One of the more recent, and still not sufficiently known, tourist attractions of the city of Boston, Massachusetts, is the statue erected in 2014 to one of Boston’s most famous sons, Edgar Allan Poe. Born in Boston on 19 January 1809, Poe returned to his birthplace on a number of occasions, notably to serve briefly in the US army in 1827 and to give a lecture at the Boston Lyceum in 1845. Boston was also the place of publication of a number of his works, both early – the volume of 1827, ‘Tamerlane and Other Poems’, which he signed as ‘A Bostonian’ – and late – poems such as ‘A Dream Within A Dream’ (1849) and stories including ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ (1843), ‘Hop-Frog’ (1849) and ‘Landor’s Cottage’, the very last story he published before his death in Baltimore in 1849.
The life-size statue is the work of the New York artist Stefanie Rocknak, and was chosen by the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston from among 265 proposals:
It stands at the intersection of Boylston Street and Charles Street, now renamed Edgar Allan Poe Square. Just opposite is the celebrated open space known as Boston Common, with its frog-pond after which Poe was known jestingly to call the intellectual city ‘Frogpondium’.
Poe is believed to have been born nearby at No 62 Carver Street, in a building now demolished. The focal point of the square is now Boloco, a Tex-Mex fast-food joint with certain alternative pretensions (it also sells healthy juices). The absence of a surviving actual birth spot is compensated by the presence of a whole set of Poe memorabilia around the statue. A theme runs through it all, namely the poet’s interaction with his native Boston.
There are two plaques, one on the left-hand side of Boloco and the other between it and the next building. The first plaque was inaugurated on Poe’s birthday in 1989 (by the Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Committee); and the second dates from October 2014 and is contemporaneous with the statue. Dotted across the pavement around the statue there are also six Poe-themed plaquettes.
The first plaque features Poe’s profile and dates at the top, and a raven at the bottom, and outlines the poet’s life and presence in Boston. The second, under the title ‘Poe returning to Boston’, adds more on the Boston theme; and the plaquettes feature quotations from Boston-related works by Poe, notably ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘A Dream Within A Dream’. The statue depicts Poe imagined thus, according to the plaque: ‘Just off the train, he is walking south away from the Frog Pond and towards 62 Carver Street’. Poe is striding trunk in hand, accompanied by a raven. The back part of the statue features a mini-pedestal of books and a very anatomical heart-motif that recalls the paintings of Frida Kahlo and can only be Poe’s own tell-tale heart.
The entire ensemble, then, is structured around the theme of Poe’s relationship with his native city.
The heart tells its tale, and statue, plaques, plaquettes and sign combine harmoniously to form a well-rounded tribute to this great writer numbered among the children of Boston.