In Baltimore lives the legacy of one of the United States’ most famous writers—Edgar Allan Poe. In his lifetime, Poe never received the sort of attention that he deserved. But despite harsh critiques from famous writers such as T.S. Eliot (who happened to despise Poe but love Baudelaire despite the fact that Baudelaire was influenced by Poe), his name and his work continue to live on.
Today, October 7th, Poe’s fans and followers will commemorate his death and his life. This date falls right on the heels of the closing of the museum dedicated to him in Baltimore—a terrible loss to the Baltimore and literary communities. I have never visited The Poe House & Museum, but have always wanted to. I have been planning my “Poe Pilgrimage” to Baltimore for some time now and had picked Spring 2013 as the date for my trip. This trip would entail visiting various places associated with Poe in Baltimore, including this museum. It was to be one of the highlights of my trip. But now that the museum is closed (hopefully only temporarily), my trip has been postponed.
It seems there are a lot of political issues arising with the closing of the museum; lots of finger pointing and questions about who is going to run the museum and why the city no longer wants responsibility. These are things upon which I cannot comment because I am not a resident of Baltimore and don’t know the issues that intimately.
But, what I can comment on is the loss to the world of literature that the permanent closure of this museum would herald. To some, Poe may simply be the author of a short story or two and that really long poem about the raven that we had to read in school. But to me, he is a groundbreaking writer whose voice, style and critical theory influence my own writing in so many ways. Within his words one can find his sorrows, his convictions, his hopes and dreams. In my middle-school days, I loved his poetry. In college, I began to focus in on Gothic literature and how Poe affected this genre and created a new one: the detective story with his detective, C. Auguste Dupin. In my graduate school days, I grew to appreciate his stories in a new way, ultimately writing about how Poe was commenting on the issue of the insanity plea and the rules for determining insanity. I have been fascinated by his life as both a human being and as a writer for most of mine.
To see the closure of this museum, I feel a great disappointment and sorrow. This is not just a regular museum. Within those walls, Poe lived and wrote for just a short period of his life. He died in Baltimore and he is buried there. I know that our society, generally speaking, does not preserve the legacy of writers. We are more concerned with American Idol and the latest fad rather than the Poet Laureate (Natasha Tretheway, in case you were wondering) who writes her own work and does not profit from mimicry. But Poe’s is a legacy worth preserving. His writing has a huge influence on the Gothic genre and the subsequent genres that come out of the Gothic tradition.
I know that the recession has been hard on everyone. My trip was postponed to 2013 because it took me until 2011 to find a job after finishing school in 2008. In 2010, the city of Baltimore announced that it would no longer support the museum and cut the budget (
). Whatever the real issues are, I hope that the city of Baltimore and all involved parties understand the bigger picture and the importance of preserving the legacy that is Edgar Poe. If they can agree on who will run the museum and an appropriate method of business without letting egos and he said/she said disputes get in the way, everyone may enjoy the relics of a great American writer for years to come. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
In tribute and remembrance of Edgar Poe,
here is one of my favorite poems written by him:
Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow –
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand –
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?