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.

Gopnik, Mones join revamped Audio Archive

After completing a quiet-but-thorough redesign of our online audio archive, we’re pleased to let you know about the addition of two new recordings. Adam Gopnik’s “The Rituals of Taste” preserves his keynote address from the 2011 Seminar, “The Hungry Muse.” This tour-de-force lecture examines two ideas of taste: one, the …Read More

Uncovered: Hemingway, Williams, Frost pics

We’ve just come across a remarkable set of photographs. Donated by the Campbell, Poirier, and Pound families to the Monroe County Public Library, the Heritage House Collection contains more than 400 images of Key West from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Of greatest interest to us is a handful of …Read More

Lanford Wilson, 1937-2011

Lanford Wilson died this week. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright was 73. Wilson participated in the Seminar twice, first in 1986 for an event dedicated to the work of Tennessee Williams; and again in 1990, for “New Directions in American Theater.” He served as an adviser to our board for the …Read More

Happy Birthday, Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams would turn 100 this weekend, were he still with us. A happy birthday to his memory, with thanks to the good people at for passing along the following from a 1953 letter to Maria St. Just née Britneva: “A few last golden days in the Key West …Read More

Molly O’Neill’s One Big Table

Among many new and forthcoming titles, the book we are perhaps most excited about is Molly O’Neill‘s One Big Table. We know O’Neill best for American Food Writing, the showcase collection of classic food writing she edited for the Library of America. One Big Table promises to rediscover American eating …Read More

Feeding the Muse: Elizabeth Bishop

“May the Future’s Happy Hours Bring you Beans & Rice & Flowers.” 1955 watercolor by Elizabeth Bishop. Excitement is building in Key West for THE HUNGRY MUSE, our 29th annual Seminar, coming up January 6 – 16, 2011. As we wait for today’s top food writers to arrive, we’ve been …Read More

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.