Monday, October 26, 2009

Poe Evermore

Magnet # 75: Poe's 2009 Bicentennial

Material: Laminated Paper

Purchased By: Me

Well, I have just returned from a weeklong, whirlwind tour of some of the Mid-Atlantic states and their cities. On Tuesday, I headed up to Charlottesville, VA from Savannah. The next day, I traveled east to Annapolis, MD and then out to Dover, DE on Thursday. After that, I came back over to Baltimore, MD and then down to Richmond, VA before heading home on Sunday. It was incredible - I was all by myself and I had a really good time, although I got lost everyday but the last one. It was cool to see what's north of Savannah since I always seem to head down south to Florida or west to Alabama and Texas. And, yes, I bought quite a few magnets to post here.

One of the three places that I was determined to see on my trip was the Poe Museum in Richmond. Edgar Allan Poe's dark, Gothic writings are a perfect match for the creepy theme I'm adhering to this month. He tapped into the human fears of matters like being buried alive, putrification, haunted homes, disease, and descent into madness. His works captivated readers of his time, gaining him fame and moderate financial success. Of course, his fans demanded more shocking, grisly tales and Poe obliged, publishing stories of revenge, murder, torture, and other vicious deeds. Over the years, his haunting stories terrified readers and inspired artists like Gustave Dore, Edmund Dulac, and Henry Clark. Poe provided an insight into the dark side of the human psyche, combining it with gripping details and a narrative that almost makes his audience believe they are witnessing his shocking events in person. If you want a good scare this Halloween night, read a few of his short stories alone by candlelight.

On the first day of my trip, I picked up a free magazine on touring Richmond, so I had all week to study it. The cover image had me intrigued. There was a smiling couple in the foreground enjoying their visit while a bust of Poe loomed in the background. But the part I was most interested in was the ghostly figure in the middle of the image. It was a tall, thin Poe-like young man dressed in garbs of the Romantic era. His image had been altered to appear translucent and otherworldly. Familiar with this as I was, you can imagine my surprise when the door of the Poe Museum opened and the ghostly man from the picture was behind it! He was dressed in modern clothes and was a Museum employee. When I asked, he confirmed he had posed for the cover. I thought it was so cool, I even took my own picture of him seated behind his desk. So I guess you could say I almost had my own encounter with an apparition while I was on my trip. At the very least, it was a little shocking for a moment.

I had seen this incredible Poe illustration by Bret Alexander on the Museum's store website featured on a magnet, but was pretty alarmed when, right before my trip, it vanished. Sure enough, I got there and it had sold out, but they still had matchboxes featuring the design, so I bought one to convert into a magnet. It's a little smaller than it would have been as a magnet, but I have so many magnets to cram into my kitchen that I'm okay with that. This and another image were made specifically to commemorate Poe's Bicentennial this year. The entire city of Richmond is involved in this yearlong event. Back in January, Garrison Keillor visited the Landmark Theater and read some of Poe's works. In July, the Library of Virginia opened an exhibition of rare Poe manuscripts that runs through the end of this month. Even other Virginia attractions like Maymont House, St. John's Church, and the Soundry are featuring events and items that tie in with the celebration. And, of course, the Poe Museum is at the center of all the festivities, hosting one event after another, until their final Unhappy Hour on October 29.

It's amazing to see how much influence Edgar Allan Poe has two hundred years after his birth. His macabre work has affected every generation that has come after him. He was a pioneer of dark writings which will doubtlessly inspire and terrify for another two hundred years - and beyond.

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