It’s the year of Edgar Allan Poe. January 19th is the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth, and in four East Coast cities with connections to the scribe the occasion is being heralded in a big way.

This week Boston College is holding a two-night celebration called The Raven Returns to Boston. (Poe was born in the Massachusetts town.) Headlining on Thursday evening are authors Matthew Pearl (The Poe Shadow) and Scott Peeples (The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe and Edgar Allan Poe Revisited). On Friday there will be a screening of the independent film The Last Days of the Raven and a Q&A with Brent Fidler, the movie’s co-director, screenwriter, and star.

At the Poe Cottage in New York City, the writer’s last residence, an afternoon birthday celebration will take  place with an actor performing as Poe.

The Poe Museum in Richmond, home to the world’s largest collection of Poe memorabilia, is staging a 24-hour birthday bash on January 19 along with other events this month and throughout the year. And this Friday in Richmond, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a 42-cent stamp commemorating Poe.

poe-grave-newThe city of Baltimore, which is home to the Poe House and Museum, is hosting Nevermore 2009, a yearlong celebration. Festivities include a “Cask of Amontillado Wine Tasting,” the exhibit “Art of Darkness: Inspired by Poe” launching at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and a funeral service at the Westminster Burying Ground (left) in October. Poe died in Baltimore under mysterious circumstances that have never been explained.

Tomorrow night, the Great Poe Debate will take place at the Free Library of Philadelphia with scholars Jeff Jerome of Baltimore, Paul Lewis of Boston, and Edward Pettit of Philadelphia. Up for discussion? Which city can best lay claim to Poe’s legacy.

Looking ahead to Halloween, bibliophiles can take a candlelit tour of the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, which includes the shadowy basement that inspired the setting for his eerie short story “The Black Cat.”

In you can’t make it to one of these literary sites and join in the celebrations, you can honor Poe by delving into some of his works – like “The Raven,” the poem that made him famous; The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, his only novel; or “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” his genre-defining detective story.

Click here for a complete list of Poe bicentennial events.

–Shannon McKenna Schmidt