Edgar Allan Poe immortalized in the city he loathed
Like a commuter rushing to catch the T, Edgar Allan Poe strides through the center of the city he never much cared for. His briefcase overflows with the symbols that made him famous: a larger-than-life raven, and a human heart.
So he will stand, evermore. As of Sunday, the author and sour native son is immortalized in brass near Boston Common.
About 150 people came to see the life-size tribute, called “Poe Returning to Boston,” unveiled on the corner of Boylston and Charles streets. The statue is the result of years of fund-raising by the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston, which previously persuaded the city to name the corner where the statue now stands for Poe.
Poe’s historically bitter ties with Boston — his relationship with the city’s literary elite was famously tense — generated discussion leading up to the ceremony. But most of those who attended thought his harsh feelings toward the city made the statue even more important.
“It’s actually pretty exciting that he had a contentious relationship with the city,” said Karin Goodfellow, director of the Boston Art Commission. “It’s a piece that will give people something to think about.”
The statue itself reflects Poe’s feelings toward the city. The sculptor, Stephanie Rocknak, said he faces away from the Frog Pond to represent his disdain for Bostonians, as he walks toward his birthplace on Carver Street.
“I’m apprehensive now that it’s been unveiled,” Rocknak said. “Boston hasn’t seen it yet, and I don’t know how it will be received.”
Judging by those on hand Sunday, Rocknak had little to worry about. Wearing an 1800s top hat and overcoat, James McAuley, 60, of Rowley, came dressed for the occasion. “I bought the suit just for this,” he said, smiling. “I think the green patina on the metal is nice. It’s good that it doesn’t look brand new.”
Former US poet laureate Robert Pinsky said the statue was a fitting tribute.
“It’s got a good cuckoo quality that speaks of Poe,” Pinsky said.
The crisp air and warm sun “was the only thing that was inappropriate,” Pinsky said, referring to Poe’s gloomy nature.
Nikki Siclare, 23, of Brighton, and Caroline Sipio, 22, of Brookline, agreed that the jovial ceremony was a little contradictory, considering Poe’s stormy style.
“The rain yesterday would have been worse for the crowd, but it might have been better in terms of ambiance,” Siclare said.
“Also, everyone’s taking pictures with the statue and smiling. Serious faces! It’s Poe,” Sipio added. Both are working toward master’s degrees in English.
Judging by the smiles of spectators taking selfies with the life-size Poe, the reception was a good one.
As the crowd dissipated, only a few passersby stood around to take a look.
“I love it,” said Deborah Welton, 23, of South Boston. “But to be honest, at first I didn’t see his mustache. I thought it was a statue of Beethoven.”
Around the corner is a shop called Bartevian’s, which specializes in Poe memorabilia and has been in operation since 1910.
Owner Patricia Bartevian, 92, is also the treasurer of the Poe Foundation.
“We’re so glad the statue is there,” she said. “Poe has fans from around the world. This is big for Boston.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the type of metal used in the statue.