The statue at the corner of Boylston and Charles Street South depicts writer and critic Edgar Allan Poe, striding away from the Common’s southern edge. Cast in bronze, the tribute was designed by Stefanie Rocknak and unveiled in October of 2014 in Edgar Allan Poe Square, where his birthplace once stood. The piece, entitled “Poe Returning to Boston,” was designed to show the poet’s triumphant return to Boston.
The figure carries a suitcase spilling pages that have been imbedded in the brick behind him; each is inscribed with quotes from Poe’s work about or published in Boston. Also emerging from the open case is a heart, referencing his 1843 short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which was first published in Boston literary magazine The Pioneer. Poe is lead by a spread-winged raven, a nod to his greatest success, the 1845 poem “The Raven.” Its opening, now famous, is characteristic of Poe’s style:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Poe died in 1849 at age 40, and though he pioneered detective stories and science fiction, only saw moderate success during his lifetime. Though “The Raven” is now among the most widely recognized poems in western literature, Poe was paid only $9 for its original publication in the Evening Mirror.
Today, many cities claim Poe’s legacy. His relationship with Boston, however, was somewhat troubled. He was often criticized the city’s transcendentalist writers, who he called the “Frog-Pondians,” after the Common’s Frog Pond. Rocknak has suggested that her statue has turned its back on the park and on the authors Poe called “pretenders and sophists.” Instead, he walks confidently toward his birthplace, which once stood in the vicinity of Edgar Allan Poe Square, where a small plaque and a relief of the poet now mark the spot.