Those who visited the Poe Museum last month to see the exhibit Poe’s Cabinet of Curiosities might have noticed, among the hair art and Poe portraits, a little pressed flower in a large leather-bound album. They may not realize it, but this humble book is one of the Museum’s most important pieces, not only because it contains hundreds of autographs and letters from Poe’s prominent contemporaries but also because it tells the story of one woman’s love of literature and her dedication to collecting mementos of her favorite writers. Her name is Lucy Dorothea Henry (1822-1898).
Lucy Dorothea Henry Laighton
There was always something different about Lucy. Growing up on a Virginia plantation, she was not interested in learning to sew or to manage the household servants. When her sisters were busy with their embroidery, Lucy hid behind the boxwood hedge to read. Literature was her escape from the monotony of country life in 1840s Virginia. As the granddaughter of the famed Revolutionary War orator and Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, Lucy lived on her grandfather’s plantation Red Hill, about twenty-seven miles from the nearest town. So isolated was the family’s home that they only received mail once a week, and her mother provided the delivery boy lunch that day to thank him for making the trip. Just as literature was her escape from the boredom of country life, that weekly delivery was Lucy’s connection to the outside world. As a young girl, she began writing her favorite authors to solicit autographs, advice, and poems.
Lucy’s daughter, Fayetta Laighton, would later recall,
Her early life on a Virginia plantation was spent in the usual way, carefree, surrounded by a cultivated social class, and many servants. But this did not satisfy the active mind of Lucy Henry. She projected herself into the outer world of literature, which she loved, by means of correspondence with John A. Thompson, N. P. Willis, Rufus Griswold, [John] Keese, [Charles Fenno] Hoffman, [Henry Wadsworth] Longfellow, and others. She was especially interested in obtaining autographs of the writers of the day.
Lucy Henry was only twenty-one when she received a note from the rising literary critic and poet Edgar A. Poe who, at thirty-four, had written some of what would be remembered as some of his greatest tales, including “The Black Cat,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” but he was probably better known to Miss Henry as the former editor of the Southern Literary Messenger and as a poet who had been featured in Rufus W. Griswold’s 1842 anthology The Poets and Poetry of America. This was about to change. A few months earlier, in February 1843, the Saturday Museum had printed a profile of Poe along with his portrait. The same month Poe wrote Henry, he published “The Gold-Bug,” which would soon be his most widely reprinted tale. In fewer than two years, he would become a celebrity with the publication of “The Raven.”
Henry pasted Poe’s note into her big leather album with sealing wax. This album would eventually include letters, poems, and autographs from over 250 mid-nineteenth century celebrities including Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, and Samuel Houston, but her main focus was accumulating the autographs of writers. Among the many authors whose letters, autographs, or manuscripts she was able to acquire are William Cullen Bryant, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore S. Fay, Horace Greeley, Rufus Griswold, Sarah J. Hale, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Anna Lynch, John P. Kennedy, John Keese, John Neal, Frances Osgood, Richard Henry Stoddard, William Makepeace Thackery, N.P. Willis, John G. Whittier, and William Wordsworth. Several of these pieces came directly from the authors.
Sonnet to Anna Lynch by J. R. Thompson
New York book and autograph dealer John Keese assisted her by requesting autographs from his fellow literati on her behalf. Many American authors were glad to oblige the granddaughter of the “orator of the Revolution,” but British poet William Wordsworth replied with a testy letter refusing to send the requested autograph. Wordsworth, however, signed the letter. Keese also supplied Henry with the papers of Virginia statesman John Randolph of Roanoke. These included letters from politician Henry Clay and author Washington Irving.
Detail of Washington Irving Letter
Henry and Keese got to know each other well enough that she visited him in New York and stayed at his home. During her New York trip, the country girl saw the famous singer Jenny Lind and the violinist Ole Bull (from whom she secured an autograph). Thereafter, Henry would keep a daguerreotype of Keese. His own fondness for her is evident in a gift he sent her, an autograph album containing a poem addressed to her by Knickerbocker poet and editor Charles Fenno Hoffman.
Another literary friend, Southern Literary Messenger editor and Poe’s friend John Ruben Thompson of Richmond also provided several pieces, including two Poe manuscripts and a pressed flower picked from the grave of poet John Keats in 1854.
Flower from the Grave of John Keats
Henry’s quest for autographs eventually brought her into contact with New Hampshire poet Octave Laighton, who had just returned from an unsuccessful attempt to strike it rich in the California Gold Rush. Not long afterwards, he struck up a correspondence with Lucy Henry, and they were married on July 18, 1857. At last, she had the opportunity to escape her family farm when she moved with her new husband to Fulton City, Illinois to start a temperance newspaper. Although Lucy thought she would have an opportunity to practice her literary talents by writing for the paper, she was disappointed to find that she was stuck cooking and cleaning for her husband. The paper failed within a few months of its inception, so the couple moved back Octave Laighton’s family home in New Hampshire in 1857. They finally settled, in 1859, at a small farm called Springdale near Petersburg, Virginia. Her daughter would later describe it as “a flat little house, with precious earth around it, to grow white pinks and honey suckle.”
Then the Civil War broke out, the Laightons’ farm was caught between the Confederate and Union lines. During these perilous times, Lucy gave birth to two daughters, Fayetta and Alberta. Given the increasing difficulty of maintaining her literary correspondences, Lucy devoted herself to her farm and family. She started a garden to raise vegetables to feed the soldiers.
In the final days of the conflict, Lucy fled to the safety of Red Hill with her most prized possessions—her daughters and her autograph collection—while her husband stayed in Petersburg. As a native of New England, Laighton believed he could convince any invading Union soldiers not to burn down his house. His efforts were at least partially successful; he saved the house but not the outbuildings.
Lucy returned to Springdale after the War and would have settled into a comfortable life if her husband had not died shortly afterwards. For the next thirty-two years, Lucy remained at Springdale with her daughters. Her daughters recalled that she was such a “striking” woman that daguerreotypists “jumped” at the chance to take her picture, free of charge.
After Lucy’s death, her daughter Alberta moved to Dutchess County, New York, and Fayetta eventually became the principal of the D.M. Brown School in Petersburg. Fayetta recalled that she burned about twenty of her mother’s albums to avoid paying to ship them during a move. The daughters did, however, preserve a few of Lucy’s things, including the present autograph album, the small album given her by John Keese, a daguerreotype of their mother, and their mother’s daguerreotype of Keese.
Word of Lucy’s album spread from Petersburg to Richmond, where Poe collector and Poe Museum co-founder James H. Whitty decided to acquire the Poe manuscripts for the Museum’s growing collection. On December 1, 1923, Whitty wrote Fayetta Laighton to ask about the documents. Over the next few years, the Museum sent a series of letters expressing its desire to borrow or purchase the Poe pieces “for the enjoyment of the public.”
James H. Whitty
Another Poe Museum founder, Mrs. Archer Jones, befriended Ms. Laighton, visiting her in Petersburg to discuss flowers, gardens, and Lucy Henry. Laighton’s interest in Poe and the Poe Museum grew until she was leading book clubs devoted to the poet and sending flowers from her garden to be planted at the Poe Museum.
Mrs. Archer Jones
The Laighton sisters debated over what to do with their mother’s Poe manuscripts until May 29, 1926 when Fayetta wrote the Poe Museum, “My sister and I have talked about the final disposition of these papers, and they will find their way to [the] ‘Poe Shrine’ some time I think.”
The Poe Museum’s secretary Mrs. Ford responded with a letter thanking her and assuring her they “were much interested in the Poe items” and expressing the wish that the items could be donated because the tiny museum “would never be able to compete with the dealers for such rare things.”
When, another year later, the Laighton sisters finally agreed to donate the manuscripts, Mrs. Ford wrote them, “I can assure you that these manuscripts will nowhere be more appreciated than here at the Edgar Allan Poe Shrine…”
Fayetta replied, “I am glad they will repose in such an appropriate place as ‘The Shrine.’”
Four years after the Poe Museum first contacted them, Fayetta and Alberta Laighton formally donated their mother’s album to the Museum. Mrs. Jones personally drove to Petersburg to retrieve them just in time to be displayed on Poe’s birthday, January 19, 1928.
The three Poe documents contained in the album were carefully removed from the book and became among the most important pieces in the Poe Museum’s collection. One of these, the manuscript for “The Rationale of Verse,” is Poe’s history of English poetry. Another is the manuscript for an article Poe wrote about the poet Frances S. Osgood, and the third document is the autograph Poe sent Lucy Henry.
Detail of Essay about Frances Osgood
While these three Poe documents have long attracted most of the attention—as well as inclusion in multiple exhibits—the rest of Lucy Henry’s album certainly deserves further study. In a surprising act of generosity, the Laighton sisters gave the Poe Museum not only the Poe manuscripts but the entire album, as a memorial to their mother. This collection of literary letters and autographs is both a document of one woman’s love of literature and a priceless snapshot of the American literary scene in Poe’s time. For a fledgling museum beginning its sixth year of existence, this was a transformative gift—the kind that instantly provided it a world-class manuscript collection which would continue to grow over the course of the next nine decades. That is why Lucy Dorothea Henry’s album is the Poe Museum’s Object of the Month for August 2015. You can see it on display on the first floor of the Exhibit Building until August 23. Poe’s manuscripts for “The Rationale of Verse” and “Frances Sargent Osgood” (both long-since removed from the album) are also currently on view in the Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building.
Virginia Clemm Poe
Every once in a while, a discovery sheds new light on history bringing past events more clearly into view. While historians have preserved descriptions of Edgar Allan Poe’s wedding to his thirteen year old cousin Virginia, no artifacts of the event seem to have survived–until now. Tucked away in private collections for nearly 180 years, two fragments of Virginia Poe’s wedding dress have come to light and will be on display at the Poe Museum in Richmond this summer.
Long a source of public fascination, Poe’s “child-bride” Virginia Poe has been the subject of at least two novels, and she has been a character in such films as The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe (1942) and Edgar Allan Poe (1915). In spite of countless Poe biographies, articles, and studies, few verifiable facts about the ceremony and even fewer artifacts have come to light. There is even dispute about which house hosted the ceremony.
Rev. Amasa Converse, who performed Poe’s wedding ceremony
Based on eye-witness accounts, the small private ceremony took place in the parlor of a house in downtown Richmond, either at 8th and Main or at 11th and Bank Streets. The minister performing the ceremony, Amasa Converse, recalled Virginia was “polished, dignified and agreeable in her bearing… [possessing] a pleasing manner but…very young.” One of the wedding guests, Virginia’s young playmate Jane Foster, later recalled Virginia was “attired in a new traveling dress, and ‘yore her hat.” This is likely the dress from which the present fragments were taken. Thanks to the research of a renowned Poe scholar, we now a little more about this important dress and are able to envision how it looked. While modern viewers are accustomed to seeing white wedding gowns, many will be surprised to see how brightly colored Virginia’s wedding dress actually was.
The pieces of fabric are on loan from Poe scholar Dr. Richard Kopley of Penn State University, who purchased them in 1992 from a descendant of Poe’s sister’s foster brother John Hamilton Mackenzie. According to the provenance, Mackenzie’s mother-in-law paid for Virginia Poe’s wedding dress, from which these fragments were taken to be sewn into a quilt. The pieces were later removed and placed in an envelope kept with other Mackenzie and Lanier family papers. During the course of his research into Poe’s early years, Kopley acquired this collection.
John Hamilton Mackenzie
Thanks to a generous loan from Dr. Kopley, the Poe Museum is pleased to announce it will display the two pieces of fabric cut from Poe’s wife’s wedding dress this summer until September 30. These unusual artifacts are the only known surviving pieces of Poe’s wife’s clothing and will be displayed alongside her mirror and trinket box from the Poe Museum’s permanent collection.
Fabric from Virginia Poe’s Dress
On Friday, June 26 from 7-8:30 p.m., the Poe Museum at 1914 East Main Street in Richmond, Virginia will host a reading and reception at which the students of the 2015 Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference will read the works they produced during the week-long residential writing conference. This year’s students will be coming from Virginia, Kansas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Michigan, and Puerto Rico to learn the craft of writing from professionals in the field and to be inspired by the places featured in Edgar Allan Poe’s stories and poems. Admission to the reading and reception is free.
About the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference
From June 21-27, 2015, a select group of eleven high school students from across the country will come to Richmond, Virginia to learn from and to be inspired by American author Edgar Allan Poe at the Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference. Among the speakers addressing the students during the conference will be Pollack Prize and Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award winning novelist Gigi Amateau; novelist and blogger Julie Farley; author and journalist Harry Kollatz; poet Joanna Lee; and Theresa Pollack Award-winner and New Virginia Review Editor Mary Flinn. When not attending lectures and writing workshops in the Parish Hall at St. John’s Church (where Poe’s mother is buried), the students will seek inspiration by visiting a number of Poe sites including the the cemetery in which his foster parents and first love are buried, the setting of his short story “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains,” and the locations that inspired some of Poe’s best-known stories and poems. The students will also visit major Poeana collections including that of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, where students will conclude the week with a reception and reading.
The attendees of this unique conference will follow in Poe’s footsteps, visiting the places his lived or worked and seeing the places that inspired his poems and short stories. Founded in 2004 by Edgar™ Award-winning author and Poe relative Dr. Harry Lee Poe, the conference has attracted students from California to Massachusetts over the years.
Illustration for the 1843 first printing of “The Gold-Bug”
Poe was much more than the Master of the Macabre. He was also the Master of Mystery, the inventor of detective fiction, and an avid cryptographer who introduced puzzles and codes into his poems and short stories. His short story “The Gold-Bug” features an encrypted treasure map and a search for clues and codes that set the standard for such popular films as National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code. This spring the Poe Museum planted a new Gold-Bug Garden modeled after this setting of this important story. In honor of the opening of the new Gold-Bug Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, on Tuesday, June 23 at 6 p.m., Poe scholar Richard Kopley will deliver “Decoding the Gold-Bug,” a talk about Edgar Allan Poe’s influential treasure hunt mystery “The Gold-Bug.” Admission is free.
About Richard Kopley:
Richard Kopley is Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, at Penn State DuBois. He is the author of Edgar Allan Poe and the Dupin Mysteries, as well as numerous articles, chapters, and reviews on Poe. He is the editor of Poe’s Pym: Critical Explorations and the co-editor, with Jana Argersinger, of Poe Writing, Writing Poe. He has spoken on Poe widely in the United States, and he has given papers on Poe in Spain, Italy, Poland, Russia, and (by DVD) Japan.. He is a former president of the Poe Studies Association, organizer of several Poe conferences, co-organizer of the recent Fourth International Edgar Allan Poe Conference in New York City, and a member of the program committee for the next international Poe-Hawthorne Conference, scheduled for June 21-24, 2018, in Kyoto, Japan.
About the Poe Museum’s Gold-Bug Garden:
Designed by Riely and Associates, the firm that restored the gardens at the Virginia Executive Mansion, Monticello, and the University of Virginia, the Poe Museum’s Gold-Bug Garden recreates the Low Country setting of “The Gold-Bug” with an unusual combination of palms, umbrella plants, fatsia, and banana shrubs. This garden is only one stage in the Garden Club of Virginia’s restoration of the Poe Museum’s gardens, which date back to 1922.
David Lupton, illustrator of the Folio Society’s new edition of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, took a few minutes from his busy schedule to answer some questions about his work and his interest in Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe Museum: I have seen your illustrations for “Dracula’s Guest,” “Death & the Myrmidon,” and “The Monkey’s Paw.” What accounts for your personal interest in illustrating dark subject matter?
David Lupton: I’ve always had a predilection for a darker and melancholy subject matter. I’m not entirely sure where this comes from, but from an early age I had a love of gothic horror fiction (stories, film, artwork etc…) and I remember being particularly obsessed with the old Universal and Hammer horror films. As I grew older my love for genre fiction grew deeper and I knew that I wanted to create work that existed within the boundaries of the horror and gothic genres. I think also that I’ve always empathised with the characters of gothic fiction, who tend often to be outcasts or outsiders, and I strive to evoke a narrative that concerns these characteristics within my illustrations. My work also tends to have fantastical element (usually of a macabre and unsettling nature) and for this reason I have always created drawings and sought out commissions that would allow me to indulge in my love of this subject matter.
PM: Do you have a personal interest in the works of Edgar Allan Poe? If so, what does Poe’s work mean to you?
DL: As a lover of old horror films my first exposure to Poe’s work was through the films of Roger Corman often starring Vincent Price in the lead role (The Pit and the Pendulum and The Fall of the House of Usher being particular favourites). Although these films now seem a little schlocky they were a good inroad into his actual writing and for me to further explore the themes and ideas contained within his work.
I feel that Poe’s interest in death and the questions that surround death (physical and spiritual) have directly influenced my drawing style and the content of my work. I think that influence is evident in my attempts to create expressionistic work that represents themes of life and mortality, albeit within macabre and gothic trappings.
PM: Had you read any of his works, including The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, before taking on the project?
DL: I had read a number of the short stories but I wasn’t actually aware of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym before taking on this project. Reading Poe’s only full length novel was interesting though and although the book is a bit more of a straight forward adventure narrative, it still contains Poe’s constant themes of death and mortality (not to mention a fair amount of bloody violence and cannibalism).
I would love to go on and illustrate other works by Edgar Allan Poe. The Masque of the Red Death is a particular favourite of mine and to explore it’s visual detail; the castle setting, colour coded interiors and general atmosphere of dread would be a joy for me as a visual artist.
We look forward to seeing Lupton’s future projects and hope he will have the opportunity to illustrate more of Poe’s works. To learn more about this new edition of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, click here.
The Poe Museum recently received a small slip-cased volume in the mail. While most of the books that cross my desk contain Poe’s tales of terror (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat,” and the like), this case holds an edition of the only novel Poe ever finished, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket Comprising the Details of a Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery on Board the American Brig Grampus, on Her Way to the South Seas, in the Month of June, 1827. With an Account of the Recapture of the Vessel by the Survivers; Their Shipwreck and Subsequent Horrible Suffering from Famine; Their Deliverance by Means of the British Schooner Jane Guy; the Brief Cruise of This Latter Vessel in the Antarctic Ocean; Her Capture, and the Massacre of Her Crew Among a Group of Islands in the Eighty-Fourth Parallel of Southern Latitude; Together with the Incredible Adventures and Discoveries Still Farther South to Which That Distressing Calamity Gave Rise. (Let’s just call it Pym.)
The unusual title suggests something of its strange contents which feature cannibalism, a sea voyage to the Antarctic, and a ghostly white figure.
Poe printed the first installments of what was intended to be a serialized novel in the Southern Literary Messenger just before he left the magazine. After moving from Richmond to New York, Poe completed Pym while adding a preface to explain that the parts that appeared in the Messenger had been written by Poe on behalf of Arthur Gordon Pym while the rest of the book was written by Pym himself. The preface, signed by “A.G. Pym,” further confesses that Poe and Pym had previously pretended the first installments were fiction. Since “A.G. Pym” states that all the details in the novel are absolutely true, some readers believed it might be a real account. The Evening Post noted, “The air of reality in the narrative is assumed with no small skill.”
Others were unconvinced and assumed it was just another hoax by Richard Adams Locke, author of “The Moon Hoax” a few years earlier. In a December 1838 review of Pym in Burton’s Gentlemen’s Magazine, William Burton declares, “A more impudent attempt at humbugging the public has never been exercised; the voyages of Gulliver were politically satirical, and the adventures of Munchausen, the acknowledged caricature of a celebrated traveller. Sindbad the sailor, Peter Wilkins, and Moore’s Utopia, are confessedly works of imagination; but Arthur Gordon Pym puts forth a series of travels outraging possibility, and coolly requires his insulted readers to believe his ipse dixit.”
Poe saw this criticism and later wrote Burton, “You once wrote in your magazine a sharp critique upon a book of mine — a very silly book — Pym. Had I written a similar criticism upon a book of yours, you feel that you would have been my enemy for life, and you therefore imagine in my bosom a latent hostility towards yourself.”
Some reviewers were more positive in their assessments. The New York Gazette called Pym “a very extraordinary volume purporting to be a narrative of ‘Arthur Gordon Pym,’ who it is said [is] lately deceased in some melancholy way, and his adventures as well as his death are referred to as of perfect notoriety.” The New-Yorker declared it “a work of extraordinary, freezing interest beyond anything we ever read.” The Morning Courier wrote, “the volume is highly interesting in the story, well written, and to the lovers of marvellous fiction will be quite a treasure.”
Harper and Brothers published an unknown number of copies in New York in 1838, but sales were disappointing. Within a year, the book was reprinted in England where it saw its first success. When the first British edition sold well, a number of British bootleg versions appeared in a multiple editions. Herman Melville’s brother was one of many who bought one of these unauthorized copies for which the author received no compensation.
Although Americans were mainly unconvinced by this apparent hoax, some English readers believed it was a true story. George Putnam recounted, “The grave particularity of the title and of the narrative misled many of the critics as well as ourselves, and whole columns of these new ‘discoveries,’ including the hieroglyphics (!) found on the rocks, were copied by many of the English country papers as sober historical truth”
The edition now on my desk was published earlier this year by the Folio Society, which has been printing finely bound and illustrated books since 1947 because—according to their website—they believe “great books deserve to be printed in a form worthy of their contents.” Their books are designed to be read, collected, and cherished by those who love great literature. With an astute introduction by novelist Marilynne Robinson and illustrations by David Lupton, the Folio Society’s edition is sure to be a collector’s item.
The Folio Society’s Editorial Director Tom Walker explained that this new edition of Pym was originally proposed by a reader. “We then wrote to a large number of our customers about a wide range of novels and this consistently came top of their list of books they wanted to see in a Folio edition. I think that is partly because we have already (some years ago now) published many of Poe’s short stories, and this underpublished novel was seen as a natural next step. Our readers of course admire Poe as one of the greatest of nineteenth-century authors, and the combination of classic status with horror and seafaring was I think irresistible for them!”
An admirer of her work, Walker chose Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson to write the introduction, which he deemed “all I hoped it might be – intense and broad reaching itself, and cleverly bringing the novel into the light of [Poe’s last book] Eureka.” Walker was also pleased with Lupton’s “dark, brooding” illustrations.
Aside from the fine illustrations (see below), the Folio Society’s Pym is notable for its craftsmanship, its sturdy binding designed to be handled and read by generations of readers, and its small size—in imitation of the small size of Poe’s first editions from the 1830s and 1840s. Click here to find out more about the book. To read an interview with the illustrator David Lupton, click here.
Learn about the Poe Museum’s newest garden, its strangest artifacts, and upcoming visits by Charles Cantalupo and Richard Kopley. The latest issue of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore is now online. Click here to find out more about the Poe Museum’s new exhibits, events, and acquisitions.
Think you know Poe? Think again. On June 4 at noon, Barbara Anne Cantalupo will deliver a Banner Lecture entitled “The Poe You May Not Know” at the Virginia Historical Society at 428 North Boulevard in Richmond.
Although Edgar Allan Poe’s name is most often identified with stories of horror and fear, Barbara Cantalupo’s talk will reveal the less familiar Poe—the one who often goes unrecognized or forgotten—the Poe whose early love of beauty was a strong and enduring draw. Poe’s “deep worship of all beauty,” expressed in an 1829 letter to John Neal when Poe was just twenty, never entirely faded, despite the demands of his commercial writing and editorial career. “The Poe You May Not Know” gives us a look at Poe’s connection to such visual beauty, his commitment to “graphicality” (a word he coined), and his knowledge of the visual arts.
Click here for more information.
Barbara Cantalupo, associate professor of English at Penn State Lehigh Valley, is the editor of The Edgar Allan Poe Review and author of Poe and the Visual Arts. Copies of her latest book Poe and the Visual Arts will be available for signing at the event. You can preorder your copy here.
While you are in Richmond to hear Barbara Cantalupo’s talk, you will want to stay in town a few more hours to see her husband poet Charles Cantalupo’s performance of his new poetry series “Poe in Place” at 6 p.m. at the Poe Museum. Click here to learn more about Charles Cantalupo and his fascinating performance.
On Thursday, June 4 at 6 p.m. at the Poe Museum in Richmond, poet and Penn State University professor Charles Cantalupo will read a unique series of poems inspired by each of the cities in which Edgar Allan Poe lived. In researching the poems, Cantalupo travelled to the cities connected with Poe and searched for evidence of the ways those places inspired Poe as well as the continuing presence of Poe in each location. After years of research and writing, Cantalupo will perform the entire series for the first time. This thrilling performance will blend sound and rhythm with the poet’s own unique take on each of the cities featured.
As Edgar Allan Poe’s hometown, Richmond is the subject of one of the poems. Cantalupo visited Richmond and the Poe Museum last year and incorporated the city’s people and places, including Shockoe Slip and Linden Row, into the poem. For more information, please contact the Poe Museum at 804-648-5523 or [email protected]
Those coming to see Cantalupo’s performance will also want to hear his wife Barbara Cantalupo, a distinguished Poe scholar, speak about “The Poe You May Not Know” at the Virginia Historical Society earlier the same day at noon on June 4. Click here for more information about her talk.
About Charles Cantalupo
Charles Cantalupo is the author of a series of poems on the cities where Edgar Allan Poe lived throughout his life, called “Poe in Place.” Excerpts have been published in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Poe’s Pervasive Influence, and The Spirit of Poe. Cantalupo’s reading at The Poe Museum will mark the first time “Poe in Place” has ever been performed in its entirety.
Poet, translator, scholar, and documentary filmmaker, Charles Cantalupo is Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and African Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. His literary memoir, Joining Africa – From Anthills to Asmara (2012), won a Next Generation Indie Book Award in 2012. His newest collection of poetry, Where War Was, will be published later this year, and he has published three previous collections: Light the Lights (2004), Anima/l Woman and Other Spirits (1996), and The Art of Hope (1985). He is one of the world’s leading translators of African language poetry. A co-author of the historic Asmara Declaration on African Languages and Literatures, he is the writer and director of Against All Odds, a documentary about poets and poetry in Africa. His work has received major support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and the World Bank, and he is also the author of books on Thomas Hobbes, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and Eritrea.
In honor of National Poetry Month, one of the Poe Museum’s former volunteers, Laura Bittner of Florida, sent us some poetry for our blog. We thank her for sharing her work with the Museum and hope you will enjoy them.
The Dark Curtain
The dark curtain
attached to stone
silently and listlessly blowing
back and forth
no sound from outside
dust particles play
in two-faced light rays;
of curled, grey leaves.
Walking at Night
after the hours/after dark
when the bars
have let out
could make your heart
skip a beat
‘Ere I go
on my own
-so a word never spoke.
on a nightly errand,
From another’s watch
you can never surely keep.
Picking up the pace now.
Hearing steps now.
Clutching my case
closer to my side,
paying no mind
to the dim lights
flittering flames outside
the dark vendor’s signs,
as I go by.
The Eeriness of an Open Gate
-Walking down Main Street
in the dark, past the field
located in the city, between
two buildings. Wind whipping
the several grains, the
sparse clovers. A moonlight
so dim, something hiding
could be obscured.
-Up a little ways,
past a few laughing,
bronzed, gleaming from
the bars, thorns or sharp sticks
crawl like the vines of a fist
next to the open gate.
No one is around.
But someone, did
go through or
and left standing still-
spirits passing through.
To it, time inconceivable;
These sturdy bars of iron,
whose rivulets only serve a purpose
of not striking fear
into the hearts of onlookers.
The city dweller
in his bedroom
shuts his lights off.
Another day past.
And him, unaware of the
history within the
layers of wheat paste
and paper- surrounding
all he owns.
Many nights ago,
this room was someone else’s.
It all looked very
different. The streets
what they are today.
A traveler looking on
unaware of linear time
observes the changes,
the people walking
down his streets,
and wanders on.
The Day Watchman
The day watchman
observing out the
the shop. piles of
papers line the
he protects his
extending an out-