Museum News


Poe Museum’s Poem of the Week: “Eldorado”


In observance of National Poetry Month, the Poe Museum will profile a different poem each week in April. The first is one of Poe’s last poems and a favorite of the Poe Museum staff. Poe scholar called “Eldorado” the “noblest of Poe’s poems, the most universal in implication, and the most intensely personal. It is utterly simple, yet rich in suggestion and allusion.” Poe’s biographer Arthur Hobson Quinn, however, thought the poem “is mainly interesting because it reveals once more Poe’s inspiration for a poem through current American events.”

El Dorado is a mythical city of gold hidden somewhere in South America. In the sixteenth century, the Conquistadors searched for it in vain, and the name eventually became synonymous with unattainable goals and treasures. “Eldorado” is not the first time a reference to the city had appeared in Poe’s poetry. In his 1844 poem “Dream-Land,” one stanza reads:

For the heart whose woes are legion
‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region —
For the spirit that walks in shadow
O! it is an Eldorado!
But the traveller, travelling through it,
May not — dare not openly view it;
Never its mysteries are exposed
To the weak human eye unclosed;
So wills its King, who hath forbid
The uplifting of the fringed lid;
And thus the sad Soul that here passes
Beholds it but through darkened glasses.

By the time Poe wrote “Eldorado” in 1849, Eldorado (shortened to one word) was a nickname for California, where fortunes were made and lives, lost during the California Gold Rush. Whether or not Poe ever considered joining the Gold Rush, he wrote his friend F.W. Thomas in February 1849, “I shall be a littérateur, at least, all my life; nor would I abandon the hopes which still lead me on for all the gold in California.” The poem was first published a couple months later in the April 21, 1849 issue of Boston’s The Flag of Our Union. Here is the text:

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journeyed long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old —
This knight so bold —
And o’er his heart a shadow
Fell, as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow —
‘Shadow,’ said he,
‘Where can it be —
This land of Eldorado?’

‘Over the Mountains
Of the Moon,
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,’
The shade replied, —
‘If you seek for Eldorado!’

We will be profiling a different poem each week during National Poetry Month, so, if you have a favorite Poe poem you would like us to feature, let us know.




Ten Ways to Add Some Poetry to Your April


April is National Poetry Month, so the poet Joanna Lee (who will be speaking at this summer’s Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference AND giving a reading at this month’s Unhappy Hour) compiled this list of ways to make the month more poetic.

10 Ways to Add Some Poetry to your April

1. Put poetry somewhere unexpected. Transcribe your favorite verse in chalk on the sidewalk. Add a quick poem to your child’s lunch bag. Dropping off clothes to a charity? Slip a couple of lines in a note in the pocket.

2. Attend an event. Step outside your box and check out an open mic. Go hear a poet you’ve never heard of. Try a workshop or a class. (Ideas: Check out visiting poets at VCU or U of R. Local spoken word team Slam Richmond has a workshop & open mic every Saturday night. Or simply click here for the plethora of readings, workshops and critique groups we’ve got going on all April long.)

3. Revisit a poem from your youth. Pull out that dusty volume of Frost or Whitman and re-discover an old gem.

4. Go out of your way for poetry… with a road trip (a personal goal for me in April 2014). RVA is a great place for poetry– to hear it and to share it– but not the only place. There are ever-growing communities all around us, planted & watered by great folks who love the written & spoken word. The Tidewater area has something going on just about every night, or head north to Fredericksburg (look for Commonwealth Slam on Facebook) and beyond.

5. Slip some poetry in your technology. Add a favorite verse to your email signature. Tweet a micropoem–you’d be surprised at the creativity you can find in 140 characters or less– and check out hashtags like #micropoetry, #haiku, #americansentence. Caption a verse to your next Instagram.

6. Support a poet! Buy a book or chap and immerse yourself in the soul of someone you’ve never met. Double points if you pick it up from an indie seller. Triple points if you contact the poet and let them know what you think. And just so you know, poets tend not to keep score… so the points don’t really matter.

7. Take a poem out to lunch. Slip a quiet volume in your purse or pocket for whenever you have (or need!) an inspiration break.

8. Visit a poetry landmark. The Poe Museum is right downtown. Or fire up the concord to see Shelley’s grave in Rome. Either way.

9. Speaking of Poe… (Warning: shameless plug here.) Add some inspiration to your morning caffeine kick. Pick up a cup (or a pound!) of Nevermore, the Poets’ Blend. Roasted right here in Richmond by Blanchards’ Coffee Co., this eye-opening writer fuel gives a nod to our poetic roots. Plus, a portion of online sales supports poetry in the River City. How cool is that?

10. Write a poem. Duh! Whether it’s a masterpiece you’ll want to share with the world or a private line to tuck into a notebook somewhere, allow yourself the luxury of finding your own language. Get it out. Put it on paper. The world needs more poetry.




Poe Young Writers’ Conference Attendees to Learn from Award-Winning Authors


Among the respected authors scheduled to speak at this summer’s Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference (June 22-28, 2014) is novelist Brad Parks, the only writer to ever win the Shamus Award, the Nero Award, AND the Lefty Award. He received the Shamus (for best first private eye novel) and the Nero (for best American mystery) for his debut, Faces of the Gone, the first book in history to take both awards. The Lefty (for best humorous mystery) went to his third book, The Girl Next Door. His novels have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. Shelf-Awareness has deemed the Carter Ross books “perfect for the reader who loves an LOL moment but wants a mystery that’s more than empty calories” and Library Journal has called the series “essential reading” and “a refreshing tonic for the mystery soul.” RT Book Reviews opined, “Parks has quietly entered the top echelon of the mystery field.” Parks is a graduate of Dartmouth College and spent a dozen years as a reporter for The Washington Post and The Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger.

Brad Parks

Another important writer sharing her insights into writing is Tina Eshleman, the Managing Editor of Richmond Magazine. Eshleman is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience in writing and editing a range of topics and leading teams of reporters. Before joining Richmond Magazine, she was Deputy Editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and she has also edited the Daily Progress and the York Town Crier/Poquoson Post.

Dr. Harry Lee Poe, Founder of the Conference

Founded and designed in 2004 by Edgar™ Award-winning author Dr. Harry Lee Poe, the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference brings high school students from across the country to Richmond, Virginia for an intensive week-long residential writing experience. Each day of the conference, the students meet a different writing professional including editors, poets, novelists, and playwrights. This year’s visiting speakers will include novelist Brad Parks, editor Tina Eshleman, poet Joanna Lee, and more.

This year’s conference leader will be Austin Lange. Lange earned her MFA in Poetry from Converse College. She has work forthcoming in The South Carolina Review and was nominated for an AWP Intro Journal Award in 2011. She currently serves as the Assistant Poetry Editor for the online literary journal, South85. She currently works in Alamance County for a local non profit and spends as much time possible writing, reading and hiking the beautiful area nature trails.

In addition to workshops and writing time, Writers’ Conference attendees will find inspiration by visiting the sites that inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems. A tour of Edgar Allan Poe sites in Richmond will be given by Poe Museum Curator Chris Semtner, who has written two books about Edgar Allan Poe’s Richmond (one of which was nominated for a Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction), and a tour of the site of Poe’s honeymoon in Petersburg will be led by Jeffrey Abugel, who wrote the book Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg. Attendees will also visit Poe’s dorm room, the setting of “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” and collections of rarely seen Poe artifacts.

Attendees of the 2013 Conference with Edgar

The Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference is now accepting applications until April 15, 2014. For more information, please call Chris Semtner at the Poe Museum at 804-648-5523, email [email protected] , or click here. An application is available here.

Attendees of the 2012 Conference Touring Shockoe Hill Cemetery




Deadline Extended for Young Writers’ Conference


The Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference has extended its application deadline to April 15. In light of the several recent snow days, the Poe Museum has decided to give potential applicants more time to collect their recommendation forms and complete their applications for this summer’s conference.

Held June 22-28, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia, the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference is a week-long residential writing conference designed to develop the writing skills of high school students. Designed by Edgar™ Award-winning author Dr. Harry Lee Poe, the Conference brings students together with editors, novelists, journalists, poets, and other writing professionals who can share their advice and experience. Attendees will also find inspiration by visiting the places Poe spent time and by exploring rarely seen collections of the author’s manuscripts and possessions.

Since its inception in 2004, the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference had accepted students from across the United States. Last year alone, students from eight different states attended the Conference.

If you or someone you know might be interested in attending this unique writing experience, please call Chris Semtner at the Poe Museum at 888-21-EAPOE, email [email protected], or visit our website. You can also download an application here.




Edgar the Cat Receives a Gift


Edgar, one of the Poe Museum’s feline mascots, received a gift yesterday from admirer. Trish Foxwell, author of A Visitors’ Guide to the Literary South, sent a coffee mug she designed with Edgar’s picture on it. This photo shows Edgar posing with his gift.

Edgar is one of three black kittens found in November 2012 in the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden. While the female kitten Catterina went to live with one of the Museum’s guides, Edgar and his brother Pluto stayed at the Museum and are favorites with the public. Last year they were named “Best Museum Discovery” by Style Weekly. Here are some photos of the kittens over the years from their profile on Richmond.com.

Edgar Allan Poe might have appreciated the Poe Museum cats. He was always very fond of animals. As a boy living with his foster parents, he had a dog, a parrot who could speak French, and a cat named Tib. Later in life, he would keep various birds and cats. One of his friends, Hiram Haines, even offered to give Poe and his wife a pet fawn. Of course, many of his houseguests were disappointed to find Poe did not have a pet raven. Some, however, commented on his large tortoiseshell cat Catterina.

In 1840, Poe wrote an essay about his pet black cat which was capable of opening a latched door. A few years later, he wrote a humorous essay about cats for the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Quite unlike the narrator in his short story “The Black Cat,” Poe was reputedly kind to animals, and Catterina so adored him she would sit on his shoulder while he wrote.

The Poe Museum would like to thank Trish for sending the great coffee mug.




Little Known Drawings Reveal Details of Poe’s Home


Among the little known treasures in the Poe Museum’s archives are four small pencil sketches of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s boyhood homes. The artist was a fourteen-year-old girl who would grow up to be an important poet. Sally Bruce Kinsolving was born in Richmond in 1876 and would have executed the drawings shortly before the house was demolished in 1890. The house in the drawings is the mansion known as Moldavia, an imposing structure that once stood at the corner of 5th and Main Streets in Richmond. Moldavia was named after its first owners, Molly and David Randolph, who built it in 1800. Poe was sixteen when he moved into the house with his foster parents John and Frances Allan. Poe lived there until he went to the University of Virginia in 1826 and would have stayed there during his visits to Richmond in 1827 (after leaving the University) and 1829 (after his foster mother’s funeral). After Poe’s 1831 expulsion from the United States Military Academy at West Point, Poe was no longer welcome in the home, which by then housed John Allan and his second wife, Louisa G. Allan. She lived there until her death in 1881, and the building was demolished in 1890. Although this Richmond landmark has been lost, the Poe Museum preserves several objects the Allans owned while living in Moldavia, including artwork, salt cellars, and furniture.

Sally Bruce Kinsolving (1876-1962) published her first book of poetry, Depths and Shallows in 1921. This was followed by David and Bathsheba and Other Poems (1922), Grey Heather (1930), and Many Waters (1942). She was a member of the Poetry Society of America and a founder of the Poetry Society of Maryland. Kinsolving was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa Associates, the Academy of American Poets, the Catholic Poetry Society of America, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors, and the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. Kinsolving donated her drawings of Moldavia to the Poe Museum in 1922, the year the Museum opened.

These faint pencil sketches reveal close-up views of elements of the mansion that have not necessarily recorded in the few surviving photographs of the structure. This is why they are an important resource for those researching the Richmond that Poe knew during his childhood. For an artist so young, Kinsolving has done a masterful job of capturing the subtle nuances of light and shadow in images that appear to emerge from the tan paper. In order to make the drawings more visible online, we have adjusted the contrast and enlarged the scans before posting them here, but we hope you can still appreciate the beauty of these little known gems of the Poe Museum’s collection. The captions are the artist’s.

“Cornice at the Back of the House”

“Back Basement Door”

“Front Door”

“South Porch”

Here is a photograph of the same portico for comparison.




Getrude Stein Visits the Poe Museum


If you think 2014 has been cold, you should see this picture of Getrude Stein (1874-1946) taken during her February 7, 1935 visit to the Poe Museum.

The poet spent a few days in Richmond during her six-month tour of the United States in 1934-35. While in the River City, she was entertained at the home of Richmond novelist Ellen Glasgow, gave a lecture about English Literature at the University of Richmond, and was given a reception by the board of the Poe Foundation in the Poe Museum’s Tea House (now its Exhibits Building).

Stein’s friend, the photographer and writer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964), took these photos of her at the Poe Museum. Each photograph is autographed by both Stein and Van Vechten, and Stein wrote captions. Here are the images with their captions.

“To the Poe Foundation with much pleasure”

“For the Poe Shrine and open”

“For the Poe Shrine [illegible]”

This is the same hitching post, in a different location, today.

Stein and Van Vechten are just two of the important literary and cultural figures who have visited the Poe Museum over the past ninety-two years. Others include H.P. Lovecraft, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dali.




Authors Abound at Poe’s Birthday Bash


As part of the festivities at the Poe Museum in Richmond celebrating Edgar Allan Poe’s 205th Birthday on Saturday, January 18 from noon to midnight, there will be a number of artists and writers signing books and prints for visitors.

Jeffrey Abugel, author of Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg, will be on hand to sign copies of his book and will give a brief talk about Poe’s honeymoon in Petersburg at 6:15 P.M.

Trish Foxwell will be here in the afternoon to sign A Visitor’s Guide to the Literary South, her great new book exploring sites related to southern authors including Poe, Faulkner, O’Connor, Fitzgerald, and more.

Some of the authors of the new anthology Virginia is for Mysteries will be here from 3-5 P.M. to sign their book. In attendance will be Heather Weidner, Fiona Quinn, Teresa Inge, Vivian Lawry, Meredith Cole, Yvonne Saxon, and Rosemary Shomaker.

At 9:30 P.M., we will have an author talk and book signing by James Mancia, author of The Poe Murders.

Artists Abigail Larson and Courtney Elizabeth will also be here throughout the day with trunk shows of their artwork for visitors to purchase.

To see a complete schedule of the day’s event, please click here. For more information, call 888-21-EAPOE or write [email protected]




When Eddie Met Fanny- A Review of Mrs. Poe


The best history, like reality, is messy.  Fiction, on the other hand, cleans up really well.  Personally I prefer history over fiction nine times out of ten, the messier the better.  Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen is good, clean fun if you like that sort of thing.  It is good, clean fun even if you do not like that sort of thing.  Ms. Cullen is an entertaining author whose other works include The Creation of Eve and Reign of Madness. For Mrs. Poe she has entered the abyss others ventured into before her to explore the [alleged] affair between one of literature’s greatest giants, Edgar Allan Poe, and one of the field’s lesser known but competent contributors, Frances Osgood.  

The two met while both were writers in New York, and both were married to other people, more or less faithfully, according to which version you explore.  Poe had, at the time this novel is set, just hit it big with his breakout blockbuster of a poem, The Raven, and while Mrs. Osgood styled herself a poet, she was more famous at the time for her children’s story, Puss In Boots.

As a fictionalized account of their relationship, a romantic novel,  Mrs. Poe is no worse, and somewhat better than other accounts have been.  My guess is that this will not be the final word on the subject either since we are obsessed with celebrities and their every move.  And to give him his due, Poe was one of the first, if not the first celebrity of his day.  The Raven was such a huge hit, Poe read it aloud to packed audiences every chance he got.  He was so famous indeed children on the streets of Richmond taunted him as he passed by, and he cawed and flapped his arms like the legendary bird to amuse them. 

If you are looking for a light diversion on a winter’s day, this and a cup of hot cocoa will fill the bill.  If, however, you require more reality dosed with your history, you may take your own time travel back to those heady days in the budding intellectual community of New York and read the actual poetry that Poe and Osgood wrote to and for each other.  His include two poems, one certainly which is a version of poetic regifting since, true to form, wrote it for someone else before and just rededicated it to F__ O__.  Hers to him, if they are to him, were either to flatter her editor so he would publish her, or to stir up scandal, which is what happened.   The biographic take on Mrs. Osgood has always been that as a lady, and a  married woman, she would not have wanted to draw attention to the affair between herself and Poe, if indeed one existed.  If you study her romantic baggage, however, you will discover that she went to the dark side in her amours, and courting Poe, a major stud muffin of his day, would have been right up her alley.  She liked her boys bad, very bad indeed.  And then of course, there is that  baby… Was it Poe’s or was it her wayward husband’s?  The fact is, we may never know.  But the answer to that question that did not stop Ms. Cullen, as it has not stopped others before her from exploring this tricky area of intriguing mystery.  It is a subject that renders itself tolerably well for a novel, but not quite up to the standard of Poe’s faithful readers.




A Letter from the Poe Foundation’s President


Dear Poe Museum Supporter,

Several years ago a young boy was touring Virginia with his family when they decided to pull off the highway for a visit to the Poe Museum. Earlier this year in an Entertainment Weekly interview, he would recall the “magical” experience of seeing the Museum’s Raven Room and how he thought the Museum was “the coolest thing in the world.” That boy grew up to be a popular screenwriter of blockbuster films and hit television series like Scream, Dawson’s Creek, and Vampire Diaries. Earlier this year, he even paid homage to his Poe Museum visit by writing a Poe-themed television series set in Richmond called The Following.

Kevin Williamson’s story is just one of the many we hear about young people the Poe Museum has inspired over the past nine decades. More recently, Rachel Martens, one of the attendees of the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference, has just published her first novel. Countless others have been instilled with a lifelong love of reading by a visit to the Poe Museum.

We have written you today because you know the power of the Poe Museum to inspire young minds, whether they visit us for school group tours, writing workshops, poetry readings, or on family vacations. That is why you support the Poe Museum, and that is why we are asking you to consider making a contribution to our Annual Fund today. With the New Year starting we want to ensure the Museum and its staff is prepared. This involves training new tour guides, promoting the Museum and its educational programs and printing Educator packets. Your support will help provide the resources needed to accomplish these tasks at hand.

Please take the time to make your generous tax-deductible gift today by clicking this link.

Help us preserve Poe’s legacy for present and future generations.

Sincerely,

Annemarie Beebe
President, Poe Foundation Board of Trustees