When it comes to the Charles, the words just keep flowing


by Marc Larocque, the Boston Globe

If the Charles River can’t inspire love and support by itself, perhaps prose and poetry can help.

That’s the hope of the Charles River Conservancy, which last month released “River Stories,” a book of words and watercolors depicting the river and the people who visit it: running, riding bikes, picking up trash.

The conservancy plans to distribute free copies of the book, which was printed by Charles River Publishing and sponsored by The Boston Globe, to schools in hopes of inspiring students to produce a future edition.

Last year, the conservancy reached out to writers such as Alexandra Marshall, who said she was humbled to have her words share the same paper as Boston-based scribes such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose poem “To the River Charles” appears on the page after her piece.

Marshall’s “Down by the Riverside” offers her observations of modern mothers (“who jog past me with iPod buds in their ears while pushing their BOBgear Sport Utility Strollers”), and how the river embodies a cultural current spanning generations of mothers and babies.

“What struck me was how personal the pieces were,” Marshall said of the book. “It’s a celebration of the river, but also a celebration of the work that the conservancy is doing.”

One entry that is not in the book, but was posted at thecharles.org (in addition to the free e-book available there), was a septuagenarian’s prose reflection on his salad days, when swimming in the river was common. In “Malibu on the Charles,” Allen E. Sampson recalls a self-styled resort on the Cambridge-Watertown line.

“We didn’t have a public beach,” he wrote, “we made our own.”

The book could soon yield a new crop of maritime bards from the children in the boat- building classes of Jamaica Plain’s John Rowse. “I’m going to use ‘River Stories’ as examples, and at the end of each week to have the kids write their own,” said Rowse, founder of Boston Family Boat Building. “There are a lot of people that do some great writing who never get a chance to publish it.”



© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

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