Why does Mark Feeney have to open his tribute to the late Boston poet Robert Lowell in the June 5 Globe by dissing Boston? “Boston has never been an especially poetical place,” he asserts. Then he talks about “Boston’s indifference to poetry.” Both of these descriptions are factually incorrect – as one can tell by reading Feeney’s description of 4,000 people coming out to hear Lowell read and Feeney’s list of local poetry greats. In the heart of that hall-of-fame roster are Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath, three of the most influential English-language poets of the past century, and pioneers of the “confessional” style that for many people is the very definition of poetry today.
A working definition of “provincialism”: Locals who stare greatness from their hometown in the face, but can’t see it, can’t countenance it because it’s from here, not, say, New York.