You’ve probably heard of the Boston Literary District, but here at the Lyric Stage, we’ve devised a whole new way for you to experience it ― through the eyes of Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell! In honor of our production of Dear Elizabeth, we put together a walking tour of Literary District landmarks directly affiliated with Bishop and Lowell. It is truly an adventure, filled with historical and bookish delight, and we sincerely hope you take the time to check it out. We promise it’ll be worth it!.
91 Revere St
91 Revere Street, up in the lovely Beacon Hill neighborhood, was Robert Lowell’s childhood home. Here he experienced familial tensions that eventually lead to him leaving home when he was a Harvard student in 1937. This address became the name for his prose piece that, in combination with other poems in his volume Life Studies, offers a glimpse at the childhood he once knew. Today, 91 Revere Street is a private home, but you’re welcome (and we encourage you!) to walk by and take a look at the birthplace of the brilliant and influential Robert Lowell.
88 Mt Vernon Street
Mount Vernon Street, also in Beacon Hill, has been home to several literary figures as they spent time in Boston, including Henry James (No. 131), Julia Ward Howe (No. 32), and Robert Frost (No. 88, built 1880). What does this have to do with Elizabeth Bishop or Robert Lowell, you ask? Well it turns out that Lowell knew Frost, bringing to him at this very residence one of his early poems from his Harvard days. Lowell would later write a sonnet in tribute to Frost, titled “Robert Frost,” in which he “recounts a devastating encounter between the two poets.”Furthermore, upon Frost’s passing, Lowell wrote a tribute to him in The New York Review of Books.Like Lowell’s childhood home, Frost’s former residence is now a private dwelling, but who knows? Maybe you could move in there someday! Take a walk past it as you make your way through our tour, and take in the history that surrounds it. It’ll be like Frost and Lowell never even left!
9 Willow Street
9 Willow Street, 6th floor, (another one of those awesome Beacon Hill dwellings) was one of the many homes that Sylvia Plath inhabited. She and her husband Ted Hughes lived here in 1958, both focusing on their writing, while Plath also worked part-time at Massachusetts General Hospital during their stay at Willow Street. Again, you might be wondering why we’re talking about someone who isn’t Bishop or Lowell, but, as some may know, Sylvia Plath was one of Lowell’s “circle,” among other literary figures such as Anne Sexton and Kathleen Spivack (who wrote a memoir about it called With Robert Lowell and His Circle). Plath was deeply influenced by Lowell’s work, and the “pivotal moment” in her career is said to have come from her deep questioning of Lowell’s use of the word “somewhere” in his 1963 interview with A. Alvarez. Today, Plath’s old apartment is on and off for sale, but still viewable from street level ― another delightful stop on our tour!
Beacon Street, Opposite State House ― Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
Ever seen the movie Glory? That 1989, heart-shattering Civil War film starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman? Well, if you have, then you’re familiar with Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who led the first volunteer regiment of African-American soldiers, the Massachusetts 54th Regiment. The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, a bronze sculpture honoring the young colonel and his regiment, can be found on Beacon Street, across from the State House. Interestingly, in Robert Lowell’s poem “For the Union Dead,” Lowell contrasts “Boston’s historic era of heroism with the modern era of cars and parking garages.” This poem was inspired by and references this very memorial. Stop by here and contemplate the great sacrifice and honor of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, and how its story compelled Lowell to make a commentary on wartime heroism.
There are several other stops on our Dear Elizabeth tour, but we just wanted to highlight a few of our favorites for you! We hope you can find the time to investigate some or all of these awesome historical sites, and see Boston from Lowell and Bishop’s eyes. Don’t forget to come see the Lyric Stage Company’s presentation of Dear Elizabeth, running until November 9, 2014. www.lyricstage.com/tickets.