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.


Feeding the Muse: Wallace Stevens

At home in Hartford, Wallace Stevens was a strict New England businessman, ungiven to personal excess or displays of passion. In Key West, on the other hand, Stevens permitted himself the eccentricities he normally relegated to the page. He mailed unusual tropical fruits home to his wife, Elsie, and wrote of drinking Scotch in his pajamas in the moonlight beneath the palm trees. He was fond of green coconut ice cream, mangoes, and cocktails.


Feeding the Muse: Ernest Hemingway

Like Hemingway’s prose style, his diet in Key West was composed of basic elements and depended upon an active sporting life. He spent weeks fishing and hunting shorebirds in the Marquesas and Tortugas, clusters of islands 30-60 miles west of Key West, and the quarry from these trips seems to have been his culinary staple.


Quite Delightful Rather than Frightening

The 5 pm update on Tropical Depression Three shows the forecast models in agreement. Among the little joys of life in the subtropics are the less-than-serious storm events the hurricane season can bring. Above, you see Tropical Depression Three, which may mature into Tropical Storm Bonnie as it enters the …Read More


Subtle Big Things
talking with Frank Bruni

In this interview with Arlo Haskell, Born Round author Frank Bruni reflects on his time as restaurant critic at The New York Times, shares his cure for the common hangover, and talks about why food has such a hold on today’s popular culture.


Bipolar Alien: James Tate @ KWLS 2010

Stuart Krimko’s close reading of James Tate’s “The Cowboy” explores Middle American Surrealism, the conditioned reflex of laughter in crowds, and modern isolation through a fun-house lens in which Tate’s work shares space with Elizabeth Bishop’s “Crusoe in England.”


Royal Poinciana, part two

As promised, and right on schedule: the Royal Poincianas all over the island are now in full bloom.


Dear Miss Moore / Royal Poinciana

The Royal Poinciana trees have just begun to set out their flowers. By the end of the month, the entire canopies will be full of the bright red or orange blossoms. Elizabeth Bishop was 26 years old when she first visited Key West in 1938. Her letters from that year, …Read More


JAMES LEO HERLIHY
The Midnight Cowboy in Key West

James Leo Herlihy was born in Detroit in 1927 and raised there and in Chillicothe, Ohio. He lived in New York City, Los Angeles, and, off and on from 1957 to 1973, in Key West, where he became “captivated,” finding it “a wonderful place to work and write.”