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.