Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart Still Beats for Boston

Posted October 10, 2014 by Lindsey Daniels in Theater & Arts
Edgar Allan Poe Statue

Born in the city of Boston in 1809, Edgar Allen Poe is finally back in the Hub (and just in time for the 165th anniversary of his death) in the form of a goth-inspired statue on the corner of Boylston Street and Charles Street South. The area is part of the newly created Boston Literary Cultural District (that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?), the very first of its kind in the nation.

Poe’s Statue: A Long-Standing Debate, Settled

Boston is hardly the first city to honor this great writer. Baltimore (his adopted home), Philadelphia, New York City, and Richmond, VA all have some sort of Poe memorial, be it a statue or museum. So what took so long for his birthplace, Boston, to honor the writer?

Part of it may have been Poe’s disdain for the city of his birth. Poe did get his start writing and publishing stories here, but he fled Boston and did not get along with the city’s other literary heavyweights, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or Ralph Waldo Emerson. He felt their writing was didactic and did not entertain readers. The Boston literati likewise looked down on Poe, calling his stories merely “jingles.”

The new statue shows Poe rushing down the street, an open briefcase spilling manuscripts over the pavement. Atop one of these manuscripts rests an anatomical human heart, a reference to Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart story. Out of the briefcase comes a raven, of course from Poe’s poem The Raven. He is heading for his birthplace, which is no longer standing, but was approximately two blocks from the statue’s location.

Poe fans will want to mark two related events in their calendar. On October 30, the Boston Public Library’s main branch will unveil a Poe bust sculpted by Bryan Moore. Unlike the Charles Street South statue, which was crowdfunded through the sale of Poe bobblehead dolls, this one was funded by heavyweights George R.R. Martin and Guillermo del Toro. Then on October 31, actor Jeffrey Combs will put on a one-man Poe show at Davis Square’s Somerville Theater.

Both the Poe statue and the newly-created literary district are big coups for the downtown Boston arts scene. Poe is still considered a major author with a huge following, and his work is often taught in middle schools and high schools. Boston should be proud that Poe came from the city, and it’s wonderful to see that the city’s artistic residents are rallying around their native son.

The Literary Cultural District strings together many of Boston’s literary sights.

What’s Left to Come for the New Boston Literary Cultural District

The Literary Cultural District strings together many of Boston’s literary sights. It stretches from the Boston Women’s Memorial on the Commonwealth Mall through the Public Garden, along Stuart Street to Washington, through Chinatown and past the downtown Boston Arts district, up to Court Street, and toward the Esplanade. Included are many universities, theaters, memorials, and sites where famous writers lived, died, married, wrote, or wrote about.

The district has its own website, with a calendar full of events. Lectures, book talks, writing courses, and other goings-on are listed. The Boston Book Festival will take place October 23-25 at the Public Library and environs, which is part of the Literary Cultural District. The whole concept is still very new, and will continue to evolve in direction as months pass.

This is a huge development for Boston. Aside from the artistic programming and the intellectual capital, the move could raise real estate prices in the area as it may place limitations on development or demolition within the defined cultural district.