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Edgar Allan Poe's Birthday: Online Exhibition, Events to Commemorate Boston Literary Figure

Chestnut Hill, Mass. (1-11-11) – A version of the groundbreaking Boston Public Library exhibition “The Raven in the Frog Pond: Edgar Allan Poe and the City of Boston” —which drew record crowds during its display last winter and was curated by Boston College Professor of English Paul Lewis and independent Boston historian Dan Currie—has been launched and can be found at /schools/cas/english/poebostonexhibit/ 

Its debut is among activities and events commemorating Poe’s 202nd birthday on January 19.


Online Exhibition
“One of the best-kept secrets in Boston's literary history,” says Lewis, “concerns Poe, arguably the most influential writer ever born here. And the secret is this: he was born here.”

According to the exhibition web site, Boston has until recently been “conspicuous for its determination to treat the master of mystery—America's first great critic and a foundational figure in the development of popular culture—like an undeserving orphan. This attitude is all the more fascinating because it can be traced back to the antebellum period, involves a war of words as snarky as any from that time, and is based on a misunderstanding of the importance of Boston to Poe's development.” 

“The Raven in the Frog Pond” uses materials from the extensive collections of the Boston Public Library, the American Antiquarian Society, Susan Jaffe Tane and M. Thomas Inge to tell the complex story of Poe's relation to Boston and to set the record straight about this native son. Essential to understanding both what Boston meant to Poe and what Poe meant to Boston, these materials had never before been displayed together. They were on view at the BPL from December 2009 to March 2010 and are featured in the online version.

“While it’s true that Poe fought a career-long battle against Boston-area authors, whose moralistic poems and stories sounded to him like the croaking of frogs, it’s also true that he had positive feelings about the place,” according to Lewis. “He discovered his first literary supporter, and published his first and last works here. His decision to move here in 1827 and his determination to move back in the weeks before his unexpected death in 1849 suggest that he thought of Boston as a place of refuge and new beginnings.”

The online exhibit showcases the topics explored in the BPL display: Poe’s Life in Boston; Poe's Quarrel with Boston Writers; Poe, Boston, and the Business of Publishing; Illustrated Poe; and Poe in Popular Culture. It also features a WGBH report about the exhibit and a podcast of the “The Great Poe Debate” which kicked off the exhibit on December 17, 2009.

Others who worked on the exhibit include associate curator Dan Currie and a research team composed on independent literary scholar Rob Velella, BC graduate student Katherine Kim, and BC alumnae Sarah Poulette and Megan Grandmont.

January 19: Free, Public Birthday Commemoration at Boston Public Library
On January 19, to commemorate the 202nd birthday of America’s master of the macabre, the Boston College American Studies Program and the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston are sponsoring a free public celebration at The Boston Public Library. It will feature a talk on Poe's connections to Boston, a rare appearance by the author himself, an announcement regarding ongoing plans to have a durable work of art installed in E.A. Poe Square (see below), and readings from Poe works. Audience members are encouraged to come prepared to read a favorite short Poe passage.

Where & When:  Boston Public Library, Copley Square, Johnson Building, Boston Room (Boylston Street entrance) on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 7 p.m.  

Grant to Develop Plan for Installation of a Permanent Work of Art in Poe Square
Following up on the celebration of the Edgar Allan Poe bicentenary in 2009 and the naming of the intersection of Boylston and Charles Street South after the author, The Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund has awarded the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston, Inc. a $10,000 grant to develop a plan for the installation of a permanent work of art in Poe Square. A non-profit organization, the Poe-Boston Foundation seeks to honor Poe in the city where he was born and to promote cultural tourism in general.

To advance these objectives, the foundation was created recently by Boston College English Professor Paul Lewis, independent Boston historian Dan Currie, literary scholar and actor Rob Velella, and Patricia Bartevian who is donating office space to the foundation in a building she owns at 160 Boylston Street, steps away from Poe Square.

The monies for this grant are not taxpayer dollars, but rather interest from a trust fund for public art that was established in 1892 by the will of successful Boston trust attorney Edward Ingersoll Browne.

A "Call for artists/Request for Qualifications" will be put out soon by the Boston Art Commission and Poe-Boston Foundation, as they undertake the selection of an artist to develop design plans.

Contact Information for the E. A. Poe Foundation of Boston, Inc.:
160 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02116
Dan Currie, President and Clerk: / 617-448-7115

Boston College Professor of English Paul Lewis
(617) 552-3710;

--Rosanne Pellegrini, Boston College Office of News & Public Affairs