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Boston chooses life-size Edgar Allan Poe statue to commemorate writer's ties to city

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  April 23, 2012 10:42 AM

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(Photo courtesy The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston)

A rendering of Stefanie Rocknak's sculpture "Poe Returning to Boston" that will be built in Poe Square on the corner of Boylston Street and Charles Street South.

American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe is set to return to the city of his birth in the form of a bronze statue standing in the Boston square dedicated to him.

The Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston announced Monday that a life-size statue depicting Poe striding through Boston--trunk in hand, a raven at his side, a heart and papers trailing behind him--has been chosen to stand in Edgar Allan Poe Square, a tree-lined, brick plaza at the intersection of Boylston Street and Charles Street South, two blocks north of where Poe was born in 1809.

“Just off the train, the figure would be walking south towards his place of birth, where his mother and father once lived. Poe, with a trunk full of ideas—and worldwide success—is finally coming home,” said Stefanie Rocknak, a Sculptors Guild artist and philosophy professor at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, who designed the statue titled Poe Returning to Boston.

Rocknak was one of three finalist chosen by a five-member artist selection committee from a total of 265 artists from 42 states and 13 countries.

The other final designs included a sculpture featuring Poe and a shrouded woman representing the trauma of his early childhood, and a triangular glass pavilion where Poe-related items will be on exhibit and for sale.

“The review committee, and public input, conveyed great excitement with the dynamic sense of movement, accessible style, and Poe’s creative energy expressed in the proposal. There is also strong support for Steff’s approachable, ground level statue that helps humanize Poe and place him in the context of this active neighborhood,” said Jean Mineo, the project manager of the Poe Square Public Art Project.

In life, Poe, who published his first book in Boston at the age of 18, had a contentious relationship with the city’s literary elite and took to calling the city a "Frogpondium," but Boston’s modern residents have been much more receptive to the writer and his ties to the city.

“Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most influential writers ever born in the City of Boston. As a city proud of its rich history, I’m so pleased to see this wonderful tribute come to fruition,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who dedicated Poe Square to the writer in 2009. “The statue chosen for Poe Square is full of life and motion, and is sure to inspire residents and future writers alike for generations to come.” 

Still, the statue’s design does not ignore the tension between Poe and Boston.

“He is determined and his stride is decisive. His face reflects a mixture of pain, anger and sadness, and from some angles, a subtle sense of hope.  As he walks towards Carver Street, he openly dismisses what is behind him with his left hand; the Frogpondians to the north. Boston is not claiming Poe, Poe is claiming Boston,” Rocknak writes in the statement of intent she submitted with her work.

The foundation, which received funds from the city’s Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund for the planning and selection process is now fundraising to cover the estimated $125,000 cost of construction. The organization expects the statue to be complete by the end of next year.
Twitter: @YourBeaconHill, @JohannaKaiser

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