Last fall, writer Abigail Deutsch peered over a Baltimore coffin to look at the pale corpse of Edgar Allan Poe -- or at a latex replica of it anyway.
She was in Baltimore attending a celebratory vigil for Poe -- and a curious re-do of the poet's funeral -- all in honor of the 200th anniversary of his birth.
It was put on by the historical society in charge of Baltimore's Poe House (as well as slapping together the "corpse"), and it was the complete Poe package. There were poetry recitations, black velvet capes and gothic belly dancers:
"Two hours into the vigil, a young woman introduced as Didi performed a sinuous dance in front of the church," Deutsch writes. "Her belly wriggled beneath her white dress, petticoats, and shawl. She looked alluringly undead. "Graveyard Picnic" by singer-songwriter Voltaire -- popular for albums such as Ooky Spooky -- piped over loudspeakers: 'If you squirm at the Conqueror Worm / This is no place for thee, / Or if you fright at the mere sight / Of the corpse of my Annabel Lee.'"
It's no real surprise that the legend of Poe still has a hold on those of us with Gothic tendencies, but Deutsch found the rest of the mourners outside Westminster Church representing a wide swath of the populace:
"Rena Finkel, a petite Johns Hopkins student who wore a wide-brimmed black hat with fake bloody teeth looped into the hatband, waited nearby. She described the day's ceremony as a joyous occasion. 'We're all here dressed in mourning, but so happy about what Poe did,' she said. She saw the funeral as transforming tragedy into joy, a corollary to the alchemy Poe works in his narratives."
(You can read all of Abby's adventure here).
Is that it? The alchemy? Is that what draws people perennially to Edgar Poe (as the French had it)? He certainly doesn't seem to be ready to fade away anytime soon, despite Lou Reed's efforts to make him into something a little more Lou Reedy, or the Baltimore Ravens efforts to get him ready for "game time." And praise be for that. Poetry could use more fake blood and belly dancers, as far as I'm concerned.
Whatever the coroner said, it's clear that this man will never die.