Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Poe conference haunts UMass

By Vincent Capone

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The University of Massachusetts Amherst will be celebrating the two hundredth birthday of the great American writer and poet Edgar Allan Poe this Halloween weekend with a conference to celebrate his works and influence on New England’s culture.

“Poe and the Writers and Artists of New England” is scheduled for October 29-31 and will be located primarily in the Campus Center. The conference will feature scholars, writers and artists discussing the works and character of Poe.

The weekend events include public readings, book signings, a concert and exhibition of Poe-inspired visual arts, a Poe film series and other events.

The conference has been set up by committee chairs Professor Christopher Couch of the Comparative Literature department and Professor Steven Tracy of Afro-American studies.

“We decided to organize this conference because there was no other conference on Poe taking place in New England on the bicentennial of his birth,” said Professor Couch. “In addition, there was no event that included creative artists as participants.”

“Most events were limited to scholars or authors of works on Poe, but Poe is a major influence on literature, and particularly on fantasy and science fiction, horror and crime writing, and was the creator of the detective story,” he said. “Of course these are all world literatures, but New England has a particular claim on Poe,” he added.

Couch said that he and Tracy saw the anniversary of Poe’s birthday and his connection to the region as opportunities for creating an exciting gathering.

“We both had some courses containing material by Poe on our schedules, and we thought that with the Poe Bicentennial and the Poe connection to New England, we could put together an exciting Poe conference.”

“We are the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts, and no one else in New England was doing this,” said Couch.

Poe has a storied, sometimes controversial history in New England. Born on January 19th, 1809, in Boston, Poe emerged into one of the most enigmatic figures in American history and into the most well known gothic writer of all time. His   You need this passcode to view the web . first book, Tamerlane, was credited to an anonymous Bostonian, not to Poe himself.

Considering Poe’s New England affiliation, Tracy and Couch decided to only invite writers and artists from New England to participate. John Crowley, author of Little, Big and Great Work of Time, both World Fantasy Award winners, will provide readings and lectures, as will

Elizabeth Hand, author of psychological thrillers “Mortal Love” and “Generation Loss”. Hand was recently awarded the Shirley Jackson Award for her work in the horror/fantasy genre.

Also making an appearance will be the heralded artist Barry Moser. A Western Massachusetts native, Moser has provided illustrations for books such as Moby Dick and Alice in Wonderland. He currently serves on the faculty at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Linda Graves, an artist known best for her illustrations in children books, will also present.

The kickoff event will feature a public reading and book signing by UMass Amherst English professor and poet Martin Espada, as well as Crowley and Hand. Each will read from the works of Poe as well as their own poems and stories. This event is located in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall Thursday at 7 p.m.

Friday will feature readings and talks by writers, artists and scholars including Barry Moser, Crowley, Hand and Sabina Murray, professor of English at UMass Amherst. These readings will take place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in Campus Center room 163.

Friday night the Herter Art Gallery will feature casino a Poe art exhibition with works by Moser, Jack Couglin, Christin Couture, and the complete original artwork for a 1948 Spirit story by Will Eisner (his adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher”), lent from Paris for this exhibition. This event will run from 5 to 7 p.m.

Following the Poe art exhibition there will be a performance by UMass student and actor Peter Storey, who will perform a monologue as Edgar Allan Poe. Storey will be accompanied by musical arrangements of Poe’s poems performed by members of student a cappella group, Wicked Pitch. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. in the Falvin Family Auditorium room 137 in the Isenberg School of Management.

The final event on Saturday will be located in Campus Center room 163 and will feature readings and talks by writers, artists and scholars Jack Haringa, R. Patrick Gates, Stanley Wiater and Paul Lewis. This event will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Keynote speakers include Paul Lewis, curator of the Boston Public Library’s exhibition “The Raven in the Frog Pond: Edgar Allan Poe and the City of Boston,” and bestselling author of A Malady of Magicks and Batman Returns, Craig Shaw Gardner.

New England artists and writers will discuss their own works in relation to the works of Poe. These artists include UMass Amherst professor emeritus of art Jack Couglin, children’s book illustrator Linda Graves, dark fantasy artist Christin Couture, and horror and fantasy writers and critics Jack Haringa, R. Patrick Gates and Stanley Wiater.

“Poe and the Writers and Artists of New England” is sponsored by the dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, the dean of the Graduate School, the departments of English language and literature and Comparative Literature, and Lesleigh Luttrell.

All events will be free of charge and open to the public. For more information, visit

Vincent Capone can be reached at [email protected] and Dave Mansfield can be reached at [email protected]

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