Friday, August 29, 2014

A Poetry Salon: Kathleen Spivack reads from With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz and Others

Richard Murphy invites you to the launch of his new poetry salon series with Kathleen Spivack as she presents from With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz and Others. The launch will take place on Sunday, September 28, 2014, in Marblehead, MA, at 1:30 PM. Please come and share the afternoon with us, including high tea, music, Kathleen’s presentation, and open discussion.

Reading from With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz and Others, Kathleen will talk about the literary influences of New England on the work on these poets she knew, and transport you to the ambience of the early 60s Boston literary scene. There will be lots of time for discussion. We hope you can make it, and please also bring your friends! This promises to be a lovely afternoon get together for writers and readers of poetry in the area. We look forward to spending the afternoon with you, and with this warm and beautiful gathering of like minds!

Important note: Rich has only 25 places available, so please RSVP to Rich Murphy by Sunday, September 21. 781-789-7093 or

Below is the program and more information. Also attached is further information about With Robert Lowell and His Circle. We look forward to seeing you there!

All the best,
Kathleen Spivack and Rich Murphy


A Poetry Salon: Kathleen Spivack reads from With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz and OthersSunday, September 28, 2014
32 Pinecliff Drive, Marblehead, MA

1:30 PM: Please join us for music and high tea
2:00 PM: Kathleen’s presentation and discussion

Seating limited to 25 guests
RSVP required!Please RSVP by Sunday, September 21, to Rich Murphy, 781-789-7093,


With Robert Lowell and His Circle: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton,
 Elizabeth Bishop, Stanley Kunitz, & Others
 by Kathleen Spivack
The book is available through the University Press of New England:
Call toll-free, 1-800-421-1561, email, or visit their website at http:// Also available online and at your local bookstores.
A memoir of a famous poetry circle…
In 1959 Kathleen Spivack won a fellowship to study at Boston University with Robert Lowell. Her 
fellow students were Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, among others. Thus began a relationship with the 
famous poet and his circle that would last to the end of his life in 1977 and beyond. Spivack presents a 
lovingly rendered story of her time among some of the most esteemed artists of a generation. Part 
memoir, part loose collection of anecdotes, artistic considerations, and soulful yet clear-eyed 
reminiscences of a lost time and place, hers is an intimate portrait of the often suffering Lowell, the 
great and near great artists he attracted, his teaching methods, his private world, and the significant 
legacy he left to his students. Through the story of a youthful artist finding her poetic voice among 
literary giants, Spivack thoughtfully considers how poets work. She looks at friendships, addiction, 
despair, perseverance and survival, and how social changes altered lives and circumstances. This is a 
beautifully written portrait of friends who loved and lived words, and made great beauty together.
“This book is absorbing and alive, human and compelling . . . the best 
memoir yet about Robert Lowell.”
—Steven Gould Axelrod, University of California, Riverside
“A portrait [of Lowell] that serves to define his role as poet and teacher in 
fresh and significant ways . . . . This is a memoir that will make an impact 
right away and that will be referred to by scholars, readers and 
biographers for many years to come.” —Thomas Travisano, Hartwick 
“I devoured your book in one sitting last weekend; it’s extraordinarily 
evocative of the poet and his time, your time. Thank you so much for 
writing it . . .” —Don Share, Senior Editor, Poetry Magazine
“I couldn't put the book down except to eat or sleep... a moving portrait of 
Lowell and a really valuable antidote to Hamilton's view of constant 
breakdown and mania...” —Barrie Goldensohn, Skidmore College
“…Spivack records Lowell’s mix of generosity and obliviousness that 
endeared him to writer friends and students ….. [Her]portrait offers a window on a man,a city, and a method for 
anyone not lucky enough to have taken part in those times.” —Valerie Duff, The Boston Globe
“...a passionate, unpretentious and carefully documented memoir in which the main character is not a poet––
although the book is full of lively sketches of writers...––but the practice of poetry itself. We see the intensity 
and sheer everyday labor,with insight into the particular impact of the period on women writers.” —Elena 

Harap, StreetFe

Thursday, August 28, 2014


By Jim Vrable

University of Massachusetts Press
Amherst and Boston 2014

Review by Tom Miller

“Boston, today, is seen as one of America’s best cities-one that works for its resident, generates jobs, welcomes visitors, remembers its past, and embraces its future…  Credit for building the New Boston usually goes to a small group of “city fathers”…  But that is only half of the story…”  So starts a book that is a story not so much about what happened as what did NOT happen and WHY it did not happen. 

Like many Northeastern and Midwestern cities in the aftermath of the mobilization for World War II, Boston fell into at least stagnation if not decay in the 1940s and 50s.  Spurred by federal programs to revitalize the cities, most notably Urban Renewal, Boston leaders in both the public and private (for profit) sectors set forth an ambitious if not totally coherent plan to remove the blight of poor and run down areas in the city.  Their vision was to replace them with grand buildings and expressways creating a “world class” city focused upon a dynamic and vital city center while essentially ignoring if not removing the contiguous outlying areas of the rest of the city.  Jobs and growth.  Jobs and growth were the mantras.  And credit must be given to these initiatives for Boston having become what it is today.  

However, this transition from the “Old Boston” to the “New Boston” as Jim Vrabel defines then versus now was not without difficulty.  The fact that Boston is a livable, vital and caring place to live and work lies as much in the hands of those who spoke out against overbearing government and private interest groups.  These entities were so focused on the material results that they gave little if any concern to the effect upon those folks who resided in the various communities and were in fact the heartbeat of the city.

As Vrabel notes, Boston was a conglomeration of neighborhoods that were not necessarily insular but nonetheless were culturally unique within their somewhat loosely defined boundaries.  Most were blue collar to middle class.  Some were ethnic.  Some were minority.  Each had developed an individual sense of community and pride in that community.

In the rush to construct the New Boston, these communities were never considered in any fashion other than as objects to be overcome and thus the people who lived in them were never consulted about what was to take place and how it might affect them.

The essential if not intended thrust of Urban Renewal was to remove blighted structures and replace them with modern ones.  In most plans it was a given that there would be fewer living units (and more expensive ones) than what had existed previously, but little if any concern was expressed about what was to happen to those families who were displaced in this transition.  Where would they live?  No one seemed to care.
The obliteration by Urban Renewal of Boston’s West End neighborhood was the opening salvo in this campaign and it served as THE wake up call to all the other neighborhoods in Boston.  From this action came awareness.  From awareness came reaction.  And from reaction sprang the rise of the activists of the 1960s and 70s which forced governments – city, state, national – to become accountable and concerned.

Mr. Vrable has very skillfully detailed the complex currents of events that occurred often in concert with one and other during this tumultuous era. Quoting interviews, scholarly works, news reports and other sources he manages to walk us through a very intricate fabric of the causes and manners of ordinary peoples’ reactions to how decisions made by others affected their lives and what they did about it.  He names names.  He defines the dozens of community action groups that arose, who led them, what successes and failures they had.   He takes to task some leaders of government, particularly mayors and their designees, and city and state agencies as well.  But he also gives credit where credit is due.

In his final chapter Mr. Vrabel states, “The New Boston has come a long way from the Old Boston, but all this progress didn’t come about by accident.  For the last sixty years, the city has benefited from having capable leaders (particularly mayors), strong institutions, and the imagination and nerve to strike off in new directions.  But it also benefited – in the 1960s and 1970s – from having residents who refused to just follow along.” 

Neighborhoods, expressways, jobs, schools and busing, Viet Nam and a variety of other issues, including The Public Garden, caused activism and organization at a grass roots level within the city.  In 22 chapters and 235 pages Mr. Vrable touches on them all.  This book is not intended to be a definitive study of any particular group, cause or effect but rather to give an introduction and an overview of what happened in Boston in a specific time when ordinary citizens chose to be heard.  And not only to be heard but to participate in decisions that were being made that would affect their lives and communities.  Their actions in combination have had perhaps the most significant effect in how Boston has come to be the city that it is today.  As such the book serves as an opening door inviting a more in depth study of community dynamics and should be of particular interest to community planners, sociologists and historians.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

About the Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading: On Wednesday the 27th of August 2014 at 7:30 pm

About the Seamus Heaney Memorial Reading
On Wednesday the 27th of August 2014 at 7:30 pm
At First Church Congregationalist
11 Garden Street by the Sheraton Commander off of Harvard Square

by Michael Todd Steffen

The reading to honor Seamus Heaney this Wednesday came about in a very simple way. We had a reading this past May in the Hastings Room of the church. That reading went well and drew a lot of compliments for the space. Steve Brown, who helps organize events at the church, brought up the idea of doing another reading this summer, for late August. Wondering how to organize it, which readers to choose, and being an admiring reader of Heaney’s, I proposed that we make the reading to remember him around the one-year anniversary of his death, August 30 2013. Then I’d know I was looking for Irish-American poets, and I had Joan Houlihan and Daniel Tobin in mind right away. Joan brought up the excellent suggestion that we invite Fred Marchant who knew Seamus Heaney. I also for my own reasons wanted to have Doug Holder there as a reader. And Alex Green who runs Back Pages Book Store and Publishing in Waltham will be making a presentation of a fine press broadside he did of a poem given to him for that purpose by Heaney.

The poets will be reading, I believe, something of Heaney’s as well as from their own work. Each of the readers has something unique that relates to Seamus’s poetry. Notions or themes will sort of guide the event, like the mystery and inspiration of craft, of written language and poetry, the “living past,” what the voice of peace says in a time of war and violence, and the poet of his times relating tradition on his individual terms. Any one of the readers would have been sufficient as a feature reader. They are all really that good. But since it was a special occasion, I just reached out to the people I felt I knew well enough to invite. The Boston-Cambridge area must have many many poets worthy of such an occasion. Maybe the readings at the Hastings Room will be extended, and we’ll be able to do this again, and bring more dimension into Heaney’s legacy in the area, but nothing like that has been projected yet.

Our readers each have exciting new work to share, published this year or forthcoming. I think what Joan Houlihan has done in her narratives The Us and Ay speaks so relevantly and freshly to remind us who we are beneath our layers of historical expectations (and excuses), which Heaney expressed so well in his archeological poems. I’m also very excited about having Daniel Tobin who has written so extensively and insightfully in his book Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney. Daniel also has just this year put out a very powerful book of his own poetry called The Net. I think Fred Marchant has something special in the way of reminiscence and homage for Heaney. Fred has a book forthcoming from Graywolf Press, The Later Day, in 2016. The evening has a promise of wonder about it very suitable for Heaney who was a much endeared poet and individual to the Harvard community, to Ireland, and to the world. Doug Holder has had a new collection, Eating Grief at 3 A. M., released this year by Muddy River Press. Holder’s poetry in its own way, as it has been described “spare yet rich,” I think evokes the epigramist’s rigor that utterly haunts so much of the silence in Heaney’s riddling poems. Alex Green’s broadside and his story about getting this poem from Heaney will fascinate us all. Everybody who wants to celebrate Heaney’s memory and poetry is more than welcome. That’s what it’s all about. It’ll be a great time.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fishing On the Pole Star Poems by Paul Pines

Fishing On the Pole Star
Poems by Paul Pines
Collages by Wayne Atherton
Dos Madres Press
Loveland, Ohio
ISBN 978-1-939929-11-2
94 Pages

Review by Dennis Daly

Have writer’s block or artistic ennui? Find yourself bereft of inspiration and adrift in life’s doldrums? My advice: go fishing! Even better, get Paul Pines’ new book of poems, Fishing on the Pole Star.

Pines turns this wonderfully chronicled fishing voyage with a family of friends through the Bahamian isles inward, across lines of deeper self-knowledge and surprising allegory. Dream-like collages and a contrast of gorgeous maps, both antique and modern, add a soulful surrealism that seems magically appropriate.

Many trolling poets would be more than satisfied with the transfixing images, ethical considerations, and iridescent lines that these pieces serve up, but Pines is after bigger fish. He seems intent on examining his sense of self and beyond into the deeper ocean of poetry and archetypes.  

Early on, in a poem entitled A Family At Sea, the poet confronts the ethics of killing fish. He recalls,

    stalking a yellow tail family
    around a coral head in Belize
    the moment when father
    falling behind his wife
    and kids turned
    to face me       
            gills puffed out
            his helpless fearlessness
            against my spear

The use of the provocative word “wife” gives me some pause. But this goes beyond anthropomorphic considerations. Here the poetry confronts the nature of existence and at this node of consciousness the poet-fisherman recognizes himself. Other examples later on in the same poem elaborate on this singular lesson. One of them strangely happens in dreamtime.

Judith dreamed she
was reeling in a dolphin then became the dolphin
being reeled

relives how it felt to be gaffed
hauled into the boat
flopped on her side
gasping in the air

            as fishermen
            on her beauty

And, yes, I see that there is obviously a lot more going on in these lines.

Uninhabited Concepcion Island offers sanctuary to birds on its tiny area of 2 miles by 2.7 miles. In his poem by the same name Pines meditates on the changing nature of conscious reality. His phrasing in the heart of the poem is quite lovely.

        all worlds are
        small worlds

or standing alone

each with
        its own evolutionary

            of longing

the hardened shale
of volcanic anger

In the third section of the poem Live Bait Buddha Pines details perfectly the frustrations of artistic creation. He’s working with live bait and fishing for that moment of inspiration that all poets seek or should seek.

        a hit

I put the reel in free spool
prepare for the impact
its furious weight

            as I do when trolling
            for a poem

before the line goes slack
and I pull up
        what the shark has left

        ragged remains

Mysticism of a sort rears its head in Pine’s poem entitled Crooked Island Passage. Translucent lines troll the oceanic darkness for divinity’s fire. Dolphins and their lovers respond, then are hooked and released. The piece opens with a religious connection,

Caleb swims
with Eagle Rays
in formation off Cape Verde

    long tails and wings
    like Tibetan temple flags
unfold to include him
in their play

    the leader
    eye to eye
    at his mask 

silent acceptance
of an alien species

Without any doubt the poem Marlin Strike tail walks the water as the climatic piece in Pines’ collection. In its movement the reader senses the powerful force and musical depth of poetry drawn up from a collective unconscious. The fishermen of the Pole Star wire and bring to heel a marlin of mythical significance. The contest ends serenely and in a life affirming manner. A hook is removed and wounds seem to heal—perhaps wounds afflicting both species. Here the poetry of another realm awakens into consciousness and connects with the artist as creator. Pines describes this numinous moment,

    he bites down twice
    gently on Caleb’s hand
    signals he’s ready

we gaze into
the perfect roundness of his eye
watch the boundary
  between us


    in that great wink of eternity

        the Divine Child

        watch him swim

Creation demands the innocence and wonderment of a child. Even the momentary spark of conscious exchange will do. The poet at this moment becomes his art.

South of Concepcion (consider the allegorical implications in this now repeated name) Pines composes a most intriguing image—an alphabet of birds—in his title poem, Fishing On the Pole Star. The poet/explorer, here identified with Christopher Columbus, who died penniless, gets to have his moment of fame, albeit, in a preternatural way. Here’s how Pines describes it,

        where Columbus
        touched terra incognita
        before dying
        sin centavo

                an alphabet
                of birds spells out
                his name

                on an visible

Using his penultimate piece as a denouement, Pines once again weaves dreamtime into his poetic adventure. The poet returns to his unmoving natural state—home,

…Odysseus at sea
on his way

back to reclaim
his kingdom

a star among
stars blown off

course seldom

anywhere by

A worthy Odyssey of words from a true fisher king!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Looking for Art by Bert Robbens: A Somerville Gumshoe in a Gentrifying City


Looking for Art by Bert Robbens: A Somerville Gumshoe in a Gentrifying City

Review by Doug Holder

 The past informs the present. And in the mystery novel based in Somerville Looking for Art by Bert Robbens, the ghost of Somerville’s past haunts the present day landscape. Robbens mines the milieu of the 60s and 70s Somerville, the very one that spawned the likes of Howie Winter and the Winter Hill Gang, and other assorted thugs. His story involves the men and women from that crowd and its ilk who remain around today, and the younger folks who heard the stories, the myths, the hype, and the brass tacks.

Looking for Art is also a lament for the old city; a city that is being transformed by the rapid-fire pace of gentrification. The author captures the generational conflict, the old grudges, through excellent characterization and snappy dialogue that rings true. His characters are shades of gray—not black or white. They can be walking contradictions—like we all are.

The plot concerns the protagonist Joe, an ex-cop, who has lived in Davis Square all of his forty years. Joe is contacted by a former Somerville resident, Eileen, who now has a cushy job and a home in the tony suburb of Lexington, Mass. She hires Joe to find her missing father Art. Art, back in the day, was involved in the gang wars in Somerville, and now is in hiding as his unsavory past comes back for its pound of flesh. Joe, a street smart, self-styled gumshoe, could be in a Raymond Chandler novel. He talks tough, but inside he has an acute sense of his own failings as well as a sense of decency and honor.

Obviously, Robbens knows Somerville well, and can describe an old tavern, a slightly gone-to-seed Somerville home, and the trendy newcomers to our city, with right on accuracy.  On the first page of the novel Robbens gives a description of The Old Town Tavern—that gave me the look, the feel, the taste of any number of gin joints I frequented in our burg:

“ The Old Town Tavern had been a fixture in Somerville for more than fifty years. The building had been there for a hundred. Most of the interior hadn’t changed. The dark wood floor was original, as was the stamped tin ceiling. The bar was heavy wood, inlaid with some kind of textured black plastic. It had probably been installed when the tavern had taken over the space. It was all good material and workmanship, but it had seen a lot of service. The Yuppies would have taken over the place and called it ‘shabby chic’ if they been stiff-armed by the townies who considered it their turf.”
Since I am a long-time denizen of Union Square, and I have heard the hype of the wonderful new gleaming city that the new subway will bring, I was particularly affected by this passage where Joe ponders the plight of Brazilians immigrant and his own shaky future:

“ They were doing what generations of Somervillians had done before, what his own grandparents had done. The came here to work and make a better life for themselves and their families. As he saw it, that was what the city was for, part of its fundamental nature, and something to be proud of. The Brazilians didn’t organize massive criminal businesses to bleed the city dry…and they weren’t Yuppie colonists taking over in the name of Starbucks and sushi. But he feared for them, just as he feared for himself and the rest of his old time working class neighbors. Slowly, but inevitably, they were losing their grip on the city. Economic forces and changing tastes were forcing them out. The Brazilians would find a someplace to go, someplace with cheap housing and jobs, someplace where enough of them can gather to feel comfortable, a new home. For Joe, it wouldn’t be that easy. Somerville was his home. For him, there would be no other, not in his lifetime. If he went somewhere else—anywhere—he would be a stranger. The only thing he could do was hold on to his home as long as he could, until it changed so much it was no longer home.”

Robbens keep the plot moving in this book with quirky characters and Somerville archetypes. This is more than a mystery—it makes a political and sociological statement about so called ‘progress’ and what is left in its wake.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cracker crumbs in the bed, rhinestones by Amy Wright

Cracker crumbs in the bed, rhinestones
by Amy Wright
© 2014 by Amy Wright
Dancing Girl Press
Chicago, Illinois
Chapbook, softbound, $7

Review by Tom Daley

In Amy Wright’s chapbook, Cracker crumbs in the bed, rhinestones, the stereotype of the redneck as connoisseur of the tawdry is simultaneously elaborated and exploded. Wright, who seems to be rooting through direct observation as much as legend, manages to mold grand metaphors out of knock-offs, close-outs, seconds, and Dollar Store stock clearances as she relishes this particularly peculiar American phenomenon.

Mocking the feudal-derived hierarchies of our European heritage, the backwoods yeoman and yeowoman are elevated to “Barons of Cascade dish detergent and empires / of shoe shine.” With affectionate and winking attention to detail, Wright imagines these nobles as contriving their thrifty etiquette, their hopeful couture, and their shambling fashion statements out of the material possibilities afforded by the minimum wage. They

hoard their stings & sediment,
wind neon carnival necklaces over gear shifts,
propose by twining Christmas tree tinsel
around a lover’s finger.

Flirting with cultural clichés about a particular class of people makes for a risky project, especially in poetry, but Wright probes the pigeonhole, plucks its feathers, and scoops its guano with a brave and unabashed delight. The chutzpah sometimes takes one’s breath away, as in this litany of fun-poking at the beleaguered cracker’s predilections:

Crackers render the fat of the beloved
into Crisco, pour their hearts into
the great collaborative dumbwaiter,
console themselves with peppermint toddies
& Hershey’s syrup.

Yet there is honor in Grand Ole Opryland, as testified to by an elevation of “ordinary” into something almost sacral. These priests and priestesses of Cheez Whiz “dream in third person, / fast after services in backwoods churches / until nothing is ordinary or all things are.” “Ordinary” gives many meanings in its ecclesiastical context: An ordinary is a member of the clergy capable of judging matters of spiritual significance; it is the correct form that a religious service takes; and it is, in the Roman Catholic Church, “the parts of the daily Mass that do not change from day to day” (Encarta World English Dictionary). The word “ordinary” derives from “order,” and the famous handiness of the average cracker receives its due when you follow the etymological trail. “Order” derives from Latin ordinem, “originally ‘a row of threads in a loom,’ from Italic root *ord- ‘to arrange, arrangement’ (source of ordiri ‘to begin to weave;’ compare primordial), of unknown origin” (Online Etymological Dictionary).

Lampooned as ignorant and buffoonesque in the general culture, the cracker ultimately wins a recognition of his or her intelligence from Wright when we hear that they “plunge giddy into the elemental clamor knowing / the remains will be transparent & the guards ill-timed.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

Interview: Author Anthony Sammarco finds the ‘Lost Boston’

Anthony Sammarco

Author Anthony Sammarco finds the ‘Lost Boston’

By Doug Holder

  Writer Anthony Sammarco is a walking archive of the lost Boston. He has written a plethora of history/ photography books about the various neighborhoods in Boston, as well about that beloved, defunct, fried clam-- totting franchise Howard Johnson’s, that was founded in the Bay State.  His latest pictorial history book is titled Lost Boston… a book that traces the long vanished landmarks and institutions in the city of Boston. Sammarco brings all of these back to the collective consciousness.

 I had the privilege to interview Sammarco on my Somerville Public TV show: Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer. I asked Sammarco if this book was a lament for things past, he responded: “I lament the lost institutions, and buildings in Boston. I understand though that Boston is in a constant state of change, and some of the buildings must be destroyed by the advancement of the city, fires, natural causes, etc…But I hope people reading and viewing the book will realize the importance of preservation. The city always reinvents itself, every generation. Boston and the surrounding suburbs are now very different than the they were 25 to 50 years ago.”

Sammarco pointed out that Boston has a rich overlay of the 17th and 18th century and a strong connection to its historical past. In the past 25 years the city has been built up a great deal, with a strong emphasis on the downtown and the waterfront. Sammarco reflected: “I was on the waterfront recently looking for shops and bars that I remembered and patronized. For the most part they are gone. The hotels and restaurants that are there now attract people who would never go there in the past. And so this new development becomes an integral part of the city.” Sammarco continued: “There are neighborhoods that remain frozen in time, Beacon Hill, and the Back Bay. This has happened because of preservation interests, historical commissions, etc… But I always remember that the city is going to change, and that is probably for the best.”

As Sammarco talked my mind drifted back to Ken’s Deli in Copley Square in the 70s. I used to hang out there after a night of the theatre at the Colonial, a movie at the old Exeter Theater, or after hanging out in bars, or clubs. It was a wonderful place, with a great cast of characters: drag queens, eccentric old ladies who lived with a brood of cats, surly waitresses who would call you “honey ” through gritted teeth, people who got off their night shift jobs, theater people, entertainers, all nursing a sandwich and a cup of coffee or tea, and perhaps a pastry, after a night of working or partying. The Deli closed a long time ago but I asked Sammarco about it: He recalled, “I remember frequenting it in the 70s and 80s, to get my favorite turkey club. I used to ogle the people who were in the place. During Halloween for instance you would see a variety of Dorothy-- costumed people , as if they were from the cast of the Wizard of Oz, waiting online to get in. They served great food with copious servings. There was no drinking; you had that at the clubs before you came.  During the day there were businessmen, or ladies who lunched, but at night it really came alive.” Although Ken’s is part of the lost Boston, Sammarco is philosophical about it, he said: “As the city evolves you begin to realize that younger people have different interpretations of our city. A place like Ken’s—coffee and sandwiches—a place to chat, may seem like some quaint, archaic things to folks now.”

And being, well…a, sort of man of letters… I have been a longtime denizen of the Boston Public Library. I worked on my thesis there at the Bates Reading Room, with the dour bust of Henry James peering over me. He probably spotted typos. I wanted Sammarco to fill me in on the history of this great public institution. Sammarco was more than willing, he said: “Well…you know at the time of the Civil War the Boston Public Library was a very important institution. There was a sign over the door there that stated: ' Free to all.' " According to Sammarco Boston had private libraries like the Boston Athenaeum, but nothing really for the public at large. A bunch of people came together and donated their private libraries to benefit all the people of Boston. The Copley Square building was completed in 1895. The old Boston library was down the block on Boylston St. across from the Boston Common. The Colonial Theater now resides there. The Bates Reading Room, which I spent many a long hour in, was according to Sammarco, named after a benefactor of the library Joshua Bates, an international financier born in Weymouth, Mass. In 1852 he founded the old library near the Common by giving 50,000 dollars for that purpose. He also gave 30,000 volumes to the library.

I also remember the elevated tracks in the South End. I used to love the train that lifted me above the city in a sort of transcendent state, to see a panoramic view of the crowds, the buildings, the ebb and flow. Sammarco again filled in the details: “The elevated tracks were started in the late 19th Century. They were in reaction to the city streets that were jammed with pedestrians, carriages and wagons. The elevated tracks provided a quick way to get around Boston for the working class citizens and others from 5:30AM to 12AM.”

I told Sammarco my favorite bus line was the Dudley line. I took that bus from the Back Bay ( Where I lived at the time) to my teaching job at Dr. Solomon Carter Mental Health Center. The route traverses quite a cross section of the city: from Harvard University to the heart of Roxbury. Sammarco said: “The Dudley Bus is quite dramatic. I also enjoy the downtown bus that goes to City Point in Southie.”

At the end of our discussion, Lost Boston was found, at least for me. I was glad Sammarco so skillfully facilitated this… here, in the Paris of New England.