One of the ancillary pleasures of the Literary Seminar is learning which writers “our” writers are reading. Whether inspired by the topic or our locale, or whether it is simply coincidental, trends inevitably emerge to offer a sort of tangential required reading list. Most pleasing to my mind, last week, were the references to poet John Ashbery, a 2003 alum of the Seminar, made separately by Ann Beattie, Maggie Nelson, and Edmund White. As an unabashed fan and former student of Ashbery’s, I always enjoy a discussion of his work, and lament the reputation of “difficulty” which is often attached to it. One more reason, then, to be excited about this weekend’s session, is Meghan O’Rourke, whose “How to read John Ashbery”, from Slate in 2005, peels away this reputation in one of the most refreshing, graceful, and charming discussions of Ashbery’s work in recent times. You can catch O’Rourke in discussion with Billy Collins and Kevin Young on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon (free and open to the public) with Daniel Menaker, Nell Freudenberger, Silas House, and Tayari Jones. –Arlo Haskell (Sand Paper Press), KWLS stage manager
Tangential Required Reading: Meghan O’Rourke on John Ashbery
The Key West Literary Seminar welcomes readers and writers to this subtropical island city. Our flagship program is the annual Seminar, a four-day event that explores a unique literary theme each January, where readers from around the world enjoy presentations by some of the best writers of our time. In our Writers’ Workshop Program, also in January, writers of all levels meet in small groups with esteemed faculty to share their work and explore the craft of writing. A Scholarship Program reduces fees for teachers and librarians and recognizes the work of outstanding emerging writers. Exclusive recordings from the Seminar spanning thirty years are available in the Audio Archive, while our online journal, Littoral, features news, essays, photographs, and other resources that document Key West’s rich literary history.
A diversity of life thrives in the littoral zone — a thin strip of coastline between high and low watermarks. As the operating metaphor for our online journal, it refers to that part of Key West routinely overrun by the tide of literature and to the rich life of letters in this island city. Here you’ll find event coverage from our team of writers and photographers; news and updates about upcoming opportunities; and rare images from historic collections, interviews, and all manner of report from Key West’s life of letters.