13 November 2019
KEY WEST, Fla. — The Key West home owned by Pulitzer Prize–winning American poet Elizabeth Bishop from 1938 to 1946 has been acquired by the Key West Literary Seminar, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the island’s literary heritage.
Located at 624 White St. on the edge of Key West’s historic Old Town district, the home was built in 1886 in the two-story “eyebrow” style and was designated a National Literary Landmark in 1993.
Bishop, who served as United States Poet Laureate 1949-50, once called its distinctive lines “the most elegant thing in Key West.”
“The Bishop house is a vital site that shaped the work of one of the 20th century’s most esteemed writers,” said Arlo Haskell, executive director of the Key West Literary Seminar, who announced that restoration of the house and grounds would begin in 2020.
Haskell said the property will become headquarters for both the organization and an annual Bishop birthday celebration each February.
The inaugural celebration is set for Feb. 7-9, 2020, to include the 109th anniversary of Bishop’s Feb. 8 birth. Its scheduled highlight is the first public viewing of the home where she was inspired to write many of the poems for her pivotal first book, “North & South.”
The celebration also is to feature a presentation by Thomas Travisano, author of the recently released biography “Love Unknown: The Life and Worlds of Elizabeth Bishop.”
As well as preserving Bishop’s Key West home, Haskell said plans call for restoring the poet’s garden of fruiting trees and flowering plants and opening it to the public.
Each January since 1983, the Key West Literary Seminar has organized writers conferences focusing on a wide variety of topics. The 2020 theme is “Reading Between the Lines: Sports and Literature,” set for Jan. 9-12. The seminar is to focus on literature that gets at the heart of why sports matter to so many and explores roles sports play in social issues, personal transformation and cultural change.
Key West Literary Seminar and Bishop Home Information: kwls.org
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
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