Unpuzzling Poe Leaves Lasting Impressions

November 30, 2015

When The Big Read arrived in Danville in mid-September, the face of Edgar Allan Poe descended up on Danville-Boyle County and remained a steady presence in the community through the end of October. Spearheaded by the Boyle County Public Library and supported by 26 community partners, the Unpuzzling Poe team offered 42 events that provided opportunities for the more than 2,700 participants to experience Poe like never before.

"Overall, I could not be more pleased with the community’s response to The Big Read: Unpuzzling Poe programming," said Maggie Myers, Adult Programming Coordinator at the Boyle County Public Library. "It was our goal to offer a variety of events that explored not only Poe’s works, but also his life, his times, and his influence on contemporary drama, literature, and art."

Programs included craft and painting events for all ages, art exhibits, book discussions, dramatic readings, a Poe-themed film series, an afternoon tea, a murder mystery for teens, plus a mock trial and a Poe impersonator.

Danville resident Sarah Vahlkamp attended many of the Unpuzzling Poe events, but especially enjoyed seeing the Poe impersonator [Helen Mckenna-Uff] at West T. Hill Community Theatre. "She was excellent with her presentation and knowledge of Poe. I learned many facts about Poe’s personal life and an appreciation for his literary works and his influence on the mystery genre."

College student Mackenzie Schwarz attended the 19th Century Afternoon Tea with her mom. "I think it was my favorite event because it was a way to get together with other people and listen to Poe poetry," said Schwarz. "I heard some poetry from Poe that I’ve never heard. I thought the Unpuzzling Poe event was a great way to get the community together."

With events held in Danville, Perryville, Junction City, and Forkland, the reach of Unpuzzling Poe was felt county-wide. Events at Shaker Village extended the reach of the program.

Jim Moore of Danville learned that Poe had a unique place among writers. "He was such a pioneer of the mystery, the detective story, and even the short story," said Moore. "I am so appreciative of this Big Read. The whole thing was so great. It was well planned and executed, and involved so many places and people throughout the county. I loved the event at the winery, but the keynote with Chris Semtner and the impersonator were spectacular. I would never have imagined that they would be so good."

Local drama students also participated in many of the Poe events. Performances included Danville High School's Play Production class' presentation of The Purloined Letter; Bate Middle School Forensics dramatic reading of The Raven and The Cask of Amontillado; Kentucky School for the Deaf Honors English class production and screening of a silent film interpretation of The Black Cat; and Boyle County High School Drama readings of The Fall of the House of Usher and selections of poetry. "As an avid reader of Poe from a young age, it was thrilling to see students of local schools bring Poe's vision to life through drama," says Myers. In addition to these events, students also had the opportunity to participate in a Young Writers Competition. Kristen Atwood, the winner of the competition and a student at Boyle County High School, was able to read her winning poem, The Great Abyss Within Me, at West T. Hill Community Theatre during the Poe Impersonator event.

The Big Read in Danville-Boyle County was presented by the Boyle County Public Library in partnership with: the Arts Commission of Danville/Boyle County; Boyle County Schools; Central Kentucky Blood Center;  Centre College; Chateau du Vieux Corbeau Winery; Citizens Concerned for Human Relations; the Community Arts Center;  Danville-Boyle County Senior Citizens Center; Danville Christian Academy; Danville Schools; Danville Writers Group; Elmwood Inn Fine Teas; Friends of the Library; Forkland Community Center; Garden Club of Danville; The Hub Coffee Shop & Cafe; Jacobs Hall Museum; Jane Barleycorn’s; Kentucky School for the Deaf; Lexington Avenue Baptist Church; Main Street Perryville; McDowell Place of Danville; Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill; University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension; Warrenwood Manor; and West T. Hill Community Theater. These community partners were instrumental in the success of Unpuzzling Poe. The Library also thanks The Advocate-Messenger, WHIR 1230 AM - Hometown Radio, and Boyle County Neighbors Magazine for their generous coverage of Unpuzzling Poe events.

A program of the National Endowment for the Arts, The Big Read is designed to broaden our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. Managed by Arts Midwest, this initiative offers grants to support innovative community reading programs designed around a single book. Danville was one of 75 communities nationwide chosen to participate in The Big Read from September 2015-June 2016.