life of letters

Key West’s life of letters is preserved in manuscripts, letters, journals, photographs, maps, and other documents, from collections in Key West and around the world. It comes alive in these posts through interviews, essays, image collections, and commentary featuring writers who work under the influence of the island city and its literary heritage.


From the Curt Richter Studios, 2012 Edition

Curt Richter’s extraordinary series of portraits of writers continues with new work developed during the seminar earlier this year. The Helsinki-based American is a former Guggenheim fellow and author of the touring collection “A Portrait of Southern Writers.” His photographs hang in major museums around the world, including London’s Victoria …Read More


Sea Surface Full of Clouds

That’s the radar image from Key West, shortly before 11:00 this morning. With possible rainfall amounts of 3-5 inches over the next 36 hours, strong easterly winds, and astronomically high new-moon tides, these are particularly good days for reading indoors. From Wallace Stevens, “The Sea Surface Full of Clouds”: “Good …Read More


Susan P. Mesker, 1936-2012

We mourn the loss of Susan P. Mesker, an ardent supporter of the Key West Literary Seminar and other cultural nonprofits, who touched the lives of many. She died on Friday, June 8, at her William Street home. She was 75. Susan was a longtime member of the board of …Read More


C. Whitehead’s Zombie Novel Takes Streets

Zone One, the highly anticipated fifth novel from MacArthur Fellow Colson Whitehead, hit the shelves and electronic delivery channels yesterday. It deals with the living dead in the city that never sleeps. Here’s what people are saying: “The best book of the fall…Zone One formulates an essential equation: the measure …Read More


Wendy Wasserstein in Key West

Julie Salamon’s extraordinary new book, Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein, includes a moving account of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s visit to Key West for the 2005 Seminar. Wasserstein was already showing signs of the illness which would end her life less than a year …Read More


US Navy Fleet Sonar School for Poets

In an earlier post, we revealed that fellow poets James Schuyler and Elizabeth Bishop were joined in service for their country on the Key West Navy base in the summer of 1943. Schuyler, 19, was enrolled in Sonar School; Bishop, 32, volunteered in the optical shop until the chemicals made …Read More


Immortal Bird / Delinquent Library Patron

Another paper treasure from the Key West library: the last library card of great American playwright Tennessee Williams; paired with the “urgent request” to return an overdue biography of John Keats, whose “Ode to a Nightingale,” includes the line “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!” Tennessee, nicknamed “Bird” …Read More