Paul Auster · Writing

E. A. Poe

Poor Poe, who died crazy and drunk in a Baltimore gutter. He had no luck, not while he lived, and not even after he died. They buried him in a Baltimore cemetery in 1849, but it took twenty-six years before a stone was erected over his grave. A relative commissioned one immediately after his death, but the job ended in one of those black-humor fuck-ups that leave you wondering who’s in charge of the world. The marble yard happened to be situated directly below a section of elevated railroad tracks. Just as the carving of the stone was about to be finished, there was a derailment. The train toppled into the yard and crushed the stone, and because the relative didn’t have enough money to order another one, Poe spent the next quarter century lying in an unmarked grave.

Who finally paid for the stone?

A bunch of local teachers formed a committee to raise the funds. It took them three years, if you can believe it. When the monument was finished, Poe’s remains were exhumed, carted across town, and reburied in a Baltimore churchyard. On the morning of the unveiling, there was a special ceremony held at something called the Western Female High School. Every important American poet was invited, but Whittier, Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes all found excuses not to come. Only Walt Whitman bothered to make the trip. Interistingly enough, Sthepane Mallarmé was also there that morning. Not in the flesh, but his famous sonnet “Le Tombeau d’Edgar Poe” was written for the occasion. I love that. Whitman and Mallarmé, the twin fathers of modern poetry, standing together to honor their mutual forebear, the disgraced and disreputable Edgar Allan Poe, the first true writer America gave to the world.

Paul Auster -The Brooklyn follies


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