Exhibit shows Poe’s lasting Baltimore presence

By RENEE SCAVONE | November 3, 2016

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COURTESY OF RENEE SCAVONE The Raven movie poster

Halloween may be over, but if you still find yourself craving the scary, the mysterious or the downright sinister, you don’t have to go further than the Peabody Library to recapture that spooky feeling.

Only a short JHMI ride away, the Peabody Library is part of the University’s Peabody Institute of Music. Although the majority of Homewood students that venture to the campus, located in the heart of Mount Vernon, do so to take courses for the music minor, the school is also famous for its gorgeous library.

The space, refurbished in 2004, is known as a popular wedding and event venue. On Oct. 4, however, it became home to a less polished guest.

“The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore and Beyond” has come to Peabody courtesy of the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection. The exhibit features manuscripts, photographs and more from Poe’s personal life and depictions of him in popular culture.

Walking through the exhibit, the tortured writer felt most alive to me as I read the loopy script of handwritten personal letters. It seems that for all of his artistry and brilliance, he was also a cynic and insecure.

He often wrote about how he struggled responding to letters — enough so that it is plain to see that he was simply a major procrastinator when it came to responding to friends.

Beyond these letters, there are illustrations from original publications, music scores from the many of Poe’s poems that were turned into songs and newspaper articles written by and about Poe, whose death in Baltimore, on Oct. 7, 1849 is still shrouded in mystery.

For those who are looking for some less conventional pieces, the exhibit has plenty. You can read the 1960s Mad Magazine adaptation “The ‘Hip’ Raven” or, if you’re interested in something a little more creepy, see fragments of Poe’s coffin and a lock of his hair.

If you can’t get enough of Poe, multiple spots in Baltimore offer more chances to explore the life of the troubled genius. One such spot is the Poe House, where the poet lived with his aunt, grandmother and two cousins from 1833 to 1835. Though the building does not have its original furniture, visitors can look at artifacts that Poe used while living in Baltimore, like his writing desk.

Knowledgeable docents are available to answer any questions that may arise. One of the first questions I asked was “How did five people live in such a small space?”

Due to the fact that the space does not have heating, as was the case when Poe was living there, the home is opened from spring through December and closed in the winter. Be sure to see it before the end of term. It is located on Amity Street on the edge of the aptly named Poe Homes public housing development.

The quickest way to get there from Hopkins is to take the Charm City Circulator’s Purple Route to Fayette Street. It’s about a fifteen walk down Fayette to the home.

On your way there, you can pass by Poe’s grave stone in the Westminster Burying Ground at the intersection of Fayette and Greene street. There, Poe rests for eternity alongside his aunt Marie and cousin Virginia. He married Virginia, who was the subject of such poems as “Annabel Lee.”

If you venture out to this spot in mid-January, you may find something a little more humanizing than the marble bust of the Master of the Macabre. Every year since 1949, unknown individuals have left a bottle of cognac and three roses by Poe’s grave on his birthday.

However, even if these two options seem a little too spooky, you still have plenty of time to see the Peabody exhibit, which runs through Feb. 5.

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