Happy Birthday, Mr. Poe 

Who doesn't know the poetry and stories of Edgar Allan Poe? How many of us know, though, of Poe as an early proponent of the Big Bang Theory? Or his proto-theory of relativity? Maybe you don't, but Poe knows — Hal Poe, a distant cousin of the 19th-century author born 200 years ago. In January, the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library is celebrating that anniversary with an impressive exhibit of Poe artifacts from the collection of Hal Poe, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and president of the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. In conjunction with the exhibit, Hal Poe will give a talk at the library on his famed forebear on January 8th.

Included in the exhibit will be a number of rare 19th-century engravings and images of Poe and his friends; first newspaper or magazine appearances of "The Raven" and other poems; and first appearances in print of "Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter," and "MS Found in a Bottle," among other works. The collection is drawn from the more than 500 pieces belonging to Hal Poe.

As Professor Poe wrote in an e-mail, "My lecture and the theme of the exhibit will be 'The Power of Imagination.' Poe believed that imagination was a higher faculty than sensory knowledge or mere reason. Imagination allows us to envision what does not exist and to understand what is not yet. He demonstrated this remarkable path to knowledge in his art but also as a key ingredient of science. Imagination also provided Poe with a bridge between science and faith."

So then, start the new year on an imaginative note. Wish Edgar Allan Poe — born January 19, 1809 — a happy 200th!

Edgar Allan Poe exhibit in the Goodwyn Gallery at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library (3030 Poplar), January 5th-30th. Talk by Hal Poe at the library on Thursday, January 8th, at 7 p.m. For more information about the exhibit or the talk, call 415-2700.

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