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The New England Patriots football playoff game tomorrow (Saturday) versus the Baltimore Ravens has sparked another dramatic development in one of the most pleasurable literary rivalries of recent years, namely the one between the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation in Boston and Poe supporters in Baltimore.
The two groups make competing claims on the great Gothic writer—Poe was born in Boston in 1809, but he died in Baltimore in 1849. And now Poe fans in each city have made a bet involving the rival statues of Poe in each community: The town whose team loses this weekend will wrap a scarf in the colors of the rival team around the bronze Poe in their city.
“Somebody would cover our statue with a Ravens scarf. If it came to that,” says John LaFleur, president of the Edgar Allan Poe Foundation in Boston, the folks who spent more than $200,000 to erect the bronze Poe statue by artist Stefanie Rocknak that was unveiled at the corner of Boylston Street and Charles Street South in Boston in October.
“I thought, well, OK, it’s a foregone conclusion that we’re going to win, so I don’t mind sticking it to Boston,” says Jeff Jerome, who was curator at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore from 1979 to 2013 and who kindly traveled up to Boston for our Poe statue’s unveiling.
But if the Patriots win? Jerome says, “I’ll drive down to the statue with the [Patriots] scarf, and I wouldn’t like it, but I’ll be a good sport and place it around the Poe statue’s neck.”
Mainly the Boston Poe fans worry that some overly exuberant sports fan will do something untoward toward Boston’s bronze Poe. “Our big inspiration was to make sure our statue didn’t get trashed,” LaFleur says. “Our statue has the big raven on it and people have been tweeting all week: Let’s go throw a Patriots jersey on the Poe statue.”
OK, but which side would Poe himself favor in this match-up between the Patriots and Ravens? Well, the Baltimore team is named after Poe’s famous 1845 poem “The Raven.”
“I don’t want to speculate there,” LaFleur says.
Jerome doesn’t mind speculating.
Back when Poe was around, the great Boston and Concord Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson represented a prominent New England view when he said Poe was just a “jingle man.” Poe, not surprisingly, “didn’t have a fond opinion of Boston. He called it ‘Frogpond,’ all the writers were croaking,” Jerome says.
“He didn’t like Boston. So why would he like the football team or anything about it?” Jerome says. “I think he’d relish the idea that here he is given another chance to stick it to Boston.”
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