Paul Marion was born in 1954 in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the Merrimack River valley bordering New Hampshire. He grew up in Franco-American parishes in Lowell (St. Louis de France) and nearby Dracut (Ste. Thérèse). Baseball and The Beatles were the constants of his youth. At 18 years old, he ran for school committee in Dracut and lost the election to the incumbent by about 4000 votes to 400. His father, Marcel, was an army veteran of World War II and wool grader in a mill who played a good game of golf, and his mother, Doris, was a top saleswoman in a women’s clothing store—both were avid readers. His older brothers, Richard and David, were lifelong teachers at the high school and college levels respectively until their retirements. He earned degrees in political science (B.S.) and community social psychology (M.A.) from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and also studied in the M.F.A. Program in Writing at the University of California at Irvine.
For 40 years he has been involved with the renewal of Lowell, which has been described as the “premier rehabilitation model for gritty cities worldwide.” In the 1980s, he worked as an administrator for the U.S. Department of the Interior, helping to create Lowell National Historical Park. At the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission, he directed a heritage-based cultural affairs program that included building artist studios in a renovated textile mill (1982); managing a cultural grants program; commissioning and installing the Lowell Public Art Collection (1983-89); coordinating the creation of the Jack Kerouac Commemorative (1988); and collaborating with partners on museum exhibitions, academic conferences, and other projects. He is one of the founders of the acclaimed Lowell Folk Festival (1987) and the Lowell Heritage Partnership (2000), an alliance of environmental, preservation, and cultural groups. Today, he helps lead a new community initiative, the Lowell Waterways Vitality Project, whose purpose is to revitalize the city's 5.6-mile canal system and waterfronts on the Merrimack and Concord rivers.
The New England Foundation for the Arts in 1996 awarded him a fellowship in the Building Communities Through Culture program. He has also received the Local Heroes award from Community Teamwork, Inc. (2008), Thomas Kelakos Community Spirit Award from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell (2012), and UMass Lowell Alumni Award (2016).
In March, 2016, he retired as Executive Director of Community Relations at UMass Lowell. On campus, he led efforts to create the endowment and residency program for the Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies and to earn national designation as a “community-engaged university” from the Carnegie Foundation. Among the Greeley Peace Scholars has been Nobel Peace Prize-winner Leymah Gbowee of Liberia. He was instrumental in the development of the school’s 9/11 memorial titled Unity, created by three sculpture-studio students in the Art Department, and the designation of the Nelson Mandela Overlook at the Paul Tsongas Center on campus, a collaboration with the Africa America Alliance and university Athletics program. Working with colleagues and community partners in 2007, he helped Lowell win a major award from the State and Local History Association of America for a museum exhibition and allied programs when several community partners organized a museum exhibition for Jack Kerouac’s legendary On the Road scroll manuscript while it was on national tour. From 2009 to 2016 he co-directed the UMass Lowell Center for Arts & Ideas, helping to produce, among other events, four seasons of the Greater Lowell Music Theatre and the premiere of Jack Kerouac’s play Beat Generation at Merrimack Repertory Theatre.
Currently, he has writing and editing projects in progress and teaches part-time in the UMass Lowell Honors College.
He and his wife, Rosemary Noon, and son, Joseph, live in an 1860s mill agent’s house in the South Common Historic District of Lowell. Rosemary, a former Loeb Fellow at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, is assistant director of the Lowell Plan, Inc., economic development group and a governor’s appointee on the Massachusetts Cultural Council. At the Lowell Plan, she manages the Public Matters leadership development program. For 14 years, she directed the fine arts center at Regis College where she also taught art history and launched a museum studies program. Before joining the Regis staff, she was Lowell's first cultural affairs director.
Writing and Publishing
Paul Marion is the author of several collections of poetry, including Strong Place (1984) and What Is the City? (2006), and editor of Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac (Viking/Penguin, 1999), which has been published in translation in Italy (Mondadori) and France (DeNoel). His book Mill Power: The Origin and Impact of Lowell National Historical Park (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) documents the making of a new kind of national park in Lowell, all told in the context of the city’s notable urban renaissance since 1970. A new collection of poems and sketches, Union River, is due in 2017 from Bootstrap Press. The book is a lyrical Americana address spanning 40 years of writing.
His poems and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Bohemian (Japan), Bostonia, The Café Review, Slate, Carolina Quarterly, The Christian Science Monitor, The Massachusetts Review, Public Art Review, Salamander, The Salmon Literary Quarterly (Ireland), Wisconsin Review, Yankee, and several anthologies, including For A Living: The Poetry of Work (University of Illinois Press), French Connections: A Gathering of Franco-American Poets (Louisiana Literature Press), Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems (Southern Illinois University Press), Québec Kérouac Blues (Canada), and Visiting Frost: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Robert Frost (University of Iowa Press).
Since 2008, he has been a contributor to the richardhowe.com blog in Lowell, which provides commentary on politics and history. A compilation of blog posts by three dozen writers titled History as It Happens: Citizen Bloggers in Lowell, Mass. will be published in 2017.
With Kathleen Aponick and Jane Brox, he co-edited Merrimack: A Poetry Anthology (1992), a collection of poems by 52 writers from the Merrimack Valley of New England. He is also the editor and co-author of French Class: French Canadian-American Writings on Identity, Culture, and Place (1999). With Charles Nikitopoulos and David Landrigan, he created and edited the online bioregional journal, The Bridge Review: Merrimack Valley Culture (1997-2002).
He founded Loom Press in 1978 to publish books by writers from the area and about his region. For information, visit www.loompress.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Forthcoming in 2017 is Michael Casey’s New and Selected Poems.
Photography credits: Thank you to the photographers and organizations whose images are seen on these pages, including James Higgins, Tory Germann, Jennifer Myers, Rosemary Noon, UMass Lowell, and Lowell National Historical Park.