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The Big Read: Stark Raven Mad

The Big Read: Stark Raven Mad, Columbia's monthlong celebration of Edgar Allan Poe, is part of an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts. The Big Read marks the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Poe is an author known for macabre subjects, but The Big Read might revitalize interest in the beauty within his art, which ranged from poems to short stories.

Scholars suggest he invented the detective story. He undoubtedly perfected the horror genre.

In works such as "The Raven," "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Pit and the Pendulum," issues of loss, melancholy, sadness and despair are filtered through Poe's imagination. For him, at least on the page, grief is beautiful, and Poe was a master at making the emotions of his characters palpable.

"Aesthetically, he wanted the work to be beautiful," said Charlene Spearen of USC Arts Institute and The Big Read's coordinator. "At many times, it could be gory beauty. Then, very suddenly, he can create a piece where nature is beautiful."

There are almost 30 Big Read events, and the city of Columbia has proclaimed October Big Read Month. One of The Big Read's goals is to rally people around art.

"To bring communities together centering on a classic piece of literature," Spearen said. "Everyone's rite of passage into literature has touched on the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

"They're exciting events that are going to add energy to go back to this master's work."

Here are 10 Big Read events:

1. Christopher Bundrick, an assistant professor at USC's Lancaster campus, will lead a discussion on The Big Read's featured book, "Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe," at a screening of "The Raven" at 6:30 tonight at Richland County Public Library, 1431 Assembly St.

2. Poet Meg Kearney will read from her work, including "An Unkindness of Ravens," and she will discuss selections from the featured book at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Columbia Museum of Art. All those in attendance will get a copy of the featured book. The museum is at Main and Hampton streets.

3. Spearen leads a discussion after a screening of "The House of Usher" at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at RCPL.

4. Ray McManus of USC's Sumter campus will lead a discussion for teens only at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at RCPL's Cooper Branch, 5317 N. Trenholm Road.

5. At "Waking Poe," USC students will read selected works at Black Box Theatre.

6. At 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Poe's Tavern in Sullivan's Island, the program, Five Poets and Poe, will feature poets reciting original poems based on Poe's work.

7. Poet Ivan Segura will read Poe's work in English and Spanish at the opening of El Jardin ("The Garden") at Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, 500 Wildlife Parkway, at 8 p.m. Oct. 8.

8. The Columbia Marionette Theatre will perform "The Tell-Tale Heart" and other Poe works at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the RCPL North Main Branch, 5306 N. Main St. The theater will reprise the performance Oct. 22 at the RCPL Southeast Branch, 741 Garners Ferry Road.

9. USC's Thomas Cooper Library will have a showcase of works by and about Poe from its rare books collection at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The library is at 1322 Greene St.

10. At Trick or Treat with the Greeks, from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 in the Greek Village, the arts institute will pass out reader's guides and other Poe treats. And, yes, there will be candy, too.

IF YOU GO

WHEN: October

WHERE: Various venues

TICKETS: Free unless otherwise noted

INFORMATION: artsinstitute.sc.edu

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