I want to discuss community and imagery, social division and literary unity, Boston poetry and prose. In most issues of NEJPP I will focus upon those recent books that fire our imaginations and help us shape our sense of local and regional place. In this issue, however, I want to look back at the tradition of imagery that resonates in Boston's history. Old ideas of Boston are quickly being buried under layers of architectural and cultural renewal. While the suburbs become more urbanized and the commuter roads more clogged, downtown Boston is in the midst of the greatest building boom since after the fire of 1872. The graceful, Florentine Custom House, once Boston's tallest building, will soon be overshadowed by the massive International Place complex, just as the Bulfinch State House has long been crowded by glass boxes along Boston's skyline. The new Boston seems aggressive, glitzy, pricey, a consumer's fortress, like the vast mall-and-hotel complex called Copley Place. Still, other less looming images of Boston persist, as Henry James discovered after he found his home on Ashburton Place razed, and as Robert Lowell discovered amid the rubble of the excavations for the garage under the Boston Common. Boston's real treasures, finally, are not its buildings but the images of permanence created in James's American Scene, Lowell's "For the Union Dead," and many other works. In this issue of NEJPP it would be timely to look back at that informing body of imagery. Only by knowing who we have been can we possibly understand who we are and how each of us is linked to ideas of place, this place: Boston.
"Imagining Boston: The City as Image and Experience (1986),"
New England Journal of Public Policy:
1, Article 7.
Available at: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/nejpp/vol28/iss1/7