknak was selected.

In 2013 the city’s Public Improvement Commission approved the statue’s installation plan, the Boston Art Commission gave final approval to its design, and Rocknak-- whose work was chosen from 265 proposals--was given a green light to proceed.

An award-winning member of the Sculptors Guild whose artwork has appeared in numerous publications and in more than 40 exhibitions including at the Smithsonian, Rocknak is a professor of philosophy and directs the Cognitive Science Program at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY. A graduate of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, with a B.A. in American Studies and Art History with a concentration in studio art, she holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University. Her interests include the 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume (the subject of her book, Imagined Causes: Hume’s Conception of Objects (Springer, 2013), the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of the mind.

The Poe statue project would have been impossible without the generous support of the Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund, Highland Street Foundation, George B. Henderson Foundation Fund for the City of Boston, Lynch Foundation, Boloco, Boston College, Bromer Booksellers, L. J. Peretti Company, Samet & Company, PC, CPAs, Shawmut Design and Construction, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, the Bartevian Family, Leah Basbanes, Grace Jeanes, Stephen and Tabitha King, Michael B. Moskow, Susan Jaffe Tane, and Sarah B. Wolfe. The statue was cast in bronze at New England Sculpture Service in Chelsea, Mass., with installation by Shawmut Design and Construction of Boston.

The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, invites the public to visit its website and Facebook page to learn more about the project:

The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston:   www.bostonpoe.org

On Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/bostonpoe

Media Contacts

Paul Lewis, Chair, Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston, Inc.; Boston College Professor of English; 617-584-1511; paul.lewis@bc.edu

Stefanie Rocknak, Sculptor; Hartwick College Professor of Philosophy; 607-433-9729; RocknakS@hartwick.edu