Sidewalk Poetry in Key West
Pedestrians strolling the sidewalks of Key West, former home of literary notables from Ernest Hemingway to Tennessee Williams and Elizabeth Bishop, are advised to look down where they’re walking — they just might encounter a poem.
The first two of 17 concrete-etched “sidewalk poems” by local writers were unveiled April 25 by the city’s Art in Public Places Board. They were inscribed into laser-cut forms and stamped into wet cement by city workers.
From planning to penning to pressing, the launch of the Key West Sidewalk Poetry Project was more than a year in development. More than 200 Florida Keys writers submitted poetry, prose, lyrics and haiku to the Art in Public Places board, vying for a cash award and the chance to stop passersby in their tracks with their words.
“The AIPP Board was exploring opportunities to create an ongoing public expression of Key West’s literary tapestry,” says board chairman Michael Shields. “This project expands our understanding to give poets their own palette, on our pavements — the pages of our city.”
The first “sidewalk poem” unveiled is located in front of Captain Tony’s Saloon, former site of Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which was a frequent haunt of Ernest Hemingway during his 1930s residence in Key West. The poem’s author, Kirby Congdon, had ties to the famed Beat Generation poets including Gregory Corso.
The second verse, written by Sullins Stuart, can be found in front of a historic church on the island city’s renowned Duval Street. It pays tribute to the late Key West resident Shel Silverstein, a poet and songwriter whose notable works include the best-selling children’s poetry book “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”
The remaining 15 poems will be stamped as the city pours new sidewalks or replaces broken or cracked sections, creating additional moments of “plein-air reading” for island visitors and residents.
Submitted by the Florida Keys Newsroom.