Visiting Edgar

I must have been about eleven years old when my brother pulled a book off the shelf and took it outside to read a poem that immediately captivated me. Although it was a bright and sunny day in Southern California and we sat in the shade of an orange tree, I was carried to a dark and dank chamber where I saw a frightening apparition atop a bust of Pallas Athena mouthing the word, “Nevermore.” Of course the poem was “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. Just a few years later, I would meet Poe again when a high school English teacher assigned “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Those two events turned me into a fan of Poe for life.

Poe-0530-Nicki

Over Memorial Day Weekend, I attended Balticon, a science fiction convention in Baltimore. The convention was held at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, which is just around the corner from the place on Lombard Street where Poe was found “in great distress” by Joseph W. Walker on October 3, 1849. It’s not entirely clear what Poe was doing in Baltimore or why he was outside the public house on Lombard Street where Walker found him. What is known is that Poe died in the hospital just four days later at age 40. He was then buried in an anonymous grave at Westminster Hall. In 1865, a movement began to create a more fitting memorial for Poe and by 1875, that culminated in the creation of the Poe Memorial at Westminster Hall where Poe is now interred along with his wife and mother-in-law. While in Baltimore, my friend Nicki Fatherly took me to see the Poe Memorial.

Poe’s interests were far-ranging. He wrote criticism, contemplated scientific discovery, imagined detectives, and was fascinated by the darker sides of human nature. He wrote poetry, essays, and prose. That range has influenced me to explore many topics and forms in my writing. Because of Poe, and authors he influenced such as Ray Bradbury, I’ve felt encouraged to write science fiction, horror, and fantasy. It’s why I write poetry, short stories, and novels. I’ve even written a few reviews. I was glad to visit Poe’s memorial in Baltimore and pay tribute to a man who continues to influence so many over a century and half after his mysterious and untimely passing.

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8 thoughts on “Visiting Edgar

  1. Jeff says:

    Poe was passing through Baltimore on his way to New York and coming from Richmond. Baltimore was the halfway point between the south and north. So no mystery why he came to Baltimore. He was buried in his grandfather’s plot not in an anonymous plot.

    • Thanks for visiting and for the feedback. My source for the comments about Poe’s uncertain reasons for visiting Baltimore is the Poe Society of Baltimore, which has a great article here: http://www.eapoe.org/geninfo/poedeath.htm

      According to that, it’s not entirely clear that New York was his destination or whether getting off the train in Baltimore was the result of a planned stop or not.

      As for my comment about the grave being anonymous, my source is again the Poe society of Baltimore. It’s distinctly possible the plot was his grandfather’s, but apparently the grave was not marked with a name until after his body was moved to the current location. Here’s the link: http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poegrave.htm

  2. Jeff says:

    Nice comments. Glad you could visit his grave. Did you see his original grave in the back of the historic boneyard? There’s a stone with a raven carved in it.

    • Again thanks. Unfortunately, we could only stop briefly, so didn’t get around to the back to see the marker for the original grave. I’m sorry in retrospect we didn’t manage to do that, but the graveyard as a whole was quite fascinating.

  3. Even today, kids will wade through Poe’s very different prose style and shiver with delight at The Tell-Tale Heart.

  4. dm yates says:

    Poe – one of my all-time favorites. A genius whose work is above the majority of writers and poets.

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