On January 13th, in honor of Edgar Allan Poe’s 200th birthday, the Free Library hosts a debate over which city holds claim to the poet: Baltimore, where he died and was buried, or Philadelphia, where he spent six of his most fruitful years. We asked Poe scholar (and the pro-Philly debater) Edward Pettit (shown) why we should give a damn.
You once suggested moving Poe’s remains here. Isn’t that a bit extreme?
I expected people to take it as a metaphor. I meant that we should have the legacy of Poe. He wrote almost all of his greatest stories here. He has a very tenuous connection with Baltimore.
What’s so great about Poe anyway? Yeats, Huxley and Emerson all said he was a hack.
He’s had some knocks from great writers. But you could easily say he’s the most famous American writer in the world.
The Paris Hilton of the gothic wordsmiths?
No, he really is a great writer. We don’t read that many writers from the 1840s. Everybody reads Poe.
Stallone is directing a Poe biopic. Are you nervous about that? You know: Poe doesn’t die bitter, poor and drunk — he overcomes.
Actually, Poe lived a life a lot like Rocky’s. He was an underdog. Except Poe didn’t get the respect until long after he died. As long as Stallone’s not gonna be in it, it’s fine by me.