For many years, the Poe House and Museum in Baltimore has held a celebration in honor of the writer’s birthday. In the past, Poe fans flocked to the event, usually held in January for one or two weekends. This year, there was one performance on March 3, and we were lucky enough to once again hit the road for Baltimore and attend.
Although we are still waiting on word as to what will happen with the Poe House, this performance could very well have been the last of its kind—most of you know the city of Baltimore cut the house’s funding in 2010, and according to Jeff Jerome, the reason it has stayed open longer than originally planned is due to private donations and high attendance at fundraising events.
We have been to many of the Poe birthday celebrations over the years and are hoping that the situation in which the house finds itself will change. After the concert, longtime Poe supporter, professor and well-known actor John Astin reminded goers that letters to the city of Baltimore’s Mayor would be helpful. Dust and Corruption’s Vagrarian has excellent advice on the way to write your letter, so although I will provide the address here, please read his excellent post at http://dustandcorruption.blogspot.com/2011/01/where-to-write-your-letters-to-support.html
The address is:
The Honorable Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Office of the Mayor, City of Baltimore
100 North Holliday Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
If you’d like to make a donation directly to the Poe House, here’s all of that information:
If you would like to make a donation to support the Baltimore Edgar Allan Poe House Museum, please send a check or money order to:
Department of Planning
417 East Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
Make check payable to Director of Finance
Please annotate check “POE HOUSE DONATION”.
In the meantime, I’ll share these photos of what I hope isn’t the last Poe Celebration. You can see that this was a rockin’ time, so if things head North and this tradition continues, don’t miss out next year! You can visit their website anytime for updates: http://www.poebicentennial.com/index.html
VIDEO: See Fortunato in action!
Below: Nathan, left, with Weird Maryland’s Matt Lake. We met him for the first time at the Poe event in 2007 and have run into each other at paranormal events on and off in the past few years.
Below: Matt signs a copy of Weird Maryland for a fan while Nathan looks on.
Notes from the Second Row
I’m not going to write a big, beautiful review of Poe Forevermore; what follows here are a few things I pulled from the notes I was taking at the concert for the benefit of those who would be interested in its content.
“Here, we have the dead in the basement and Poe outside.”
~ Jeff Jerome, Curator of theBaltimorePoeHouseMuseum, on Westminster Hall
Cellist Gretchen Gettes opened the evening before Melanie Armstrong, John Spitzer, Mark Redfield, and Tony Tsendeas (well known to Poe Concert goers) took the stage with a clever program that told the story of Poe’s connection to Baltimore through letters and poetry.
John Astin opened Act II and presented the loves of Poe’s life through the man’s poetry; he opened with “Alone,” and shared: “Poe was in love with love and in love with so many women; he lamented the death of his mother…he lost his mother…he fell in love with his foster mother Francis Allan when he was in his early teens, he fell in love with the mother of a playmate.”
Reads: “To Helen.”
John Astin: “Then he lost his foster mother and there’s a poem I think is appropriate for his lament…he wanted to say goodbye to her, but he was called back from the army too late, and so as he was looking at her in her coffin, I imagine him saying [reads “A Dream Within a Dream.”]…Then there’s something I think is so brilliant about [Dream]…he states [All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream”] at the end of the first stanza, and then he asks it as a question the end of the second.” (Kristi: The juxtaposition exhibits the very tenuous quality of dreams themselves).
Astin presented “For Annie” and lines from “…one of the greatest of Poe stories…‘Ligeia.’ We know that she has been his wife, we know that she is dead, but he can barely remember where they met,” Astin said, citing a key passage which hints at one of the story’s main themes: transmigration of the soul.
George Bernard Shaw’s thoughts on Poe, Astin talked about the importance of “Eureka”: “If one can understand Eureka, one can unlock the mystery of all Poe’s work…for those who put faith in dreams as truth…the paper would shrivel and blaze at every touch of the fiery pen.”
Astin read “The Conqueror Worm,” “To One in Paradise,” and “Annabel Lee,” “The Raven,” and closed his portion of the program with “El Dorado.”
Kristi: Letter with Poe’s description of his life over the period in which Virginia seemed to get better, but then coughed up more blood: “…the end of a year, the vessel broke again, I went through precisely the same scene…each time I felt all the agonies of her death. Nervous, in a very unusual degree [Kristi: refs. or source Tell-Tale Heart’s opening line? Check year.]…I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity…I drank, god only knows how often or how much…insanity to the drink, rather than drink to the insanity.” [Kristi: Jackalope Story!! Alcoholism!! YES!! That’s it!! Also thematic Poe connection with trigger theory use!!]
Astin: “He wrote and he wrote and he wrote and he never gave up, through all the poverty and all the sorrow.” [Kristi: Tape that on your monitor.]
The night closed with parting words from Astin and Jerome as well as the traditional toast.
Knowing that this could be the last event made this emotional for everyone including audience members; there was a strange solemnity afterwards: no one wanted to stay, but no one wanted to go, either. At least for me, there was a sense that once I stepped away I wasn’t coming back. I hope this isn’t the case, and that there are many more celebrations in my future. I’ll always visitBaltimore—I’ll need my annual Annabel Lee Tavern fix, for sure—but something will be missing if the Poe House is gone.
Below: Nathan and I get a chance to chat with John Astin. He’s one of the most gracious men I’ve ever met.
Below: The goodies I picked up at the souvenir table; Charles is particularly jealous of the book on the Red Death. I think it’s the only one he doesn’t have and there appeared to only be one copy for sale so I grabbed it. He’s not going to let me live this one down, I can tell you!
It’s been a tradition in our house for several years: we head to Baltimore, usually in January, for the annual Poe Birthday Celebration at Westminster Hall. We started going in 2004, and truth be told, we haven’t been every year, but we’ve been at least five times since then.
This year, the celebration is being held this weekend, Saturday, March 3, at 7 p.m….and we’re there. The program will feature John Astin reading Poe, greetings from the usual gang of baddies (the drunken Fortunado, freaky Madeline Usher and a few more, I’m sure), performances by the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, and of course by a few others familiar to the Poe Celebration-goers, John Spitzer, Tony Tsendeas, and Mark Redfield. All kinds of great Poe stuff, including Gaia’s Raven prints, will be available for sale, and a display of rare Poe artifacts – including Poe and Virginia’s locks of hair – will be on display (I’ve seen them, wow, they’re creepy in a great way). And even though the Poe Toaster didn’t show up…there will be a toast. There always is!
Originally, the program was a séance, and since we purchased our tickets the day they went on sale, we were guaranteed seats despite the program change. Tickets are now only available at the door beginning at 6 p.m. March 3 (the day of the performance) and are $30.
We also plan to visit the Poe House, which will be open from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 3, and hit the awesome Annabel Lee Tavern for dinner before the show. That’ll be special for me, because a pivotal scene in my short story “Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole”—yes, the book’s title piece—takes place in the tarvern, and it was my meal there in 2009 which inspired that whole story.
We’re very excited!
If you’re in the Baltimore area this weekend, please consider joining us. I’ve had many a magical weekend in my life, and all of the ones I’ve spent at the Baltimore Poe Celebration rank high. There’s just nothing like being in a concert hall full of Poe fans when you’re one yourself. It’s like…well, it’s like being in a very special club.
For complete details on the event, visit here: http://www.poebicentennial.com/events.html
I’ll be posting plenty of photos when I return. We are not allowed to flash photograph or videotape the performance, but as always, there are many interesting things to see before and after the show.
The following videos (thirty-five seconds each; they were on a very old digital camera and that was its limit) were shot at the Annabel Lee Tavern in 2009 – it was a treat to find these; I’d forgotten they even existed, because I’m pretty sure I filmed them and then never watched them. They’re not the greatest visually, but you can get a sense of the vibrancy of the place and the energy we had the night we ate there. The owner, Kurt Bragunier, and patrons at other tables all joined in some great Poe-related conversation. We already can’t wait for dinner Saturday night!
I’m a member of the Poe Studies Association, and so I’m on their L-SPAMEN list. I just about went into shock when I got an e-mail earlier this week with the Subject Line Imminent Threat to the Baltimore Poe House and Museum.
From the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore’s website:
“Since December 18, 1977, the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum at 203 Amity Street, in West Baltimore, has been run by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), a division of the Department of Planning with the City of Baltimore. Unfortunately, the city, suffering under intense and continuing budgetary problems — and perhaps hoping that hardly anyone will notice — has decided that the Poe Museum must become self-sufficient or it must be closed. With no practical way of raising sufficient money on its own to cover the annual budget of about $85,000, closure is almost certain at the end of 2011 or early in 2012 — unless the city of Baltimore can be convinced to reconsider its position.”
I just don’t understand this. Yes, I know, the economy’s bad and all of that, but this is part of the city’s history. Baltimore is proud of its favorite son—there are Poe bars and restaurants, there is the Poe celebration each January, there is the team The Ravens. There is probably more down there I don’t even know about.
There is more information on possible self-sufficiency (which doesn’t look good) and what we can do to try to change the city’s mind. Please check out this link, and tell your friends: http://www.eapoe.org/threat.htm
There is also a petition you can sign. I did, but for some reason my signature/comment isn’t showing up on the page (here’s a screen shot):
Want to sign the petition and keep up to date on what’s happening? Visit the Poe Bicentennial Blog here: http://www.poebicentennial.com/blog.html Here’s the article, also, from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/04/AR2011020405000.html?referrer=emailarticleThere’s also the annual CASK OF AMONTILLADO WINE TASTING on Saturday, March 12. I’m trying to con somebody into going with me. Any takers? COME ON, YOU WRITERS, LET’S DO A WICKED ROAD TRIP!! You can watch that site for more info on that event—tickets and details aren’t quite available yet.
If you’ve never been there, you probably have no idea what kind of treasures this place holds. Photographs I took on my 2009 visit are below.
Video: a sweep around of the second floor