Edgar Allen Poe never traveled west of the Appalachian Mountains, but for nine months, he’s a figure close to Kodiak.

“You get your power from dark, dammed Terror Lake: Poe is your homeboy,” Louisiana State University professor J. Gerald Kennedy said to laughter and applause Friday night at Kodiak College. Kennedy, one of the nation’s experts on Poe, visited Kodiak as part of The Big Read, a National Endowment for the Arts program intended to encourage reading.

The Big Read, intended to last nine months, began in September with a kickoff event in the Gerald C. Wilson Auditorium.

Kennedy, an enthusiastic speaker, gave a pair of lectures — one at Kodiak College on Friday, and another Saturday at the Baranov Museum. The talks, coming just after Halloween, were appropriate. “Poe is the Santa Claus of Halloween,” Kennedy said.

On Friday, Kennedy shared a serious lecture about “terror management,” how Poe structured his works so they mimicked the impact of a terrorist attack. Poe wrote short, concise works, Kennedy said, that were intended to overwhelm a reader within a single sitting.

Saturday’s lecture was more lighthearted as Kennedy discussed Poe’s rivalry with fellow author Washington Irving.

Irving’s contemporary success drove Poe’s writing, but Poe was less known in his own time and became popular only after his death. If it was a rivalry, Kennedy said, it was one that Irving was ignorant of.

While Poe never left the East Coast, Kennedy said the Pacific Northwest factored in the rivalry, as Poe plagiarized Irving in creating a travel journal that was serialized in literary magazines of the time. Poe never finished the journal before his death.

The Big Read will continue through the spring.

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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