Benching Edgar Allan Poe: The Newest Westford Poe Memorial

October 30, 2023 —
When it comes to Edgar Allan Poe, I’ve done a lot. Held his hair in my hands. Pieces of his coffin. His wedding ring. I’ve given talks at exhibition openings of Poe artifacts. Hung with Poe collectors and Poe performers. Eaten at Poe-themed restaurants. I’ve been to his houses, his honeymoon suite, his schools and military posts, his inspirations and his memorials and monuments and graves (yes, plural). My name appears on a brick outside his home in Baltimore, on a plaque under his bust in the Boston Public Library. I’ve won a major literary award shaped like his head. Even been to two different Poe monument dedications. And all because I wrote a book about the bastard.

But never have I participated in a Poe monument dedication. Until Sunday.


Poe was infatuated with a woman in Westford, Massachusetts, named Nancy Richmond. They met at one of his poetry lectures in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1848. He called her Annie and would visit her at her home. His poem, For Annie was, well, for Annie. One of his strangest letters was written to her. In it (which you can read here), he professes a debilitating amount of love for her and then describes his attempt at suicide by the ingestion of laudanum. The letter is almost more Poe than Poe. Unfortunately, Annie was married. Also, unfortunately, Poe would die a year later. Her house still stands, and there’s a simple stone marker by it denoting his visits there.

And now Westford has doubled down on Poe with a bronze memorial outside the Parish Center for the Arts. All courtesy of sculptor David Christiana and the Westford Remembers Memorial Fund. He invited me to say a few words at the dedication after he learned of my affinity for one of his other works, the Westford Knight statue, and my work with Poe.


Despite the rain, there was a good turnout. We held court inside the adjacent Westford Museum, where more chairs had to be procured to accommodate the attendance. The museum manager got up and explained Poe’s relationship with the town. David got up and explained his motivations for the project. The abovementioned letter was read, and then I got up and said a few relatively ad hoc words about Poe and Westford and the importance of commemorating what actually makes a town special. And being a Poe site is special.

And then we went outside in the sputtering rain, and I had the honor of standing alongside the sculptor and helping lift the black veil obscuring his creation.

The artwork is called Waiting for Poe, and is a small stone bench engraved with Poe's signature and topped by a bronze top hat and walking stick. The hat is covered in phrases from his works. About ten feet away a raven overlooks the bench, perching and sitting and nothing more. In this case, the raven was a wax effigy, as its bronze form hadn’t been completed yet. David called it all, “the most subtle of Poe memorials.” According to him, the idea was that Poe had left his hat and walking stick in the town, and that the people of Westford didn't think they'd never see him again. In addition, by creating it as a bench where a person could sit, people can interact with the sculpture and sort of sit with Poe.


I liked it. The iconography David chose was unique. The idea relevant. Even the subtlety was welcome, as if Westford understood it didn’t loom as large in Poe’s history as, say, Baltimore or Boston or New York or Richmond, but that it still played an important part in Poe’s story. 

David even gave me a raven-adorned medallion he created to signify my participation in the event. It’s now a prized piece of my Poe collection for a prized moment of my life.

And, to top it all off, while everybody shuffled inside the Parish Center for the artist’s reception, my eldest daughter took advantage of the moment to be the first to ever sit on the monument after its dedication.

But only because she thought of doing it before I did.