There is a room that exists in this city, a room that once was a place of creation, lyrical exploration, and the pursuit of turning desire and humanity into words and phrases. In fact, the room still exists, laying the weight of its past onto the present generation of writers and poets. It is Room 222, the epicenter of Boston University’s famed writing program, located at 236 Bay State Road in a brownstone facing Storrow Drive and the Charles.
It’s just a classroom, right? Not exactly. Room 222, now called the The Robert Lowell Seminar Room, was the place where the renowned Boston poet Robert Lowell taught Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and George Starbuck. It’s considered modern poetry’s most famous class, convened during the late 1950s. Today, all graduate writing classes and many undergraduate classes are held in this room.
In an article written for BU Today on Room 222 by Caleb Daniloff, Robert Pinsky, US Poet Laureate and a BU professor, spoke about his fondness for Room 222, and its part in the history of Boston and American letters. “Of all of the classrooms I’ve taught in — Harvard, Berkeley, University of Chicago, Stanford — this is my favorite. ... The legend of Lowell teaching Plath, Sexton, and Starbuck is only part of it. I like the echoes. But I now have my own memories of all the students I’ve taught in this room over 16 years. And I like knowing that my colleagues Louise Glück, Leslie Epstein, Ha Jin, Rosanna Warren are using this room, too. I like knowing it’s ours.”
In more recent years Room 222 has continued to birth its share of well-known literary names: Jhumpa Lahiri, Ha Jin, Peter Ho Davies, Daphne Kalotay, Sue Miller, Arthur Golden, Carl Phillips, and Erin Belieu. Guest lecturers have included John Cheever, Donald Barthelme, John Barth, Norman Mailer, and Amos Oz (according to Daniloff).
“Room 222 has taken on the quality of an organic museum, a vessel for the collective literary imagination,” writes Daniloff in his article. It certainly is a significant piece of Boston literary history.