Shamaine Reis (aka Angel, Sarah, and Cimine)
Things That Make You Go HMMM
That something’s not adding up in Kweisi Mfume’s U.S. Senate campaign is so true (Right Field, May 4). The NAACP is mostly for middle-class black people, not the poor ones. Kweisi Mfume has spent the last 30 years or so keeping black people separated and disorganized. Black people spend more money annually than the gross national product of Canada or Australia, yet black leaders such as Mfume cannot inform black people how to finance their own empowerment agenda. Now he wants to run for the U.S. Senate, when he doesn’t have the ability to unite black people en mass. What, in all honesty, can he prove to white people?
Leo A. Williams
Recent suppositions in the April 13 edition of City Paper and James M. Hutchisson’s new book Poe (“Defending Edgar,” Arts and Entertainment) seem to devalue Baltimore’s importance in the life of America’s greatest writer extant. It is true that if any city could be called his home it must be Richmond, Va. After his mother’s death in that town, he was taken in by a prominent family and spent his developing years there. Although there would be time spent abroad and some years away at learning institutions, it was to Richmond that he would always return . . . until being forced out of the city to search for subsistence in other metropolitan areas. Furthermore, it was to Richmond that he was in the process of relocating when he died. Indeed, one can’t think of Edgar Allan Poe without imagining a rich, Virginia-gentleman accent.
New York City could also make a claim to being the most important town in the poet’s life. After all, some of his best and most well-known works were produced while he resided there at various addresses. “The Raven” was first published in the Evening Mirror, a well-read literary magazine of that city. In addition, New Amsterdam also provided the theater for some of Poe’s most notorious personal episodes. (Yet New York City thinks so much of him now that they recently razed one of the few remaining dwellings in which he is known to have lived.)
But more than just a mob town that he happened to be passing through when he met his end, Baltimore has arguably the most significant claim on Poe as a writer, because it was here that his talents were first recognized. On Oct. 19, 1833, Poe’s short story “MS. Found in a Bottle” was published here in the Saturday Visiter, for which he was paid $50. This was, of course, not the first time he had managed to have a piece printed, but it marked the first occurrence of remuneration for his work and the point at which he decided to earn a living solely by the use of his quill. Poe’s writing had been valued in Baltimore, by Baltimoreans, long before his employ at Richmond’s Southern Literary Messenger or his invitations to the New York literary salons.
It was to this city that he would come to die (and, it is largely believed, come to be killed), but it mustn’t be forgotten that it was to Baltimore that he came to be born a writer. We in this blue-collar port city of barbarians gave more to him than a headstone. Baltimoreans showed an appreciation of his talents long before the literati in the cities of Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and even Richmond. It is because of this Edgar Allan Poe will always, always be a Baltimore son.
Editor’s note: The national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies recently announced the list of finalists for its annual AAN Awards, and City Paper was favored with two nods. Senior staff writer Van Smith, art director Joe MacLeod, and freelance illustrator M. Wartella were honored in the Format Buster category among papers with circulations greater than 50,000 for “Homicidal Tendencies,” our Sept. 8 cover story on the ins and out of the city’s homicide statistics. And CP production assistant/freelance photographer Uli Loskot was honored in the Photography category (also among 50,000-plus circs) for her “Prettyboy Reservoir,” which ran in our Sept. 22 Best of Baltimore issue. The winners will be announced June 17. Congratulations to Van, Joe, Mike, and Uli.
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