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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe Visits Here & Now

Edgar Allan Poe (a.k.a. literary scholar Rob Velella) at WBUR in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Fresh off a cemetery tour in the Northeast, 19th century literary great Edgar Allan Poe stopped by Here & Now to read selections from a few of his creepiest works, including The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven.

Mr. Poe told Robin Young that it wasn’t easy being alive and it isn’t easy being dead – especially when your death is a mystery!

Velella, channeling Poe, reads from the Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Of course Poe didn’t really rise from his Baltimore grave to visit us. Literary historian Rob Velella makes it his goal to “do nothing less than bring 19th-century writers back from the dead” by re-enacting them.

Channeling Poe, Velella said he sometimes focused on murders and grisly deaths because “the murder or the killing itself is less relevant in the story than the psychology of the murderer or the narrator.”

Velella said he loves Poe because he “leaves a lot of ambiguity for the reader,” he chooses words with sounds that convey emotion and he’s “deeply psychological.”

But the literary historian says “the best part of all” is that while in academic circles Poe is a respected writer, Poe is also “a really cool writer for the average Joe to be reading.”

Velella reads the poem “A Dream Within A Dream,” in which the weeping narrator, after kissing a lover goodbye, cannot keep grains of sand from slipping through his fingers. He wonders “can I not save one from the pitiless wave,” which we found particularly moving in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Listen to Velella read the entirety of “A Dream Within A Dream”:


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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