Tonight, at the National Arts Club, something totally weird and awesome is going on in honor Edgar Allan Poe. That’s cool, because weird and awesome was kind of Poe’s style.
The Bronx Historical Society is throwing a bash called Salsa Poe! in support of the preservation and operations of the newly restored Poe Cottage on Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The cottage was the final home of the Gothic poet, where he wrote some of his greatest works, like The Bells, Annabel Lee, Ulalume, and The Cask of Amontillado. It’s a night of music, food, and the poet’s works.Less obvious? It’s a salsa tribute.
Living New York Salsa legend Bobby Sanabria will provide musical accompaniment for New York poet and performer Caridad “La Bruja” de la Luz as she performs the works Poe wrote while living in the Bronx in her signature style. Sanabria has performed with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Chico Freeman, Paquito D’Rivera, Candido, Ray Barretto, Chico O’Farrill, Francisco Aguabella, Henry Threadgill, and Luis “Perico” Ortiz. La Bruja has appeared in Spike Lee films, off-Broadway shows, the web series East WillyB, and Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam. And they will be adapting and interpreting the work of Edgar Allan Poe, who is Edgar Allan Freaking Poe.
See? I told you it was going to be awesome.
I asked organizer Angel Hernandez what could have inspired such an odd mix – vibrant salsa music and dead old white guys that write scary mysteries – but to him it doesn’t seem so odd at all, especially considering that the community surrounding Poe cottage is overwhelmingly Latino.
“During Poe’s stay in what is today The Bronx, they’re were very few Latinos in the borough,” he told me, “But what we must look at is the major influence Poe’s work has today in Latin American education. Poe’s work has been translated in over 100 languages, and Spanish is one of the major ones. I’ve had numerous conversation in the Poe Cottage neighborhood with Latino immigrants and the story stays the same – they’re not familiar with the Cottage because no one is there to explain it to them. Once i mentioned how the house once belonged to the poet who wrote El Gato Negro and Los Crimenes de La Calle Morgue, they know exactly what I’m talking about.
“[W]hat does Poe have to do with The Bronx today? Well, for one thing, Poe was very poor. He lived on whatever scraps he can earn and although his stay at the Cottage was a pleasant one, he lived very much in poverty nevertheless. Even the Cottage itself serves as a reminder of how the working class family lived in in 1840s. Today, the borough of The Bronx, with all its improvements, remains to be one of the poorest districts in the Nation. As a working class community, Bronxites can relate to Poe’s every attempt to keep his family secure and sound. Bronxites work night and day to pay the rent, bills, and all expenses the urban life can incur. Also, as the birthplace of Hip Hop where young African Americans recited rhyming verses to describe what societal pressures they were feeling at the time, Poe wrote from the pressures in his life to. Watching in helplessness the slow death of his tuberculosis stricken wife, along with the persistent bouts of poverty, poe was very much inspired to describe his emotions through poetry.
“This is the time to share the Cottage and its importance to Bronx history with the current Spanish speaking community,” Hernandez continued, “By infusing Poe’s literary work into a familiar Latino cultural sound, it enriches that bond the historic house museum seeks to maintain with its current neighbors. We have to make sure that those who migrate from different parts of Latin America who’ve not learned the English language receives the opportunity to learn the historic heritage of their new home.”
As a self avowed geek, I, for one, am psyched. For the Love of God (Montressor!) make your reservation by calling (718) 881-8900 and head over tonight. Still not convinced? Watch this video of La Bruja performing, and imagine her tackling Poe.