Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Poe and Baltimore

            I attended The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore & Beyond exhibition at the George Peabody Library.  It was a fitting event to attend given that Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” was one of the assigned reading for today.  The exhibition featured pieces of literature by Poe from a private collection.  There were also some personal effects of Poe on display.  The exhibition highlighted his relationship to Baltimore, in fact he is entombed in the city.  The exhibition taught me about the historical side of Baltimore that I’ve never experienced before.  In relation to the poems “The Cask of Amontillado”, “My Papa’s Waltz”, and “Cincinnati”, the exhibition and the poems highlighted how we interact with others and our surrounding environment.
            Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” has a constant focus on the relationship between the speaker and Fortunato.  He starts out with a genuine friendship, but then feigns being amicable in order to gain Fortunato’s trust. The Enigmatic Edgar exhibition also focused on relationships but in a different way.  The exhibit presented pieces related to Poe in a way that emphasized the influence of people and the city of Baltimore on his work.  His first critically acclaimed poem was published in a Baltimore newspaper and his career soon took off from there.  In a similar way, Yamada’s “Cincinnati” depicts the relationship between an individual and their environment.  Although it may not be a positive relationship, the speaker reluctantly admits that everyone in the city has a relationship with him by saying, “everyone knew me.” The speaker in Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” also emphasizes their personal relationship.  The speaker has a positive, however troubled, relationship with his father.  They are enjoying themselves dancing, but Roethke’s word choice implies trouble and tension within their relationship.  Of the three readings, Roethke’s poem places the most focus on the speaker’s relationship.
          The exhibition at the George Peabody Library showed me another side of Baltimore that I hadn’t encountered before.  I hadn’t really looked into the historical significance of Baltimore in respect to literature before.  The exhibit showed how without the city and people of Baltimore, Poe may have never reached the level of fame that he did.  He first gained literary recognition through a contest in a Baltimore newspaper, which gained him notoriety.  He even went on to work at the newspaper for a short period of time.  Poe apparently had an affinity for Baltimore, he ended up living here for a good portion of his life and eventually died here.  The event brought to my attention part of the history of Baltimore that I want to learn more about on my own.    

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