Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

Lowell, Mass.

Jack Kerouac Commemorative

Eastern Canal Park

Bridge Street

Following on the heels of my most recent post on City Lights Books… Writer Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was born in this old mill town to French-Canadian parents, and did not learn to speak English until he went to school. Kerouac left Lowell at 17 for New York City, where he briefly attended Columbia University. In 1944, his girlfriend, Edie Parker (later his first wife), introduced him to Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, and the triumvirate formed the core of the Beat poets.

Kerouac’s most famous novel, On the Road (1957), was written in three weeks on a scroll that he made out of sheets of paper taped together so that he could type without interruption. A tour of the scroll began making its way to universities and museums around the country in 2004.

Kerouac married three times and had one daughter. (Also a writer, Jan Kerouac committed suicide in 1996.) He also had a variety of male lovers, among them his fellow Beats and writer Gore Vidal. An alcoholic, he died young of complications of the disease.

Lowell erected this sculpture to its native son in 1988, after several years of dispute about whether the town should memorialize an alcoholic. Citing his literary contributions, Kerouac supporters won out, and Ginsberg read some of his early poems at the dedication. “Kerouac is the heart and spirit of what has brought us together!” Ginsberg proclaimed. The granite panels, created by artist Ben Woitena, are inscribed with excerpts from Kerouac’s work, including the opening paragraph of On the Road.

There are other tributes to Kerouac in different parts of the country. Most notably, the bungalow in Orlando, Fla., where Kerouac was living when On the Road was published and where he wrote much of The Dharma Burns (1958) now houses the Jack Kerouac Project, a residency program for writers.

For the Kerouac Commemorative I sought images which sculpturally communicate and honor his philosophy of life and the genius of his literary talent. Conceptually, the park is structured in the form of a mandala; that is, a diagram of symbolic geometric arrangements designed to make clear the relationship between the quoted texts and the visual images which inspire them.”

-Ben Woitena


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Gay Key West

I received the following press release today about an upcoming film that looks kind of interesting, on the history of gay Key West. A friend of mine – a gay male architect – once pointed out the fact that queer resorts often tend to be at the tips of land: Key West, Provincetown, Fire Island. Similarly, the gay part of any regular old beach tends to be the furthest point you can go – for privacy, I’m sure, but also possibly because of sodomy laws, when those were in existence.

Anyway, here’s the release (or most of it anyway – I cut the begging for money part for space):

Gay History Film To Begin Production in Key West

KEY WEST, Fla./EWORLDWIRE/April 19, 2007 — “I didn’t come out of the closet, I came out of an armoire,” quipped over 40-year Key West resident Larry Harvey in a pre-interview for the upcoming film, No Closet Space, the History of Gay Key West.

No Closet Space, the History of Gay Key West will be the first-ever film about the impact the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community has had on the city of Key West, and, in turn, about Key West’s impact on American LGBT history in general.

“There is quite a story here,” says local filmmaker Tim Dahms. “Key West just wouldn’t be Key West without the LGBT community, and American LGBT history in general wouldn’t be nearly as rich and interesting if not for Key West.”

Notables such as Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Leonard Bernstein spent leisure time there, and their stories are the stuff of local legend. [My note: Hm, they seem to have forgotten about Elizabeth Bishop…]

“In my research for this film, I’ve found many, many people who have lived much of the rich LGBT history of the island and who have wonderful stories to tell,” added Dahms, “and they tell them with such color and panache.”

“I’m very excited about what the final film will be like – it will be definitely entertaining!”

No Closet Space, the History of Gay Key West will combine the stories of notable locals and historians with old photographs, film, and especially music, to tell the fascinating tale of the history of LGBT Key West.

“It’s a project whose time has definitely come,” said Dahms.

Tim Dahms
FLV Hosting
PHONE. 239-405-3316
EMAIL: tvpro1@comcast.net

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Key West, Fla.

Elizabeth Bishop home
624 White Street

Poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) was born into a wealthy family from Worcester, Mass. After her graduation from Vassar, she used a family inheritance to live a nomadic life in New York City, Europe, Florida, and other places. In 1938, she and her lover at the time, Louise Crane, purchased a house in Key West. Bishop lived at this residence off and on for the next nine years, first with Crane, then with a subsequent lover, Marjorie Stevens.

In letters to friends, Bishop described her island home this way: “It is very well made, with slightly arched beams so that it looks either like a ship’s cabin or a freight car.” The house was located right on the beach and was to Bishop “perfectly beautiful…inside and out.” Bishop’s first volume of poems, North and South, was published during the time she lived in Key West.

It may sound idyllic, but Bishop battled alcoholism throughout her adult life, and the relationship with Stevens did not last. After they broke up, Bishop sold the Key West house and returned to an itinerant life, eventually being hospitalized for both depression and alcohol-related problems. In 1951, with the help of her mentor, Marianne Moore, Bishop secured a fellowship from Bryn Mawr College that enabled her to travel around the world.

But Bishop never got farther than Brazil, where she met the wealthy Lota de Macedo Soares, who became her lover and tried to nurture her away from alcoholism. Bishop kept postponing her return to the States, until her stay in Brazil had lengthened to 16 years. At her home, Lota built a studio for Bishop that was separate from the house and had a stream running beside it. In that peaceful setting, Bishop was very productive and composed some of her greatest poems. But Bishop eventually returned to the United States after Lota committed suicide in 1967 and her own alcoholism worsened.

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