A party for patrons of Poe’s works

Story by Valerie Phillips
(Standard-Examiner correspondent)
Mon, Oct 14, 2013
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About 80 people will experience a “Poe-tic” meal this weekend, with a touch of the macabre.

As part of the Halloween season, Rovali’s Ristoriante on Ogden’s 25th Street is hosting its third annual Poe Night. It’s actually two nights — Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19, from

7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“The event has gotten more popular every year,” said restaurant owner Alex Montanez, who is a fan of the 19th-century author. In fact, the event is already sold out, with a waiting list of more than 20 people who are hoping someone else will cancel.

“This year promises to be the best year yet, as we are featuring an Edgar Allan Poe Art Show Auction and professional ghost-story tellers,” said Montanez.

Guests will dine on the restaurant’s courtyard, where original artwork based on Poe’s poems will be displayed and offered for silent auction.

The courtyard is decked out with spooky lights and propane heaters to keep diners warm. Over lasagna, vodka tortellini or chicken Parmesan, storytellers will read some of Poe’s writings.

Montanez said he came up with the idea because he’s a great admirer of Poe’s works.

“I like to think I’m a poet at heart, and I just appreciate that he can plunder up imagery in his poetry, not that he’s all gloom and doom,” Montanez said. “After reviewing his history, he was really quite a sad man.”

Even if you’re not an avid reader of Poe, you’ve likely seen adaptations of his horror stories, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

His haunting poem “The Raven” was required reading in many high school English classes.

Poe was born in 1809 and died at age 40. He spent much of his short life as an editor for newspapers and magazines, and tried to make a living with his writing. Even back then, it was a hard go. His father abandoned the family, his mother died when he was a baby, and he became estranged from his adoptive father.

His wife (whom he married when she was just 13) died young, and Poe had a well-documented drinking problem. With those kind of life issues, perhaps it’s no wonder he came up with some gloomy, mysterious stories.

His own death was perhaps the biggest mystery of all. He was supposed to be on a train to New York, but somehow ended up wandering in Baltimore, delirious. He wasn’t coherent enough to explain what happened to him.

“He crawled into a bar, and was found where he wasn’t supposed to be, in clothes that weren’t his,” said Montanez.

Like many writers, artists and musicians, his troubled talent wasn’t well-appreciated until after his death.

Montanez is planning to read a poem of his own, written after he had read all of Poe’s poems in one sitting. “I told my wife that I went to a really dark place to write it,” he said.

John and Phoebe Poe, Utahns descended from Edgar Allan Poe’s family, will be special guests at the dinner, said Montanez. “Drienie Hattingh, the (compiler) of ‘Tales From Two-Bit Street and Beyond,’ is the one who reached out to them to see if they wanted to participate. They jumped at the chance and it was a huge win for Poe Night.”

When Poe Night was conceived two years ago, it was just one night.

“This year, we decided to do two nights, because we thought it was gaining momentum, and we were right,” Montanez said. “It sold out in 10 days.”

Given this year’s interest, he’s thinking of expanding it to two weekends next year.

“In fact, some people are telling me that this event may eventually outgrow Rovali’s.”

Valerie Phillips blogs at www.chewandchat.blogspot.com.

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