Saturday, 2:15 PM
Boston honors Poe, a native son who shunned the city
By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
Like his famous raven that perched, never flitting, above the chamber door, Edgar Allan Poe today claimed a permanent place of honor in Boston's literary lore, as city officials dedicated Poe Square near the writer's birthplace.
Born in Boston 200 years ago in January, Poe had long been overlooked as a native son because of his rancorous relationship with the city and its writers. But after an aggressive campaign by a devoted band of Poe enthusiasts, city officials agreed to pay tribute to the "master of the macabre" by renaming the corner of Boylston and Charles streets across from the Boston Common.
"Together again at last," exclaimed Paul Lewis, a Poe scholar at Boston College who led the charge to honor the 19th-century writer.
In a dedication ceremony this morning, a beautiful spring day that seemed out of place for a tribute to the often-morbid writer, Lewis said the square would "celebrate the city's connection to Poe." He urged those still stinging from Poe's dismissal of Boston as a provincial "Frogpondium" to let bygones be bygones.
"To these unforgiving folk I say, 'Wow, you really, really know how to hold a grudge,' '' he quipped to the dozens who were on hand for the ceremony.
Lewis said that despite Poe's "literary war" against Boston-area writers such as Thoreau and Longfellow, he let it be known near the end of his life that he wished to be buried here. (His grave in Baltimore, the city he is most closely identified with, draws throngs.)
In a light-hearted introduction of Mayor Thomas Menino, Lewis waved off "cynics" who would say Menino was trying to "court the large pro-Poe vote."
Menino, noting that Poe and Boston had a "somewhat rocky relationship," said a reconciliation was overdue.
"It's time to stake our claim to a major part of Poe's legacy," he said. "Time for the raven to join ducklings and swans on our list of favorite birds."
Poe was skilled, Menino allowed, at crafting "anti-Boston zingers" such as "Their hotels are bad. Their pumpkin pies are delicious. Their poetry is not so good."
"Tough stuff," he said, half-admiringly.
The city's poet laureate, Sam Cornish, praised Poe's "broad, universal voice" before reading the Poem poem "Alone" in a deep, commanding voice.
"And all I lov'd, I loved alone," he said.
Lewis, who will curate a Poe exhibit at the Boston Public Library later this year, said he hoped to decorate the square with a statue and other public art. Maybe even a beating heart under the bricks at the newly dubbed square, he suggested, only half in jest.
"I'm saying it's a possibility," he said.