Published: February 2009
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston January 19, 1809, and the University observed his bicentennial in mid January with a two-day celebration, “The Raven Returns to Boston,” which featured lectures, an O’Neill Library exhibition, the screening of a new biopic, and public readings. In truth, Poe had little regard for his native city, calling its residents “Frogpondians,” and writing that he was “heartily ashamed” of the place. The city’s literary elite responded in kind. Critics panned his reading at the Boston Lyceum, and Emerson called him the “jingle man.”
“It’s time to forgive and forget,” according to English Professor Paul Lewis. “Poe was our first great critic,” he wrote in a Boston Globe op-ed piece. “He ranged across genres, created the modern detective story, and greatly enriched what the gothic could achieve.” Lewis, assisted by graduate student Katherine Kim and a group of faculty, administrators, and students, organized a program to “seize this once-in-a-century opportunity to celebrate Boston’s most influential writer.” On the English department’s Poe Bicentennial website they declare their intention to convince the city to recognize Poe’s importance and “to start a wave of Poe appreciation and have heaps of fun in the process!”
Braving bitter cold temperatures, some 200 people came to Devlin 008 January 15 for an evening that included talks by authors Scott Peeples and Matthew Pearl, and the reading by Boston poet laureate Sam Cornish of an official city proclamation declaring January Edgar Allan Poe Month and naming the intersection of Charles and Boylston Streets Edgar Allan Poe Square. The assembled group sang “Happy Birthday” and enjoyed a coffin-shaped birthday cake decorated with a (dark chocolate) raven. @BC presents video highlights of student readings and performances from the celebration.