America’s Next Top… Poe Toaster?

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The Poe Toaster was one of Baltimore’s great traditions–in part thanks to its mystery. Just who was visiting Edgar Allan Poe’s grave every year on his birthday, leaving behind three roses and a bottle of cognac? We may never know, particularly since the Poe Toaster has been MIA since 2009. But now the Maryland Historical Society wants to bring the Poe Toaster back–albeit in a less mysterious manner.

According to the Sun, the MHS and the organization that oversees Poe’s’ burial place  “are searching for the next Poe Toaster in the form of a competition, a la ‘American Idol’ or ‘America’s Got Talent.’ ” They’re asking prospective Toasters to submit a brief description of a three-minute performance by October 23. After auditions, the organizations will chose Baltimore’s next Poe Toaster, who will honor Poe via performance on the poet’s birthday, as well as at other city functions throughout the year.

While I’m always a fan of a good, spooky graveside performance, I have to admit this contest is leaving me a little… cold. Isn’t the great thing about the Poe Toaster how mysterious he was, and how the performance seemed to spring from some deep inner compulsion, rather than the desire to win a contest? I’m not sure that you can choose a mysterious tradition via committee.

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