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Why did it take more than 160 years for Edgar Allan Poe to be commemorated in his native city of Boston?

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Edgar Allan Poe (19 January 1809 – 7 October 1849) is considered one of the most important figures in American literature who was penchant for writing about the macabre and supernatural. Poe had made a brief attempt of a career in the U.S. military. He enlisted in the Army in 1827, rising to the rank of sergeant major and then served as a Cadet at West Point from July 1830 until February 1831 when he succeeded in being court-martialed for ceasing to attend training requirements. It was not until the Boston-born native moved to New York City that he became a literary sensation when he published in 1841 "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" – a new genre of detective fiction – as well as the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" in 1843 and his poem "The Raven" two years later. While Poe's literary achievement reflects his quest for imagination and his belief in art for art's sake, he had a long history of being antagonistic toward Boston's citizens. On 5 October 2014, as an occasion to mark the writer's birth in Boston, the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation of Boston honoured him with a life-sized brass statue that is located at Edgar Allan Poe Square near Boston common. Stefanie Rocknak's design was selected out of 265 other artists from 42 states and 13 countries with the proposal for "Poe Returning to Boston". According to the designer who is also a professor of philosophy, the statue reflects his "conflicted relationship with the city" and captures many of Poe's imagery: "the raven represents his global fame and endurance, the trunk full of papers symbolizes the scope and power of his work, and the trailing pages are engraved with texts published in or written about Boston."

On this day, 19 January 2022, we commemorate the 213th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe and mark more than seven years since the unveiling of "Poe Returning to Boston".

André M. Levesque

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