"From grief and groan, to a golden throne ..."


During the last day of our trip Dave and Bonnie took us to the Edgar Allan Poe house and his grave site. I've been a fan of Poe since my early days as an angst-laden teenager who listened to Joy Division on her headphones while stretching for a track meet and scowling at cheerleaders. I loved his use of meter and the hollow, aching loneliness he conveyed through his words because sometimes I felt it, too. I practically ate everything the man wrote and now all he's ever written sits on our bookshelves.
To visit his grave site, for me, is like visiting Graceland.

Except that Poe's house isn't a tacky, real-life metaphor of what exploitation and excess can do via celebrity; in fact, his legend survives much as Poe himself did in life. The Poe House, his museum, sits in the ghetto across the street from the half-burnt shell of a house. All of the buildings on the block have thick iron bars in the windows. The museum is a sad, weensy house with barely the room to stand upright inside; Poe lived there for several years. His chair, college lap desk, telescope, bits of his hair, old clippings, and a copy of his wife's death portrait - the odd, 19th century custom of dressing up your dead loved ones for a pre-Glamour Shots sitting - are all on exhibit. Poe's real story, not the obfuscation of him as a drunkard and doper, the story taught in high school by those who never read past his popular work, is told. The story of a man whose jealous rivals attempted to rip him to shreds in the papers, rivals who lied about him, blacklisted him, and tried to snuff out his legend. Their lack of literary skill, when compared to his, drove them to the desperate and pathetic measures exclusive to hacks.

The literature on visiting the grave was unsettling ("Beware of beggars, they may try to steal your money!") but the cemetery itself, serenely situated at Westminster Church, was beautiful. It could qualify as a Tim Burton set. Poe's current grave lies at the cemetery's entrance, marked by a large monumental tombstone; his original resting place is located down the twisting path through the catacombs.
I took some shots of the tombstones (rubbings were prohibited) because they were old, beautiful, and just plain cool-looking.

Click for all Poe shots.


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