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.
Well, now you have to visit Richmond too! There is a Poe House there and I visited on an appropriate gloomy spring day….when they were setting up for a wedding. Somehow it all worked.
I do have a poetry bucket list…and New Mexico is on it. I have this desire to go out there and explore the arts community. Santa Fe is at the top
I like the musical rendition of the poem.
I do have to visit Richmond’s Poe House! (You will love Santa Fe.)
Ooo! I am so green with envy! Poe is one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for sharing the musical rendition of “Annabelle Lee”. I almost named my daughter Annabelle Lee, but we thought it may be a bit too morbid so my husband nixed it. 🙂
I’m glad that you were able to finally make it to the house. It looks like it was a marvelous experience. Definitely a bucket list item!
It’s such a tiny, tiny house, Rebecca, but worth a visit if you are in Baltimore.
Thanks for the tour. Sounds like it was worth the 18 year wait. Love the rendition of Annabelle Lee, too. I love hearing poetry reinterpreted.
It’s such an interesting experience to visit historic sites and pause to think of the people who lived their lives there, all those years ago!
I feel the same way, Jane. It brought home for me how difficult Poe’s life must have been.
Thank you for taking us to the Poe House with you! I recently watched a Poe documentary and learned a lot I didn’t know. Visiting the homes of our literary heroes is a very special experience. I’m awed just by walking in the spaces they occupied. The Annabelle Lee rendition is wonderful! Thanks for this treat, Laura.
Was that the PBS documentary? I meant to watch, but missed it. I’m going to have to look that up.
Love the singing, too. Both grandmothers lived in big, old houses and each had a narrow “back stair”, for the servants we were told. By then, no servants, but we played often on those stairs, rather magical & creepy. Love that you finally went and got to see part of his life like that desk. I guess then it was like carrying our laptops along when traveling.
Ha! Yes — this is an early laptop.
Tiny steps and low ceilings. Have always wanted to visit this place too — so glad you shared a peek. I love touring authors’ homes to see where the creative magic happened. Always interesting. Thanks for the video too.
It’s worth seeing next time you’re in Baltimore, Jama.
How gloomy and confined. I read far too much Poe when I was in high school. I prefer him in small doses. 🙂
Cool! I went to the Poe House in Richmond as a teen and liked it. Isn’t it neat that Baltimore has a literary-themed football team? I like that Whittier College’s mascot is the Poets.
You might want to check out Artsy Letters’ Poe stamp magnet (I have one) <3
I’ve had my eyes on Robyn’s Poe-themed gift bag, Tabatha.
P.S. I love Sarah Jarosz
I believe Poe was the first author that stuck with me in school. Looks like you had a fun trip. I just visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for the first time in 20 years. I love historical places.
That’s another one on my bucket list.
There is something so profound about visiting the home of a favorite author. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and only a few years ago finally made the visit to Eudora Welty’s home. I loved seeing her typewriter and the stacks of books all over every piece of furniture. I now have a cedar chest stacked with books as homage to her.
That’s a great recommendation, Margaret!
Yea for Poe! I haven’t been to the house in Baltimore (or RIchmond–I’ll have to check it out the next trip out to family there), but I have stopped by his old dorm room at the University of Virginia. I also had the opportunity to visit Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Portland, ME. I definitely have many places on my bucket list on our trip to England, too.
Love that musical rendition of Annabelle Lee.
One of my favorites was Orchard House, the Alcott’s family home. Great house tour!
Thank you for sharing your visit. I love historical places, especially historical homes.
I’m hoping to cross one off my literary bucket list this summer: visiting the German forest in Peter Wohlleben’s THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES.
Oooh, that sounds amazing!
Delightfully rich blog posting Laura, so glad you made it to Poe’s home! Beautiful souvenir, so thoughtful of you—The quote’s timely, “Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear.” Thanks also for the moving rendition of Annabelle Lee, reminds me of my banjo sitting, waiting for me to have restrung.
Isn’t it a gorgeous version of the poem?
All I could think of when you talked about the house being so cramped was his short story “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Talk about claustrophobia! Thank you for starting my day off with a great fiddle tune. Here’s another poem I love that’s been set to music for you! Look up “Sea Fever” as sung by Kris Dermholst on Youtube. (It won’t let me post a link here). The John Masefield poem is one of my favorites!
Yes, I felt the same about the house. There’s no way I can express how tight those stairs are.
Everything was small and functional…even that lovely writing desk. Thanks for sharing your visit with us, Laura – loved it!
Poe lived for a time in Boston. There’s a statue of him near the Boston Common that is worth a visit, but it’s definitely not as cool as his home!
It’s amazing that several cities claim Poe: Boston, New York, Baltimore, and Richmond.
How nice of you to take us along, Laura! And to share a souvenir too. ;0) Have you read Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen? (I’m lucky to have gotten to know Lynn a bit way back when, and every once in a while we still cross paths. Love her books!)
PS – Yes, Yay Sarah Jarosz, and… bucket list? Italy. Specifically, Florence. But pretty excited about my little crew’s “ancestral” trip coming up this summer to Scotland and Ireland, too.
Thank you for sharing your visit with us!
It seems Poe’s life was one hardship after another I still have an anthology of his stories I got for my birthday when I was in 8th grade. Sarah Jarosz’s rendition of “Annabelle Lee” is haunting. Thank you for this rich post, Laura.
Good for you, for crossing this off your bucket list. I can’t imagine living, let alone writing, in such confined quarters! It makes me a little claustrophobic!
How fun, Laura! I’ve seen his room at UVA and now I want to go here, too! I’m lucky to live next to Concord and have lots of author homes to visit for inspiration — Thoreau, Emerson, Alcott, Hawthorne. Have you heard the hilarious story from “The Moth” about a caretaker at the Poe House in NYC? You’ve got to listen to this! http://themoth.org/stories/poe-and-i
One of my dream literary destinations. I’ve written stories and poems with an obvious influence.
Laura, I am fascinated by Poe and did not realize that the museum is in Baltimore. Maybe this summer, I will be able to visit when I travel to Virginia. The photos you posted have intrigued me. My son-in-law told me that he did know the museum was in Baltimore. Thanks for hosting the ekphrastic poetry project. It has been challenging but lots of fun.