An Australian in Baltimore

It’s 7am…and 25 degrees (fahrenheit) in the Hudson valley as I’m driven to Croton-Harmon train station. I stand in the glass capsule in the middle of the platform that keeps the winter out and blows heat from the celling, providing much needed warmth for passengers waiting for the train to taxi then to Grand Central Station…and the one thought that continues to circulate my mind… “why do we not have these in Australia?” Ever been to Melbourne in July? Then you know what I’m on about.


It’s an hour smooth ride right along the Hudson River, which is completely frozen over. Past infamous Sing Sing prison (which I’m excited to set my eyes on, being the tourist that I am), but it’s not a lonely ride. Hundreds of commuters are on their way to work. (One evens offers me half his morning coffee that he’s just purchased, after I exclaimed that I didn’t have time to fill my Keep Cup this morning. I politely decline…not based on the fact he is a complete stranger…but that he’s opted for a full cream milk latte… and I am sadly one of those who must stick to the humble soy bean…did I mention I’m from Newtown?)


Grand Central Station is swimming with people as I step on to the platform and, after much confusion and circling back on myself, find my way to the platform which will take me to the place Edgar Allan Poe called home, Baltimore. It’s a full train this morning to Baltimore City, so I’m pleased I made the decision to pre-book. I intended on getting some more research done on my phone into Poe’s wonderful history with Baltimore…but I’ve set myself down next to a born and bred New Yorker, so conversation is inevitable. He talks mostly about his love for music, and the quintessential grunge band of the 90’s, Nirvana. Being a fan myself, I try to offer what little knowledge I can on their history, but he dumbfounds me with the bands turbulent history with Courtney Love, and how she gained exclusive rights to every song they every produced. A subtle dislike of Courtney Love has stayed with me ever since that train ride.


We pull into Baltimore City and I’m straight to the information desk. Time and money are limited. I have 5 hours in the city Poe called his birth place (he told very few he hailed from Boston) to explore the rich history he left behind. First on the agenda is Edgar Allan Poe’s statue out front of the Baltimore University of Law. Four police officers over hear me asking for directions to the University and, I assume after hearing my Aussie twang and noticing that I am traveling alone, ask me why I’m off to the Law department. I tell them I’m off to visit Mr Poe. “Why?” They inquire once more, “Because I love him.”




I find him easily. Siting on his throne, winter coat draped over the back, and covered in glistening white snow. I step up to him and say hello. Expecting a reply? Maybe? It is the first time I have ever encountered a life like, to scale image of Edgar, so naturally I’m a little more than excited to witness such a fine monument. I step onto the marble platform that holds him. It’s covered with snow, but the staff here are clearly taking care of him throughout the heavy winter. No snow covers his writing chair, head or shoulders. I inspect every part. His face, hair, the detail in his hands, then step back to read the inscription sitting at his feet….. “Edgar Allan Poe. 19 January 1809 – 7 October 1849. Dreaming Dreams No Mortal Ever Dared To Dream Before.” How appropriate….right outside the entrance to the University.


A long session of selfies follows. I am traveling alone, so my chances of a good photo with the man him self are somewhat limited. That is until I stop two uni students, who I assume are on their way to class, hand them my phone and ask if they will kindly take a photo for us. Politely they agree, laughing to themselves (at me) as they take them. They know I’m a tourist and why I want a picture with this man. I sit with him for a short while, then bid him farewell. There is another location of somewhat greater importance I need to make time for before 6pm.



The Baltimore public library. Being the Poe dork I am, I did a little research into what he left behind, literally, in Baltimore. The Library holds a lock of his hair and original letters written to and from him. You can only imagine my heartbreak when the library clerk tells me those artefacts are kept locked in a safe, and the only employee with the key has the day off. I gently ask (beg rather) her to inquire if there is a spare key floating about. She makes three phone calls for me…but to no avail. Looking back on it now, any sane person would have politely thanked her and left. In the most appealing manner I can manage, I ask her to call the employee with the key and ask him to come into work… “I’ll pay him”, I add. Surprisingly, she makes the call…not surprisingly, he refuses. I can’t hide my disappointment. She soothes me by informing me they have a board room upstairs called the Poe Room, filled with portraits and rear copies of his work. They don’t allow visitors to access the room….but she makes an exception. She unlocks the door for me and I step inside. It’s majestic. Polished oak skirting along the walls, and a gold-framed portrait of Edgar hanging above the fireplace. I spend as much time in here as I can spare. Time is getting away…and the location on the top of my list is a fair walk away.








I follow the little blue flashing circle on my iPhone down the snow-drenched streets of Baltimore City. My torso can hardly keep up with my feet. I encourage myself to take in the parks and monuments I pass. Baltimore is breathtaking. I pause to take a snap of a statue I later find out is the Lafayette Monument. But I can’t quell the desire in my belly propelling me toward the Westminster Church and Burial Ground. I cross another street and see the gothic arches straight ahead. Before I have time to ponder if I’m going in the right direction, and if the arches I see are the ones I’m looking for….I see it. White marble, like a beacon beckoning me. I loose my breath and begin to run…and the sobbing begins.


I reached the Westminster Church to find the Cemetery gates that surround it are locked. Heavy snow that time of year had made parks and burial grounds to dangerous to be walking around in. Standing behind those black gothic gates, face frozen and fingers numb, peering through them at Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. The first thought that penetrates my mind…this 8 foot high iron gate is not going to keep me from getting to that grave and paying my respects…I hadn’t come half way across the world to stare at his monument from behind a locked gate. So I start to climb, and hoist myself up and over the gate. I know that some caretaker will be here any moment to shoo me out of the yard, so I run as fast as I can to his monument. I’m 10 feet away when I suddenly slip over on a patch of black ice and land hard on my side. Completely winded, I pick myself up slowly, apologise to the deceased of who’s grave I’ve toppled onto, and now, more carefully hurry to the foot of Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. It’s surreal to say the least. This monument, which was erected for him in 1875, when they relocated his body from the other side of the graveyard, now towers over me. The marble is clean and glistening. The tears begin to flow as I drop my head back, look up into the sky and weep. I will never be able to describe the emotional and physical exhaustion I felt in that moment, and in trying to do so, would nowhere near do it justice. But I can tell you that standing in front of that grave was something I had wanted my whole life, and finally I was here. I wiped my face and had a chat with him, as I sat at the foot of his grave. White snow and red roses covered the ground around his monument. All year round people pass by here, say hello to him, and place roses in front of his grave. My heart rate finally slows, and I realise that no one is coming to kick me out of the yard. I’m alone with the Poe family: Eddy, Maria and Virginia, and I take my time to enjoy their company.






Time is still the enemy, and with two more stops to make, I bid Edgar Allan Poe a goodbye kiss to his portrait on the front of his monument, and head back to the gate….which yes…I have to try and climb back over to escape. Up I go, and as I reach the top, my right thigh gets strategically wedged between the pointed arrows at the top. I stop a moment, traffic whizzing by, trying to wriggle free. A Baltimore resident turns the corner, sees my dilemma and stops. “Hello”, I say, a little more than embarrassed I’m straddling an iron gate. Still staring, I wonder when he’s going to walk over and help me. “Nice”, he says with a big grin, giving me the thumbs up…then continuing on….leaving me firmly wedged atop the iron gate. Part of me is flattered he thinks I’m such a bad ass, but the larger part of me is frustrated he’s decided to leave me here…clearly in need of assistance. I decide to slowly slide done sideways and, ah yes, the leg follows and I’m finally free. A little sore, but free. After double-checking my phone, it confirms that the Poe Cottage on North Amity Street is in fact, closed for restorations. That leaves me with one more location to hit, The Annabel Lee Tavern. As I walk back past the monument, a young boy and girl are peering into the graveyard at it from behind the iron gates. “Just jump over”, I say with a grin, “No one’s going to stop you.” They laugh and shake their head’s, “We’ve been here before. We’ll come back when it’s open.” We chat away briefly about Poe, as I’m searching on my phone for directions to the tavern. “Well, we’re off to the Annabel Lee Tavern now.” I almost drop my phone. “Are you serious?” They sense my astonishment. “Want to come?” They laugh. I’m still dumbfounded as I explain that’s where I’m headed. I jump in their car, and we drive for 20 minutes before hitting 601 S Clinton street…and there sits the stunning Annabel Lee. The outside is painted with Raven’s and a more than appropriate Poe quote, which reads, “I Am Drinking Ale Today.” Stepping inside, it’s a treasure trove of Poe portraits and Raven inspired beers. The precious 15 minutes I have left are spent drinking a Tell Tale Ale and chatting away to my new found Poe friends, Tara and David. But sadly, the Uber must be ordered if I’m going to make it to Baltimore station in time to catch my returning train to New York City.








Sadly, my train pulls away from Baltimore Station, and as I sit in the carriage looking out at the beautiful city it is, I’m exhausted, but very content…and it’s not long before a new Yorker strikes up some conversation with me…this time about Dogs and living in Long Island.

I made a promise to Edgar Allan Poe that day that I would dedicate a significant portion of my life to keeping his memory alive. To find a way of sharing his life story, his stories, his poems, with people on the other side of the world. I want people to admire Poe for his work, and how hard it was for him to accomplish the things he did. The first American writer who attempted to make a living solely from writing. For me, it’s such an injustice to him when you mention his name, and people say “oh yeah, the Raven guy?” He wrote reviews, essays, created the detective fiction genre, and achieved all this with next to no financial aid. People are always amazed when I tell them how tough he had it…but that he never gave in to go work in finance, or a factory where he could have made a decent wage for himself. For me, he is the poster boy for the struggling artist. He set the bar. And I thank him for that.

Don’t be a stranger. Share your Poe stories and events with us, or just drop us a line!

Hannah Raven Smith

Curator of Edgar Allan Poe Australia and Artistic Director of Poe Productions Australia.



Nevermore: Tales of Madness from Edgar Allan Poe

This April, Phoenix Theatre Company will be bringing you “Nevermore” Tales of Madness from Edgar Allan Poe. We interviewed the shows Producer Steen about the company and what inspired them to create this Poe based theatrical production.


EAPA: What inspired you to create the show?

STEEN: I have grown up reading Poe. My favorite books as a child were the complete tales of Poe, the Alice in Wonderland series and the plays of shakespeare. Poe has always resonated with me, the sheer beauty of his word play, the way he ads such a descriptive tone to the scene and events, they just lend themselves to adaption for the stage. Poe’s tales have formed the basis of too many works of film, literature and theatre to mention, so why come to him now? I think we found a new way to approach his work – often during the process of adapting Poe, writers either cut his words and focus on the story, then divert the plot to finding threads to pull it all back together, after hacking at him; or they turn the works into long monotonous monologues for one, sometimes working (in the case of Steven Berkoff ), mostly not, producing Pseudo Gothic. We have avoided both and used a Theatre of Cruelty technique called “monologue for many”: I adapted the work with an exciting young writer “Jayden Brett” who is part of my theatre of cruelty workshop group, we started using Artaud’s methods four years ago and it has proven to be a very successful method for us, last year I adapted both of Lewis Carrols Alice books for the 150th anniversary and looking for a new project naturally I fell to Poe, Artaud was a huge fan of Poe as well, he cites the collected works as his favorite reading. Jayden and I started work in January as soon as this show has closed we will look for new works to adapt as we find working together very satisfying. He is an energizing influence on me and my work. The cast has been divided into two camps, the Ravens and Nevermores.

 The Ravens are the wise all seeing blackbirds that see all and know all. In Norse mythology ravens are the messengers of Odin; they repeat the stories of mankind and summon the spirits from the netherworld. Our Ravens take on the role of Nietzsche’s Ego. They guide and inform; they see what is happening behind the veil.

Nevermores are like the “ID”: they move forward looking for satisfaction. They are at the mercy of their whims but are guided by the “Ego” Ravens. They embark on their journey of obsession and indulgence not caring for the path they take or the dangers that lay on it.

EAPA: Which works by Poe resonate most with you?

STEEN: The Raven, Tell Tale Heart, The Fall of the House of Usher, the Cask of Amontillardo, Morella and Masque of the Red Death. The way we interpreted the works are as follows:

 In “Raven”, a man is haunted by his lost love. He cannot or will not let her go, until a raven comes to him and he attaches his grief to the black bird. The raven may or may not be sent from his love as a messenger it maters not, the man has used it to represent his obsession.

In “Telltale Heart”, a man kills his master for no reason. The obsession he has is with the mans malformed eye, he cannot let the obsession go until it drives him to a hideous crime. His own guilt drives him to undo himself. We have made this work as if the whole story happens in the murderers mind between the heartbeats of breaking down and pulling up the board to reveal the heart to his accusers.

In “The Fall of the House of Usher”, a family is driven to the grave by the house they inhabit. The house and the name are so intertwined one cannot end without the other, but is it the house or in a hypochondriac’s mind? It is stated in the story usher feels the house is alive, we latched onto this and the house is played by the whole cast, they hate Usher and will he and his sister to die, as the last of the ushers passes the house collapses back to the earth is wants to join.

“Cask of Amontillado” shows how a man’s taunting and bullying can lead him to be judged by friends, and suddenly left on his own in the most horrible way, the cast move constantly around with large blocks of masonry, as Fortunato is lured through the maze and trapped like a fly the cast build a wall in front of him entombing him behind it.

In “Morella”, a man cannot love the woman who loves him so she curses him to love the one thing he cannot have until he accepts his fate; he should not love his child, his obsession repulses him and at the same time controls him, her spirit lives on after her death, disembodied while he is never suspecting his dead wife is holding him prisoner from the grave, when he finally accepts his love by giving it a name she falls dead, again out of reach but this time he feels the pain of loss he caused in his wife.

 Finally, when it comes down to the end, the Red Death takes us all and we realize at the very end it was all just folly, a twisted joke.

 EAPA: As a company, what do you have planed for the future?

STEEN: We are not sure what to work on next, we have looked at tales from the Brother Grimm, we would like to return to Poe in a year or two as there are so many great tales to work on. I would love to do “king pest” and find a way to do “Imp of the Perverse” so many wonderful stories to look at. We will continue to work in the theatre of cruelty style exploring its passion and pushing the boundaries of emotional response to work, certainly more Poe is to come.


Nevermore will play at The Phoenix Theatre 24 Bridge Street, Wollongong from the 22nd till the 30th of April.

Cameron Trost Interviews Edgar Allan Poe Australia


Cameron Trost from The Horror Writers Association of Australia recently conducted an interview with me for his blog. Check it out below…and see the full articular here…

An Interview with Hannah Raven

Poe Productions Australia and Poe Burlesque Theatre. These two titles immediately grab the attention of any fan of all things mysterious, macabre, and Poesque. At the risk of unveiling your secrets, who are you?

I am the creative director of Poe Productions Australia and the curator of Edgar Allan Poe Australia.

I first began my research into Poe’s life in early 2010. His writings had always struck a cord with me. His grotesque unapologetic imagery, his use of cryptography. His influence always seemed to leak into my work. Whether it was a one women cabaret, or a devised short piece of theatre history for a class presentation, romance and gothic undertones were always evident.

When I began to dig into Poe’s personal history, it became very clear that his relationships with the women in his life influenced the much of his work. Being a theatre maker, I came up with the concept for Edgar’s Girls in 2012 in my final year of drama school at The Actors Centre Australia. So much of his work marries parallels; The Macomb and the comical (Never Bet the Devil Your Head) the sickly and the beautiful (Eleonora)

Burlesque in the 21st century is a wonderful eclectic art form. It honours the traditions of classic striptease while bringing Parody and Satire to the mix in Neo forms. I threw my three loves into one big melting pot and Poe Productions Australia emerged.  Our premier production of Edgar’s Girls celebrated the women who loved, inspired and challenged the most prolific writer of the 19th Century

Australia in the twenty-first century is far in time and space from the world of Edgar Allan Poe, yet his work endures and influences a number of contemporary writers and artists. Why do you think that is?

There is no doubt in my mind that Poe was an intelligent individual. He studied Latin, French and Greek mythology, was a skilled cryptographer and was more than versed in the English language. These qualities made him a great writer and poet, but what made him the brilliant artist he is known and respected as today?

Two words…Psychological Introspection.

Many people who read his work for the first time in the 19th century voiced the true horror and uneasiness they felt after reading a story of his (Helen Whitman being a very notable one) Well before Freud,  Poe was asking his readers to look within and come face to face with the morbid and frightful reality of the human psyche. Many of his stories deal with grief, loss and trauma …which then propels the protagonist of the tale into a state of guilt and a sense of lost identity. This is what makes Poe’s work so relatable….we identify with the subtext. Fear of the unknown and consequences of our actions haunt us, more often that not, subconsciously. It comes as no surprise to me that writers and artists who explore the deeper levels of human psychology are inspired by Poe’s unapologetic presentations of what it is to be human.

Of all the women in Poe’s opus, who fascinates you the most? 

Signora Psyche Zenobia. The most prominent female protagonist in any of his stories. In A Predicament and How to Write a Blackwood Article, Poe’s unapologetic black humour is executed perfectly through this bolshy women from high society. It is very clear he is taking a stab at the Literati of the time. But what fascinates me most about Zenobia, is that she is in stark contrast to all the other women of Poe’s stories. She is not sickly, and there is no indication that she is a young, kept women.

What else should we know about your upcoming performances and projects?

Poe Productions is currently working on a play inspired by one of Poe’s most famous short stories….which one? You’ll just have to be patient I’m afraid.


In February 2015, I flew to California. It was my first pilot season in America and I had a few meetings and auditions with casting directors. I had worked very hard to save the money to get myself over there to be seen by the top industry professionals. But in the last week of my trip, I dropped everything, flew to JFK Air Port, and made my way to Baltimore in a matter of days. The man who had been my muse for so many years was buried only a train ride away. I reached the Westminster Church to find the Cemetery that surrounds it locked. Heavy snow that time of year had made parks and burial grounds to dangerous to be walking around in. The 8 foot high iron gate was not going to stop me from standing in front of his grave and paying my respects…I hadn’t come half way across the country to stare at his monument from behind an iron gate.  So I hoisted myself up and over the gate, slipping over on a patch of black ice as I landed on the other side, picked myself up and ran as fast as I could to the foot of Edgar Allan Poe’s grave. I made a promise to him then and there that I would dedicate a significant portion of my life to keeping his memory alive. To find a way of sharing his life story, his stories, his poems, with people on the other side of the world. I want people to admire Poe for his work, and how hard it was for him to accomplish the things he did. The first American writer who attempted to make a living solely from writing short stories, editorials and poetry. For me, it’s such an injustice to him when you mention his name, and people say “oh yeah, the Raven guy?” He wrote reviews, essays, created the detective fiction genre, and achieved all this with next to no financial aid. People are always amazed when I tell them how tough he had it…but that he never gave in to go work in finance, or a factory where he could have made a decent wage for himself. For me, he is the poster boy for the tortured, struggling artist. He set the bar.

I take my research into his work very seriously and am always keen connect with other Poe activists and fans.  My pages are listed below. Please feel free to drop me a line and share any Poe inspired work.


Pearls, Daggers and Ravens


The Raven. We all know it….we all love it.

Edgar Allan Poe Australia were delighted to discover The Pearl and Dagger Company…and the subject matter for their next production; his masterpiece, The Raven, and another one of Poe’s gems, Lenore.

The Sydney based company blend theatre and live music, musicians and actors. Their productions are strongly influenced by literature and historic events.

So it comes as no surprise to us here at EAPA, that they chose to compose music for works by the man himself. We chatted to the show’s creators, Tara Hashambhoy and Imogen Granwal about the company and what inspired them to work with Poe’s Poetry.

EAPA: Tell us a little about Pearl and Dagger and what encouraged you to create the Company.

PADC: We specialize in performing historical works in a period style.  Imogen Granwal (co-artistic director) and myself set it up in 2014 to perform a work that we both really wanted to play.  This work was Cupid and Death – an English masque from the 17th Century. Works like this are not the domain of a theatre or opera company, and as such the only way to perform it, or see it performed was to do it ourselves! This show was an amazing experience for us, we had a brilliant cast, and director (Nadia Piave).  We decided to turn Pearl and Dagger productions into an annual event. As classical musicians, the Pearl and Dagger Company allows us to collaborate with artists from different fields, which we find absolutely wonderful.  One of our main aims is to bring history into our performances. We want to recreate the essence of an historical period with each performance. We even encourage our audience to come dressed up.

EAPA: Where do you see the company in 5 years time? Would you like to expand to other parts of Australia?

PADC: We hope to continue annual productions and have a list of works we want to perform.  We are currently working with a playwright on next year’s production which will be an autobiographical ‘musical’ based on the life of a 17th century composer (and soldier), Tobias Hume.  We are also exploring repertoire for children’s concerts, and hope to stage our first one this September.  This year we are doing our first performance out of Sydney – in Thirroul.  In the future we’d hope to do more regional performances and (hopefully) festivals!

EAPA: What inspired you to create music for Poe’s poetry…in particular, The Raven and Lenore?

PADC: We used Poe’s poetry as part of our exploration of the Melodrama genre for piano and narrator.  This genre was extremely popular throughout the 19th century in Europe, due to the increasing popularity of the piano as a domestic instrument and the popularity of dramatic readings.  Melodramas were a popular parlor entertainment.  These works are now virtually never performed.  Composers set poetry to music, and we chose Stanley Hawley’s settings of The Raven and Lenore, firstly because the poems are brilliant, but secondly because the musical setting is incredibly charming.  Lots of people know Poe’s poetry, but Hawley’s settings (from 1899) are virtually unknown. Our show The Raven contains melodramas and chamber music for piano and strings.  We want to recreate an evening of parlor entertainment that may have been performed towards the turn of the 20th century.  We have incredible musicians working on this performance, including Sydney Symphony members.  We are performing the music of English composers Frank Bridge, and Alice Verne-Bredt.

The Raven will play on the 7th and 8th of June in Glebe and on the 19th of June in Thirroul. Details and booking link below:

SYDNEY CONCERTS: Sunday 7th June, 7pm: Monday 8th June, 2pm & 5pm.

Glebe Justice Centre: 37 St Johns Road. Glebe, NSW 2037

THIRROUL CONCERT: Friday 19th June, 7pm

Excelsior Hall:352/358 Lawrence Hargrave Drive. Thirroul, NSW 2515


Poe Productions Australia: Celebrating the Women Who Inspired a Poetic Genius

Poe Productions Australia (formally The Poe Burlesque Theatre) have been wowing audiences in Sydney since 2013 with their Burlesque extravaganza “Edgar’s Girls”.

The Production celebrates the women from Edgar Allan Poe’s life. Poe, orphaned at 2 years old, was given a very special gift by if mother Eliza Poe before her passing in 1811….a note book and quill. He was then adopted by the Allans and formed a very special bond with is foster mother, Fanny Allan. As he grew and was sent off to school, he met Robert Stanard, whos mother Jane Stanard became a kind of muse to Edgar. She shared his love of poetry and encouraged him to write, insisting that writing was a gift no one would ever be able to take from him.

The long list of female influences in Poe’s life goes on, and it is interesting to note just how much of his poetry refers to or revolves around young dieing women, or love long lost. He wrote from the heart and from his experiences; this much is evident when we look at poems such as Annabel Lee or Lenore, and compare them with the years in which Poe wrote them.

Edgar’s Girls is a musical, burlesque, theatrical wonderland that salutes the women who inspired this poetic genius. Weaving letters written by Edgar himself and music composed for a number of his poems, Poe Productions have created a world that shares a side of Mr Poe many know nothing of.

After returning from The Adelaide Fringe, the company will be taking the show to Victoria for The Melbourne Fringe Festival. Follow them on Facebook for all the soon to be released details.


Review from the 2015 Adelaide Fringe Festival

Facebook Page

Edgar Allan Poe Australia


  • Whilst Poe never made a trip to Australia during his life time, over the years, his work has had a profound impact on Australian Literature and Theatre. There have been numerous Australian productions dedicated to his work, journalistic write ups, reviews and his poems and short stories are still part of the recommended reading syllabus at many Australian Secondary schools and Universities.

    Edgar Allan Poe Australia aims to share Poe inspired Australian work, and international work also. There are some incredibly dedicated Societies in the United States who work very hard to preserve his memory…and it’s about time Australian fans had a place to celebrate Poe and share the love too!

    If you are an epic Poe fan, a new reader of his stories, or (god forbid!) have never read his work, we hope to give you a deeper insight into his life and times and encourage people to share with us Poe inspired work of any nature.