Poe makes his return

December 20, 2009|By Chris Kaltenbach

The biggest name on Baltimore's arts scene this year may have been a guy who's been dead for 160 years.

Certainly, Edgar Allan Poe hadn't gotten this much press since dying a bedraggled, possibly beaten man wandering the streets of Baltimore, in 1849. (In fact, he probably got far more, given that his death warranted only a four-sentence obituary in The Sun). But Baltimore, which has been waging a war of words for decades with Boston, Richmond, Va., New York and Philadelphia over which city can best justify calling the first great master of the macabre its favorite son, pulled out every possible stop to celebrate this bicentennial year of his birth (in 1809, in Boston).

There have been continuing Poe exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. There was a big-time 200th birthday celebration that stretched over four days back in January and February, a wine tasting in March (with plenty of amontillado on hand, naturally), a theatrical performance of "The Fall of the House of Usher" alongside Poe's grave outside Westminster Hall in June, and a five-day commemoration of his death, complete with the elaborate funeral he never had, in November.

And it's not over. Actor Jeffrey Combs is scheduled to perform his one-man Poe tribute, "Nevermore," inside Westminster Hall on Jan. 23 and Jan. 24.

"I think we more than rose to the occasion," says the Poe Society of Baltimore's Jeff Savoye. "Poe would have loved the attention."

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