Poets, do you have a bucket list? A list of things you want to do before you — for example — turn 49?
My family and I have lived in the Baltimore suburbs for over 18 years. And for 18 years, we’ve talked about going to visit the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore.
I fell in love with Poe’s poetry and stories when I was in middle school. Not only was he the father of horror writing, Sherlock Holmes would not exist without Poe’s detective stories. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle borrowed mercilessly from Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”) Then my children read him in middle school and my youngest became a Poe fan too. It’s kind of hard not to love this Dark Romantic author, whose poem “The Raven” was adopted by Baltimore’s pro football team. (We are the only NFL team whose name has literary roots.)
Finally, FINALLY!, we did it.
Last Saturday, my husband, 18-year-old, and I headed out to find the tiny little row-house on Amity Street where Poe lived with his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter, his cousin (later, wife) Virginia for three years.
We paid our $5 each in a front room, then headed into what would have been the kitchen. Dark. Small! No natural light. (There would have been a door, the friendly guide said, but it led to the alley and the outhouse.) There would have been a little cook-stove, not a full fireplace big enough for a cooking pot. This — we learned — was an area of the city where itinerant families lived. The Clemm family didn’t have a lot of furniture or clothing. They were poor.
You cannot believe how narrow the stairs are. I imagined how claustrophobic this house must have been, with three and sometimes more people living here. Did the compressed space influence Poe’s writing?
The second floor is a sitting room with a fireplace. A highlight for me was this wooden box, a travel writing desk that belonged to Poe.
Another impossibly tight flight of stairs went up to the bedroom. They couldn’t have all slept here! Visiting the house gave me a new appreciation for how difficult Poe’s life must have been.
I couldn’t leave without buying you a souvenir. Check out this Edgar Allan Poe Keepsake Journal. I’m giving it away to one lucky reader. Leave a comment on this post and you’ll be entered in a random drawing.
Instead of posting my favorite Poe poem (“Alone”) today, I’ve got another surprise. Have you heard Sarah Jarosz musical rendition of “Annabelle Lee”? When I hear this poem sung, I can’t help but think of young Virginia, who died of tuberculosis at age 24.