Tally’s Questions Continue… Oct 18th @ 6:15pm O’Maley

Gloucester, Massachusetts. Main street, 1943. Gordon Parks (1912-2006), photographer.

Gloucester, Massachusetts. Main street, 1943.                      Gordon Parks (1912-2006), photographer.

On Tuesday, October 18th at O’Maley Innovation School 6:15 pm, the City Council will hold a special meeting to review the resubmission of the MassDOT Prioritization Plan of the Safe and Accessible Street Program.

See link to agenda:

From information that has been gathered, the City will be resubmitting to the State a scaled back proposal for improvements to Tally’s corner which will consist of sidewalk improvements and withhold the rotary concept.

As required by the State Policy, the goal of Complete Streets is to design, operate and maintain Gloucester’s streets in a context sensitive manner to promote and ensure safety and accessibility for all users. It does not assert this program is inherently appropriate for every road construction project. To the contrary, the State program provides further flexibility to the City via criteria for exemptions from inclusion, which can be evoked by the Mayor. Being primarily pedestrian and bicycle focused State funding, it lends itself more to other priority projects such as school routes, which were preferred by several City Councilors during the Policy approval process.

Therefore, the revised proposal for sidewalks, which will complement the newly installed ADA compliant sidewalks on Commercial St., should through a context sensitive approach, first protect and provide for the primary use of continued heavy commercial vehicular traffic on the Designated Port Area roadways.

The rotary proposal, which called for reducing radii, utilizing “neckdowns”, widening of sidewalks, narrowing streets and installing pedestrian islands are all counter productive for ease of access of large commercial vehicles. These restrictive measures would result in a rerouting of commercial truck traffic exclusively to the Blackburn Rotary, the 128 extension, Rogers St. and Commercial St. If implemented, which class of commercial trucks to be rerouted remains to be determined. Due to the restrictive nature of the rotary proposal, tractor trailers were assured to be rerouted. However, subject to inclusion would be passenger buses, large box trucks, ten-wheel, eight-wheel and double axle trucks. This would impact all industrial sectors, businesses and delivery trucks servicing the City.

We are anticipating a fully transparent presentation by City staff, which should include a revised, detailed work narrative and plans for review by the City Council and the public. As stated by DPW Director Mike Hale at the last presentation to City Council, the sidewalks set the context for what is to be developed between the sidewalks. We are also awaiting an inclusive process with business owners and the public to review plans and weigh in on impacts and implications of any proposed changes.


pattiPatti Page, EG consultant, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and former director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.

Rounding the Corner at Tally’s

Rounding the Corner at Tally's

Photo Courtesy Bing McGilvray

Listed on the City Council agenda for Tuesday October 11th, is the presentation by Mike Hale and Dan Smith on the Tally’s corner project timeline.

As stated in the Safe and Accessible Streets Plan (SAASP) policy signed by the Mayor, a requirement of the process is for the DPW Director to collaborate with and solicit input with several entities on major reconstruction projects.  To date, this has not taken place with the area businesses or residents.  We are interested to know which City departments were consulted during the planning phase?  Was the City’s Fire Department consulted for emergency vehicle access?  Given Coastal Zone Management’s jurisdiction over DPA areas, were they approached to weigh in?

SAASP Policy:  3.  Procedure for creating more safe and accessible streets:

“…the Public Works Director shall collaborate and share information with departments, residents, developers and other organizations on annual street maintenance plans and major reconstruction projects by soliciting questions and concerns to ensure safety and accessibility for all users with a context sensitive approach.”

According to the State MA DOT Funding Priority Program chart, this proposal does not consider Freight Operations as a criteria of the project.  How does a project go forward without such considerations on a DPA roadway which has a primary function to service businesses on Commercial Street?  How does this meet the criteria of a context sensitive approach?

In the 2012 hotel development traffic study, by their own engineers, there was no such finding for major reconstruction necessary for this area. Their recommendations consisted of lane designations and signage.

The joint Ward meeting on September 15th, held after the proposal was submitted to the State for stage Tier III funding, produced much concern and no support for the plan.  There are several Commercial Street business owners expressing deep concern over this proposal as having a potential negative impact on their business operations.  There have been assurances made by the City there is latitude to make modifications to the plan.

Given the lack of public process, lack of collaboration with City departments and omission of any detailed plans provided to City Council during the approval stages, this proposal should be pulled back for further review.

We once again ask when and to what extent public input will be solicited to produce a plan which serves to support area businesses, provide user safety, enhance aesthetics and produce a cost effective solution.


pattiPatti Page, EG consultant, of Gloucester, is retired from a career in federal fisheries regulatory compliance work and a past member of the City’s Waterways Board.  She is a founder and director of Sail GHS, the sailing program for students across Cape Ann, and is dedicated to a broad range of working waterfront advocacy issues.

Oarmaster 2016

By Jim Tarantino

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At 7 a.m. on October 1st, it was raining and blowing 15-20 mph out of the NNW….and the forecast called for intensifying. Perfect weather for the 8th Annual Oarmaster’s Cup, the solo race for Gloucester dory rowers who are brave enough to face the elements and each other to determine who is the best Grand Banks dory rower on Cape Ann.  John Francis left no one questioning the answer, crushing the competition by a full minute, with a time of 17:53, over the roughly 2-Mile course around Gloucester’s Outer Harbor!

The first heat featured Francis, former Seineboat Champion Jim Looney, newcomer Wally Mears, and myself: defending, two-time Oarmaster Champ. The wind and rain were coming hard when the gun went off and Francis wasted no time powering off the starting line to an early lead. Not to be easily defeated, Mears torqued up the power, but broke an oar, bringing his dory sideways.  I then broke an oar, pulling a hard right to avoid a collision, and ended up on the deck causing a great deal of commotion, and almost a call to the Coast Guard by officials Joe Novello and Gus Sanfilippo on the Committee Boat! Once it was determined I wasn’t injured and had no spare oar, the Committee boat gave me an anchor to keep me from blowing to Boston and left to continue monitoring the course, which John Francis was now destroying. Mears had a spare oar and, after checking to make sure I wasn’t seriously hurt, powered his way to an impressive second-place finish!

The second heat brought less rain and higher wind! Gloucestermen Vincenzo Terranova, Mike Harmon, Erik Dombrowski and Bill Edmonds were up to the challenge! All dories got out strong. By the first turn it was a two boat race between experienced champion rowers Dombrowski and Harmon. They battled close but after the second turn Harmon turned it on and pulled ahead. But the strong Northerly winds forced him and Dombrowski toward the rocks before the finish line at Half Moon Beach, and young Vincenzo Terranova was coming on strong over the last quarter mile. Harmon scraped the rocks and Terranova powered up for a photo finish, both men finishing with a time of 18:55!

What an honor to compete with these men who can skillfully navigate 450-pound workboats in a gale of wind on America’s most storied fishing port. What a great Maritime tradition! We should all be grateful to the men and women who keep these events going, and keep our Community so genuine…so special… so Gloucester!


jimmy-tarantinoJames Tarantino (Jimmy T.) is an exemplary outdoor enthusiast who heralds his love of family, his friends, and his passion for all things Gloucester.




The Land Within: Further Thoughts about an Ecology of Place

Peter Anastas

Horizon at Gloucester c. 1905 Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) Courtesy Cape Ann Museum

Horizon at Gloucester c. 1905        Frank Duveneck (1848-1919)        Courtesy Cape Ann Museum

When I was living in Maine with the Penobscot Indians during the early 1970s, there was an expression I would hear over and over again.  “You can take an Indian out of the woods,” it went, “but you can’t take the woods out of an Indian.”

The saying fascinated me.  Like any good aphorism it was beguiling, though it wasn’t until later that I began to see it as a really beautiful example of what ecology is all about.

In effect, we do not begin to live in places until they dwell in us, become part of us, as we, in our external lives—our bodies, homes, possessions—make up the sum total of those places along with their own natural attributes: sea, rocks, trees, birds.

So it’s not enough, then, to inhabit the surface of your own life, as on the crust of the earth.  You’ve got to dig in, and at the same time, let the place where you live into yourself, your consciousness.  You’ve got to participate in its rhythms, the fluctuations of the weather, the color of the light, the smell of the air, the taste of it all.  You’ve got to let the land dwell in you, which is how many Penobscots claimed they were able to survive living in cities or working in factories miles from the woods and rivers of their childhood.

When the first English settlers arrived in New England in the 17th century, they started cutting down the trees, clearing the land, buying and selling what did not belong to them to the horror of the natives for whom every tree and clod of earth was sacred.  “The Earth is our Mother.  Would you sell your Mother?” they asked colonists angrily interrupted in their orgies of acquisition.  To no avail, for whites could no more grasp this organic concept of the earth any more than Native Americans could understand what it meant to regard the land as “real estate” or “property,” as a commodity of sale or exchange—something to be owned or used, “developed.”  (Doesn’t this pertain today in the conflict between those who believe that a beautiful meadow or forest should be left alone to be enjoyed by everybody in its naturalness and those who are uneasy unless it is sub-divided, built upon, fenced off—owned?)

What I’m suggesting here is that the ecological movement, as it’s named and practiced in America, is always going to be a one-dimensional process and therefore an incomplete and ultimately abortive effort unless we confront the central issue, which is our relationship to the land and the land’s to us: our inter-relationship—how we live on the land and how the land lives in us; a dwelling-in and an in-dwelling, if you will.

Living here for nearly eighty years, it has been my sense that Gloucester people have an edge when it comes to an intimacy with the place you were born in, or have adopted as your hometown.  Not only are we reluctant to leave; once away, many of us can’t wait to get back.  Or if we’ve moved semi-permanently (no native ever goes away for good), we harbor the hope of returning as soon as we can.

Our nostalgia for the Gloucester we knew or have left isn’t like most of the nostalgia one encounters today, a yearning after something that really never was—lost happiness of childhood, or the places of our carefree years of youth.  It’s a true nostalgia: a desire to come home, home to where our roots are, home to our family and friends, to the streets and neighborhoods that remain in our blood.

Still, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture.  Let me enter a caveat.   The ecological balance of our life on Cape Ann—our own inner harmony as we attune ourselves to the changing seasons—is going to depend upon the preservation of our forests, wetlands and open spaces, the wisest possible use of the ocean, and the continued vigilance of an absolutely informed citizenry.  An ecological consciousness is not enough.  People have to come together, not only to protect their neighborhoods from encroachments that could destroy their character or make them unsafe for their children, but also the spaces around us from being closed up, our light and air shut off, our daily lives suddenly claustrophobic like the lives of many big city dwellers.

The existence of neighborhood associations is essential, as we have learned from many an attempt to protect our heritage from those who would steal it from us for their own profit.  Who else is going to look out for our rights if we don’t daily?  Politicians have to be held to their campaign promises of wise development and controlled economic growth.  The city needs an up-dated Master Plan.  We cannot develop in a piecemeal fashion—a hotel here, a school there—without a holistic sense of the needs of our entire community.  We can’t even begin to talk of living in harmony with the earth if all we see around us—and allow—is loss and destruction in the name of progress.  Gloucester—all of Cape Ann—belongs to each one of us, and we’re all going to lose something inestimable if we lose our habitation, our own home-place, even by the default of apathy.

All of the people Peter Parsons and I talked with while we were working on an oral history for Gloucester’s 350th anniversary expressed their love for this place.  At the same time, they were very open about their fears for our city’s future, and the feeling of resentment they experienced toward the uncontrolled growth they were beginning to see around them.  “It’s just not going to be the same,” many sighed—and that was nearly 45 years ago!  They were not referring to the good old days.  They were talking about the look and feel of Gloucester as they experienced it in their current lives, and, above all, the natural world that is now more threatened than ever by climate change.

One of the most perfect expressions of feeling rooted to a place came from fisherman Fred Hunte.   In the clearest language, he described the intimate understanding of the natural world, coupled with the practical turn of mind, that’s required to live your life daily in it.

“I don’t go much by the Farmer’s Almanac,” Fred told us, “I look at the skies in the morning or the night, the way the sun goes down.  Watch the gulls what they do in the air.  You see the gulls up in the air?  You see them going round in a circle high in the air?  That’s a sure sign of a change of wind.  Wind coming.  Look at the sun going down in the west nights as you see these streamers going up to it.  These streamers going up from the horizon, up to the sun, used to call ‘em sun dogs.  That’s a sign of wind too.  And if the sun took up bright red in the morning, that’s a sign of rain.  When you been a fisherman all your life, you been out in a dory a lot alone.  You’ve had to learn all that stuff, figure it out.  You gotta watch it yourself.  That’s survival for yourself.”


Peter at Museum (1)Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

Gloucester Native Anna Solomon Publishes Novel Set in her Home Town

leaving lucy pear Anna Solomon

By Miriam Weinstein

When Anna Solomon began to weave together ideas and images for her second novel, Leaving Lucy Pear (published in July 2016 by Viking), her upbringing in Gloucester played a very large part.

“I loved growing up in Gloucester,” she says. And, although as an adult she has lived in Providence and now lives in New York City, “it is still my home, and it is still embedded in me. I feel I could write about it until I die.”

Indeed, the natural and the man-made landscape of the place, as well as its history, figure prominently in this story about motherhood, choices, consequences, and discovering one’s true nature. It begins in the 1920s when a well-to-do young Jewish woman leaves her newborn baby to be found under a pear tree on Eastern Point. It follows the baby, the woman who left her, and the woman who found her. So yes, this is very much a work of imagination. But locals will recognize the intimate descriptions of this very particular milieu.

Because of her Cape Ann connections, Solomon was able to tap into local historical expertise. Sarah Dunlap, co-author of The Jewish Community of Cape Ann, pointed her to historical archives. Barbara Erkkila, historian of the granite industry, described how it felt to be a child on Cape Ann in the early years of the 20th century. Erik Ronnberg’s knowledge of the history of the fishing industry helped her to work through a plot problem.

Solomon’s Jewish upbringing on Cape Ann also played a large role. “The Jewish community is a very, very tight and supportive local community,” she says. “The synagogue (Temple Ahavat Achim) for me felt like a second home. Because it was small, and people came from all over, there were many different kinds of Jews there. It showed me, at least as a child, a lot of ways to be Jewish.”

In addition to Leaving Lucy Pear, Solomon is the author of a previous novel, The Little Bride, and Anna Solomonco-editor with Eleanor Henderson of Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers.

Solomon will speak about Leaving Lucy Pear at the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library on Thursday, October 13 at 7 p.m., and at the Boston Book Festival, on Saturday, October 15, at 10:45 a.m., at the Boston Public Library.

(This review also appeared in the Jewish Journal).


Miriam WeinsteinMiriam Weinstein is a writer who lives in Gloucester. Her latest book, just released, is All Set For Black, Thanks: A New Look At Mourning. She is also the author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals, and Yiddish: A Nation of Words.

Telling Tales: A Gathering of Stories by Eric Schoonover


Telling Tales: A Gathering of Stories by Eric Schoonover

A Review by Peter Anastas

(Dogbar Publications, Gloucester, 2016, 142 pp.,  $15)


“We tell stories for as many reasons as we live. They celebrate the beginnings and endings of our lives. They are the hand that rocks the cradle, the hand that wraps the shroud. They give meaning to the long or short haul of our lives.” –from the Preface


In Telling Tales, Gloucester poet and novelist Eric Schoonover has given us a collection of essays as finely written as they are delightful to read.   Each essay explores an arresting theme and tells a particular story, so that in reading them we are doubly rewarded.

We experience the taste of dates in Egypt with their author, who shares his thoughts about the role of memory in our lives.  In an essay that dramatizes issues of class and companionship, we accompany Schoonover as a young college instructor, who travels from his Eastern American classroom to Washington State to join a fire fighting crew in the Palouse hills.  We’re with him in a car race in which a relationship is also explored, and we assist him in building “Tuva,” his Micro sailboat, which still plies the waters off Cape Ann (he also builds a bed for his grandson Jacob to whom the book is dedicated).  Most powerfully, we climb into the mountains of Switzerland, where Schoonover travels to scatter the ashes of his parents near the small Genevan village where the family spent several memorable vacations.

Yet for all their variety and Schoonover’s scintillating prose, these essays are seamlessly constructed, as befits the boat builder who wrote them.  The word essay comes from the French essai, which means “an attempt.”  In writing an essay one begins by setting down tentative thoughts about a subject.  In the process we may also be trying to discover what we actually think about that subject, and what we want to say about it once we begin to write.

Essays have generally been categorized as “formal” or “familiar.” Formal essays usually consist of an impersonal analysis of a subject, while familiar essays are generally written from a personal point of view and  tell us as much about the writer as his or her subject.

Our era may well be one in which we have witnessed the primacy of the familiar essay, through the popularity of personal essays and memoirs, the profusion of Op Ed columns, and, more recently, the explosion of individual blogs, in which writers write as much about themselves as they do about their subjects.  Yet the new digital technologies (not to speak of texting and Twittering) with their inherent demands to think and write fast, and therefore more superficially, have helped to create a literary culture in which care of construction and thoughtfulness of intent have often been eclipsed by the pressure to post or respond to other posts.  While this has arguably afforded more democracy of access and expression (everybody is now seen to be a writer), the inevitable consequence has been a sacrifice of depth.

For this reason Eric Schoonover’s Telling Tales is all the more welcome.   The personal voice is here in these wonderfully luminous essays, which are both autobiographical and a history of the sources and growth of a literary sensibility.  We come to understand who the author is through the gathering details of his life—fishing with his father as a child; experiencing his first misunderstanding by a teacher in the rural Western Massachusetts school he first attended, in a town where he was the only paperboy; teaching English and literature in a variety of settings; and traveling to remote places whose cultures fascinate him, with his family as a child and later as a mature traveler and writer

With this collection Schoonover has in effect restored the essay to its proper place as an invaluable yet ever flexible mode of expression and exposition, a means of coming at the world in multiple ways, while sharing with the reader what the writer has discovered during the journey.

In describing what he has set out to achieve in this rewarding book, Schoonover quotes Joseph Conrad’s own reason for writing: “I want to make you see.”   And we do see through Schoonover’s eyes some of the world he has experienced and remembered, just as we feel through language that rises to poetry what he has felt and wishes to share with us.

Telling Tales may be a slender book in terms of page length, but it is brimming with the kinds of wisdom, humor, insight and sheer intelligence that are certain to make a lasting impression on the reader.


eric schoonover

Eric Schoonover is a writer, boatbuilder and watercolorist, who lives in Gloucester in a small 1735 Cape Ann cottage with his wife, also a writer. He is the author of the award-winning The Gloucester Suite and Other Poems and a novel, Flowers of the Sea. His latest book, Telling Tales, has just been published.

A Gloucester Rengu (linked haiku)

Digital Collage by Bing McGilvray

Digital Collage by Bing McGilvray

The bronze face stares
Out, beyond breakwater’s edge,
Yellow moon rising..

Squawking roof ridge  gulls
Gossiping, suddenly rise,
White-black globs falling

Bronze hands hold the wheel
Tight against the bashing sea
Heavy rain forecast.

Wildly tumbling gulls
Diving  behind a trawler,
Pierless occupation.

Lost fishermen’s names
One hundred on George’s Bank
Record Catch report.

Where pink beach roses
Edge rocks, furious seas break,
Gabbianos peck.

Children anxious,
Have all the boats returned?
Widow’s walk crowded,

San Pietro coming
Held high by six owners, wobbling,
Sinking memories.

The swift sweeping tide
Rushing past Annisquam Light,
Madly tacking, pushed back..

Ferrini moon danced
Olson delivered mail
Thunderous acclaim.

Babson’s tales in Maximus
Olson’s great poem,
Rants in the G D News.

Only lobsters now
Great cod landings a memory,
Avaricious failure.

Smiles passing by on main street
Fresh bread, Sicilia’s,
Fog lifts slowly in the morning.

Soaring  high hunter,
Quick, red tail searching Dogtown.
Silent lobsters crawl.

Sea waves never stop
For famous Cape Ann’s Artists,
Loving the beauty.

Great granite ledges
Quarried deep swimming pools,
Delicate Heron.

Kent Bowker 5/24/2016

Kent BowkerKent Bowker started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.

The Mystery of Pico Miran … Part 2.


“Mystery of Metempsychosis in the Last Years of Man”

Winslow Wilson/Pico Miran—Part Two

Peter Anastas

During the summers of 1956 and 1957, I had my first job in journalism editing the Cape Ann Summer Sun, a weekly eight-page supplement to the Gloucester Times. Drawn to contemporary art, I often reviewed the shows of the Cape Ann Society of Modern Artists, whose gallery was located in the old Red Men’s hall in Rockport.

While covering the exhibitions of what was then considered controversial art as compared to the traditionalism of most Cape Ann painting, I became interested in the work of an artist who called himself Pico Miran. Whenever the occasion arose, I wrote about his paintings, which I felt were uniquely distinct from the rest of the work displayed at CASMA. It turned out that Pico Miran had another name—his real name, actually—Arthur Winslow Wilson. Wilson, a native of Texas, had been the poet E. E. Cummings’ classmate at Harvard in 1911-1915, where each served as editor of the Harvard Monthly. After college and the war (Wilson served in the air force, Cummings drove an ambulance), they moved to Paris in 1923 to paint and then back to New York, where they shared a studio in the Village.

Cummings, whose poetry is just now experiencing a resurgence of interest, was one of our finest early Modernist poets (the late Stephen Scotti set some his poems to the most beautiful music). He was also a considerable painter, who showed in major galleries. Wilson, who retained a studio at Carnegie Hall in New York and another on Cape Ann, beginning in the 1940s, taught portrait and landscape painting classes at the Rockport Art association and showed portraits and seascapes in Rockport. But he also did a radically different kind of painting, which, in a catalog for a 1951 exhibition of his work at the American Art Gallery in New York, he called “Post-modern art,” employing a term which the poet Charles Olson brought into currency at the same time.

In his catalog essay for the exhibition, Wilson wrote: “The new art will be Gothic American, in the sense that it will brush aside all soft precedent in the whole life span of art, and treat forbidden truth, and be moltenly ductile to the shape of realities never before considered proper for painting.” Wilson also showed this highly experimental new work at CASMA, where he exhibited as Pico Miran, a name he derived from the Florentine Renaissance humanist philosopher and poet, Pico della Mirandola.


“Human Conception of God”

At first glance one might consider the paintings inspired by Surrealism, but Wilson-Miran eschewed the term. “My drawing is straight classical naturalism,” he wrote in a letter to the editor from that summer, “the very kind that surrealists have violently rejected. . .My art has no relation to that of Salvador Dali, whom I knew in Paris.”

Wilson appeared to like my attempts at understanding his Pico Miran paintings and wrote a letter to the editor indicating his appreciation. I responded to Wilson’s letter and we exchanged several communications before he invited me to his studio in the Bradford Building on Main Street.   What I discovered was a conventionally dressed older man, with thinning hair and a brown beret. He ushered me into his sparsely furnished two room apartment in an old Gloucester redbrick downtown building that would sadly be demolished after a fire in the early 1960s, a conflagration in which Wilson lost the only copy of an autobiography he had been working on for years, and a man whose portrait he had painted perished. We sat in a front room. There were no paintings in evidence. He gestured at the door to another room, where, he said he painted. At the time I did not know that Winslow Wilson and Pico Miran were the same person.

We sat and talked in a room that smelled faintly of turpentine and linseed oil. He told me about his friendship with Cummings, with whom he was still in touch (Cummings had been the poet I discovered and read principally during my first year in college). He asked me if I had read anything by Samuel Beckett and I told him I had read Waiting for Godot and Beckett’s trilogy of novels, including Molloy and Malone Dies, which had been recommended to me the previous summer by painter Albert Alcalay. He told me that living in the Bradford building among single old men was like inhabiting a Beckett novel or play. He also told me that he had been corresponding for a long time with the American philosopher and critic Kenneth Burke.

Wilson’s conversation was as literate and knowledgeable as his letters. He explained to me that one of the themes that lay behind his paintings was the fear of a nuclear holocaust and its subsequent annihilation of all forms of life. He said it was the reigning anxiety of our age and that Beckett’s novels, written in French during and after the war, were the primary art of our post-war, post-atomic bomb world, reflected in the title of his painting, “Apocalyptic galaxy with the little doors to Nowhere.”

My meeting and talks with Wilson-Miran brought to a close the summer of 1957, after which I returned to college, graduating in 1959. Wilson and I corresponded over the next several years. He sent me two books by Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change, and A Philosophy of Literary Form, which had a significant impact on my thinking about literature. During those years I left the Times to work on the waterfront, a job more lucrative and more directly engaged in the city’s maritime life I had once only reported about. We would run into each other on the street or at the post office, where Wilson maintained a post office box while continuing to teach at the RAA.

Wilson had moved from the Bradford Building to the bottom floor of a house on Ivy Court near the Fitz Henry Lane house, a house soon to be demolished during urban renewal—what the poet Charles Olson called, “renewal by destruction.”   I visited him there several times but was not shown the room in which he painted and our talk was mostly literary. Wilson was one of the most well-read artists I had met, especially in the avant-garde literature of Europe that I was also immersed in, including the novels and plays of Beckett and the “theater of absurd” plays of Eugene Ionesco, many of whose images would recur in the paintings he showed under the name of Pico Miran.

Before I left for Europe in the fall of 1959, Wilson invited me for lunch at the Gloucester Hotel, once located approximately where Walgreen’s is now. He often took his meals in the dining room, where he was known and respected.   I remember that we ordered chicken croquettes, then a staple of New England cooking.   And we talked long after our empty plates had been taken away. We did not correspond while I was in Italy; but immediately upon my return I looked him up again, finding him back on Main Street in an apartment that was located where the present courthouse and police station had been built. Like the former Bradford Building, it too became a casualty of urban renewal. I often wondered about the effect on Wilson and his art of his having repeatedly been forced to leave the spaces where he lived and worked.

During the following years Wilson seemed to have dropped out of sight, though I learned that he continued to teach at the RAA and show at The Cape Ann Society of Modern Artists, until the group disbanded sometime in the late 1960s. as it members gradually died or ceased to spend their summers on Cape Ann. One day in the early 1970s, I received a call from my friend Peter Parsons, with whom I was preparing an oral history of Gloucester. Peter was cleaning out an evacuated apartment on Main Street across the street from W.G. Brown’s department store for use by a program of Action, Inc., the city’s antipoverty agency, where Peter worked as a youth counselor and I would soon begin my career as a social worker.

“You gotta come down here,” Peter said. “I’ve found something you’ll be interested in.”



When I arrived I found the floor piled with books, papers and old bank statements. As soon as I began looking through them I realized that they had belonged to Wilson, who had apparently left the apartment in haste. Among the possessions was a two-volume autobiography of Emma Goldman, the American anarchist writer and activist, who had been an early influence on Henry Miller. There were notes and other jottings in what I immediately recognized as Wilson’s characteristic calligraphy, and a trove of newspaper clippings about nuclear testing and related subjects I had previously discussed with Wilson.   What we found of especial interest were sets of collotype prints, (a gravure-like photo reproduction process), of several of Wilson’s postmodernist paintings done under the name of Pico Miran. I was as stunned by them as I had been when I first saw the actual paintings, beginning in 1956.

Peter tried to find Wilson in order to return his abandoned possessions. Tracking him down to a rooming house (was it on Webster Street?), he found the painter apparently sanguine about having walked out of his previous apartment and possibly his life in it.

“They’re no longer mine,” I recall Wilson having said to Peter, who offered him what we had gathered from the Main Street apartment. Peter left what he had brought in a suitcase or trunk with Wilson’s landlady.   I retained the collotypes and some of Wilson’s notes, along with the catalog of Wilson’s 1951 show of the Pico Miran paintings at the American Art Gallery. I also saved a copy of Wilson’s “Manifesto for Post-Modern Art,” composed for the New York show because I believed these documents needed to be of preserved no matter how vehemently Wilson had refused them.

I saw Wilson once again, a year or two later at the post office in Gloucester. I stopped to greet him and we exchanged a few brief words, but he seemed distracted and eager to terminate our conversation. Perhaps he saw me as a person from that past he had walked away from, leaving behind the evidence of an extraordinary productivity, beginning with his Harvard writings.

It wasn’t until I met Claudia Howard, Wilson’s granddaughter and the conservator of his legacy, that l learned of the final years of Wilson’s life, which you can read about on the fascinating website she has created to celebrate her grandfather’s life and art. Winslow Wilson/Pico Miran

There is no doubt in my mind that Wilson is an important American artist. His seascapes and portraits painted under his own name compare with the finest paintings in that genre that have been exhibited on Cape Ann, or, for that matter, anywhere else in the US. His paintings done under the name of Pico Miran, as strange and disturbing as they may seem on first viewing, may now more than ever reflect the turbulent times—the Cold War, the nuclear threat, Korea, Vietnam—in which they were first painted, not to speak of their significance for our own age of terror and displacement.

It is my hope that Wilson’s work from the entire range of his singular productivity will again be shown, as it was when I first encountered it in the 1950s and it stimulated my thinking about the role of art in our understanding of who we are as a people and a species, and also about the remarkable person who created that work.

Please visit the website for much more about Winslow Wilson/Pico Miran


“Science Ends in a Scientific Ignorance (docta ignorantia) which Speaks in Three Tongues”

The Mystery of Winslow Wilson

Wilson eyes

Who was this artist who lived and worked in the shadows for many years in Rockport and Gloucester, and why should we on Cape Ann be interested in his life and work?

Arthur William Wilson (July 20, 1892 – November 18, 1974) was an American artist who painted under several known pseudonyms, including Winslow Wilson and Pico Miran.   Wilson/Miran is considered one of the earliest artists of the Post Modern Art Movement.  He is widely quoted from his Manifesto For Post-Modern Art, published in 1951, under the name Pico Miran.

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Wilson attended Harvard College between 1911-1915, becoming an Editor of the The Harvard Monthly with his friends John Dos Passos and E.E. Cummings.  Wilson would go on to share an apartment at 21 East 15thStreet in New York City with E.E. Cummings, and enlist in the U.S. Military during 1917-1919, joining John Dos Passos and E.E. Cummings and other Harvard students in France.  He spent time in Paris with E.E. Cummings, and mingled with Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and other influential painters of the period in London and Paris in the 1920’s.

Winslow WilsonWilson was active in the New York, NY, Lime Rock, CT, Gloucester, MA, and Rockport, MA art scenes between the 1930’s – 1972.  Wilson painted post-modern artwork utilizing the name Pico Miran in his Gloucester, Massachusetts studio, taught portraiture at the Rockport Art Association in Rockport, Massachusetts under the name Winslow Wilson, and painted seascapes as Winslow Wilson in his Rockport, Massachusetts studio.

From all aspects, it seems that Wilson was strongly influenced by his time at Harvard and World War I.  In addition to a tragic event which resulted in the death of one of Wilson’s friends in 1912, there is evidence that Wilson encountered trauma during World War I.  Art became a vehicle through which Wilson found solace.  His Post-Modern artwork is replete with images of industrial and nuclear effects upon the common man.  Growing up in rural Texas, to a life in Boston and New York, friendships with intellectuals, Wilson’s writings reveal a man who held his craft and opinions in high regard.  Understanding that Wilson eschewed family relationships while fully immersing himself as a bit of an artistic recluse, provides an insight into the life of this artist.

Following Wilson’s death in 1974, his long-term companion, Jane Grey (an accomplished portrait artist), gifted his paintings to his only son, Horace Peter Wilson.  Those paintings remained stored in Kansas City until 2012, at which time the paintings were distributed to Wilson’s grandchildren.

In 2014, Gloucester writer David Rich wrote about Wilson: “His value lies in his theorizing postmodernity, and making the first forays into postmodern visual art — the seascapes were a virtuoso performance; Winslow was no less a character than Pico or Tex. In that sense he was a performance artist. A kind of Andy Kaufman who took personae and masks to the extreme. On this conceptual level, if explained as such, Wilson ought to be recovered; and could be recovered by an astute and enterprising curator.”

Wilson portraitThe paintings are in the process of being professionally restored and framed, and efforts are underway to showcase Wilson’s paintings.

For more information please visit the Winslow Wilson website.


It’s Boiling Hot

On Pavillion Beach. © 2014 Jeff Weaver (b. 1953)

On Pavilion Beach.                                                                                            © 2014 Jeff Weaver (b. 1953)

Its boiling hot, they’ve gone to catch the wind 
at high tide when you can sail the tidal river 
above the sandbars, when the scope is wide 
room to tack and reach, as we try to reach to the far 
points in our life where you are the self you wish to be 
away from the effigies others might prefer 
beyond the expectations of correct behavior and pieties 
free of the sand bars in our circumscribed environment 
the enclosing freeways that bind us into pockets 
webs of mercantile definition, malls of distance, 
the all-together loneliness of the social web. 
This is not the place for me. 

Where can one go to be free of this American entrapment 
where black and brown and white can live in harmony 
where all beliefs, intellect and toil are respected, 
was our Cape Ann like that, not entirely but enough 
the classes did mix, brawls were plenty enough 
but the morning light broke bright on sea calm water 
where rancor stills and the gulls cry instead. 
Perfection of a sort sadly doesn’t last 
the tentacles of wealthy desire slowly penetrate 
crawling over the bridge, tourists who end up staying 
and driving up the rents, buying the cheap houses; 
improving them twists the old mix out  working people 
can’t afford to be here any more, to smell the same sea 
air, feel the tidal sweep over the marshes 
swim in the warming creeks. 

Kent Bowker 
July 7, 2016 

Kent BowkerKent Bowker started with poetry at Berkeley in the Fifties, then became a physicist working mainly in optics.  His new book of poems is Katharsis: Sifting Through a Mormon Past.  He lives in Essex, next to the Great Marshes and is treasurer of the Charles Olson Society.