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The Word on the Street

Three finalists to present plans for Edgar Allen Poe memorial in Boston

Somerville sculptor Ann Hirsch and Boston architect Robert Olson’s vision of a Poe statue includes the writer and a female who will represent the trauma of his early childhood.

A life-sized bronze figure of the 5-foot-8 Edgar Allan Poe strides through Boston, the city of his birth, the city he turned his back on. Spilling out of his trunk are an oversized raven, a heart, and pages of his stories and poems.

Sculptor Stefanie Rocknak’s vision for a Poe memorial incorporates references to two of the macabre master’s most famous works, “The Raven’’ and “The Tell-Tale Heart.’’ Rocknack, based in Oneonta, N.Y., is one of three finalists picked by a commission looking to honor Poe in a square at Charles and Boylston streets. The three plans will be presented at a celebration of Poe’s birthday at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Boston Public Library. A Poe trivia quiz and an appearance by Poe, as portrayed by Rob Velella, will round out the evening’s festivities.

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The party, sponsored by the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation, will begin with a talk by foundation chairman Paul Lewis on Poe’s connections to Boston. Born on Jan. 19, 1809, Poe was orphaned as a boy and taken in by a couple in Richmond, Va. He returned to Boston when he was 18, enlisted in the US Army, and was stationed on Castle Island. That same year he paid a printer on Washington Street to publish his first book of poems.

The Poe foundation has joined forces with the Boston Art Commission to hire a sculptor. The other finalists are two-person teams. Somerville sculptor Ann Hirsch and Boston architect Robert Olson have proposed a pair of figures - Poe and a shrouded female who will represent the trauma of his early childhood - as a symbol of the fractured nature that pervades his writing. Sculptor Jennifer Bonner and architect Christian Stayner, both of Los Angeles, want to build a triangular glass pavilion where Poe-related items will be on exhibit and for sale.

Other cities have long trumpeted their ties to Poe. Baltimore and Philadelphia have preserved houses he lived in and Richmond, Va., has had a Poe museum since 1922. Lewis, a prime mover of the campaign in Boston to honor Poe, whom he calls “the most influential writer ever born here,’’ is excited about the current momentum. In an e-mail, he gave a nod to those who have come before him, adding “Boston is on the brink of doing something Poe admirers here have wanted at least since the centenary [of Poe’s birth] in 1909.’’

Poe tribute

Longtime Poe fan Eric Mongeon, a Malden-based designer and illustrator, has created his own tribute, one that, as he puts it, “highlights [Poe’s] black humor, celebrates the philosophical insights, and, yes, revels in the violence.’’ He published four of Poe’s short stories in volumes he illustrated and designed and sells on his website, mongeonprojects.com.

Coming out

■ “Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle’’by Andrea Hiott (Ballantine)

■ “The Rope’’ by Nevada Barr (Minotaur)

■ “Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina’’ by Virginia Rounding (St. Martin’s)

Pick of the week

Phil Wilcox of Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain recommends “High Line: The Inside Story of New York’s Park in the Sky’’ by Joshua David and Robert Hammond (Farrar, Straus & Giroux): “This is a meticulously researched book about what the power of imagination and optimism can do, even in a jungle as savage as New York, where young people with no planning experience transformed a long abandoned eyesore.’’

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.
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