Bridging Cities: a Micro-History

Design - Object - Bridges, educational plate

When we look at the examples of relationships that have been built between various cities over the last century, clearly the focus is international.

Most of us have heard of Sister Cities International, an organization that began in 1956 under President Eisenhower, and since that time has been matching up U.S. cities with cities all over the world. The paired towns were meant to form relationships that would allow them to exchange ideas and build lasting programs in the areas of culture, education and trade. The hope was that the more connections and common ground that could be established, the lesser the chance of future conflicts. Sister Cities’ programs include everything from elementary school pen pals to research and webinars in poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

Pittsfield, MA in western Massachusetts is designated a sister city and shares ties with Cava de Tirreni, Italy, Ballina, Ireland, Malpaisillo, Nicaragua and Chung Ju, South Korea. Santa Cruz, CA lists Alushta, Ukraine, Galway, Ireland, Jinotepe, Nicaragua, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, Sestri Levante, Italy and Shingu, Japan as its partners across the globe. San Francisco boasts a list of 13 sister cities, not including 4 more “Friendship Cities.” SF is linked up with such well-known hotspots as Manilla, Philipines, Zurich, Switzerland and Sydney, Australia.

The Literary Cadences project is based on the premise that bridging U.S. cities with other U.S. Cities, can also create invaluable exchanges of values, traditions and, yes, culture. The regions of western Massachusetts and the central coast and San Francisco Bay areas of California share much in common while still having much to learn from each other.

Literary Exchanges

NEA Anthologies. Literary connections to date also seem to have an international bent. The National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA), International Literary Exchanges ran from 2006-2011. The final of six anthologies of foreign literature came with the publication of Push Open the Window: Contemporary Poetry from China. Other countries included in the program were Mexico, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, and Russia.

Al-Matanabbi Street Starts Here. A San Francisco bookseller took action in honor of writers, booksellers, literature and the victims of war after a car bomb destroyed a street in Baghdad, Iraq full of bookstores and cafes, demolishing long-standing and well-loved literary hubs, killing 30 and injuring another 100. Read about it in this December 2012 article from the blog Prospero/ the Economist magazine. An anthology titled Al-Matanabbi Street Starts Here was created out of that SF bookseller’s initial action. Listen to readings from the anthology recorded at Moe’s Books in Berkeley, CA.