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Monday
Jan112010

Richmond: Home of the Arrogant Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe

For the past two years, I've been having a public discussion/argument about the Literary Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe.  First, Baltimore took me on.  Then Boston.  And we've had some very spirited and fun debates in both Philadelphia and Boston.  At these events, the participants are often asked why New York and Richmond, the other two Poe cities, have not chimed in on the Poe War.   We have never been able to give a satisfactory answer. 

My guess: New York just doesn't really care about Poe.  NYC barely notices anything that happens outside its border.  In fact, I think there was only one event honoring Poe's Bicentennial (and that one a hundred-dollar-a-plate fundraiser).  I could be wrong.  I may have missed announcements for events that were held last year.  But I don't think so.  No wonder the Poe Cottage in the Bronx has so much financial trouble; they keep such a low profile.  They ought to be out promoting Poe like the other Poe cities do.

And Richmond?  Well, I've always had the impression that Richmond doesn't care for the kind of spirited debate I've been promoting.  That this Poe War is beneath their dignity.  I've also heard from various Poeists that the Poe supporters in Virginia have always been rather humorless.  Well, now Richmond is finally weighing in on a public conversation that's been going on for over two years.  As part of their 24 Hour Poe Birthday celebration this Saturday:

 The "Great Poe Debate" Officially Settled by the Poe Family
Dr. Harry Lee Poe, President of the Poe Foundation, will make his ruling on the debate that has been waged all year between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston over which city can claim Poe as their own.

Imagine my surprise when I heard that the debate I've been having in front of public audiences, in the public press, on the very public internet, will be officially settled by a member of the Poe family.  Now, I've met Harry Lee Poe and he's done loads to honor Poe throughout the world.  He even told me he was delighted with the very public Poe War I've been having for the past two years.  But what strikes me about this Richmond event is the sheer arrogance that they've demonstrated all along.  Not to mention the nerve they have to even use the moniker, Great Poe Debate, when they've steadfastedly refused to participate in any actual debates. 

So how will Harry Lee Poe officially settle the Great Poe Debate?  Well, he won't.  Because you can't settle a debate by talking to yourself.  You need to engage others in spirited discussion for that.  Richmond isn't interested in talking about the Literary Legacy of Poe with the world.  They're just interested in talking to themselves.  Whoop-de-doo. 

Just to be clear: I don't think Hal Poe is arrogant at all.  He is a Poe, so he can say whatever he wants, to whomever he wants.  My gripe is that the Richmond Poe Museum is claiming his speech is part of the Great Poe Debate.  It's not.  Because there's no debate. 

You can read about Richmond's pretense in yesterday's Baltimore Sun (always alert to rumblings in the Poe War), in which we find this very telling quote from Katarina M. Spears, the executive director of the Poe Museum in Richmond: "We kind of arrogantly feel like it's only if you're really insecure about your connection to him that you need to be actively competing."

A kind of arrogance really sums it all up, don't you think?  Richmond: Home of the Arrogant Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe.  I'd call you out, Richmond, but you'd probably just stick your nose in the air and sniff that I was some Yankee interloper.  However, if you'd ever like to engage in some PUBLIC discussion of Poe and his legacy and not just a speech to yourselves in a closed room, you know where to find me. 

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