Since that day on January 19, 1909, millions have seen that bust, either there in New York or through copies and images. But only a few could say they were there for the actual unveil.
Yesterday, October 5, 2014, in Boston, Massachusetts, there was a much bigger Edgar Allan Poe unveil, a full statue in the city where Poe was born, and I can count myself among the throng who attended this historic event. I only saw two top hats.
This statue and event were exciting for me beyond being a Poe fan. I was vested in this statue and the people responsible for it. Over the course of writing Poe-Land, I got to document some of the massive effort that went into this statue, meeting, interviewing, and keeping in touch with members of the foundation, backers, the sculptor herself. It was their day as much as Poe’s and as much as Boston’s. They deserve heavy accolades for spending five years of their lives working toward getting Boston to love Poe.
I won’t go deep into the story of why Boston doesn’t already. It’s summarized elsewhere on this site, it’s in Poe-Land in detail, and it's being told in the media today as a result of the statue. In short, Poe was born in Boston and, although he didn’t grow up there, he returned regularly throughout his life. However, he had ill will toward the city due to a distaste for its popular poetry and a badly received lecture he gave there. Some of the best insults ever thrown at Boston came from Poe. And some of the staunchest apathy ever practiced toward a native son came from Boston.
But, as of yesterday, Boston is no longer Edgar Allan Poe’s second John Allan.
|Left-to-right: Paul Lewis, Edgar Allan Poe, Stefanie Rocknak, Rob Velella|
Seeing it in real life, pressed with crowds like he was the latest star of the latest blockbuster movie, we all got a new perspective on him.
I’m still calling him “Bad-Ass Poe.” Because it’s still a bold statue in every way. In fact, it’s big news both for Boston and the legacy of Poe for a range of reasons:
- In my journeys through Poe-Land, I saw only two full-length statues of Poe. The amazing Moses Ezekiel one in Baltimore and the adequate Charles Rudy one in Richmond. Boston can now claim to be only one of three cities that has a Poe statue. And it certainly has the boldest, thanks to Stefanie Rocknak.
- Most Poe monuments and sites in the world are off the beaten tracks, far away from the tourist streams. Not in Boston. He strides right across the street from the Common and the Public Gardens. This is a statue that will be daily seen by both the initiated and the uninitiated, that will only draw more people to Poe and link Poe’s name with Boston more and more.
- This statue stands out in Boston. Across the street, in the Garden, are a chessboard’s worth of statues, almost every one of them heroes on horses and politicians on pedestals. Boring. Anonymous. Inoffensive. Not Poe. Not this Poe. You can walk up to him, look him in the eye, and say, “Hello, Bad-Ass Poe. Have some pumpkin pie.”
|One of the inscribed pages that have flown from Poe's valise.|
We’ll go back one day and take some really great pictures of it. Heck I’ll probably regularly do so, documenting it as it adjusts itself right into the fabric of the city. After only an hour, it was already starting take root. As the crowd milled and took pictures, you could already hear the ripples as passersby going about their usual Sunday business asked what all the fuss was about. The enthusiastic response, “A Poe statue.”