Every January, a collection of well-known writers, not-so-well known writers, writer wannabes and dedicated readers gather in Key West for the Key West Literary Seminar. I haven’t missed one since the first time I attended.
For three and a half days, 300 people gather in the historic San Carlos Institute theatre to listen to writers talk about their craft, read from works old and new, and dialogue about writing with the audience. There’s a different theme for the seminar every year, but I’ve learned it doesn’t matter what the topic is. In 2009 it was Historical Fiction, one of my favorite genres. In 2010, it’s poetry, something I don’t write and rarely read. But I still expect my mind to be stimulated and my spirits lifted when I listen to the readings and conversation.
Every evening, we talk about the day’s events at dinners and parties in places like the gardens of the Audubon House or in the Key West Custom House Museum.
Two years ago, poet Mark Doty opened the seminar to speak about the necessity of poetry and literature in our lives, Poetry, he said, answers the very human need to sing. I’d never heard a poet give a speech, but I’ve been drawn to listen again to his words again from time to time.
I’ve already registered for the 2010 celebration of 60 years of American poetry. United States Poets Laureate Richard Wilbur, Kay Ryan, Billy Collins, Rita Dove, Maxine Kumin, Charles Simic, Mark Strand, and Robert Pinsky will all be there, as well as Pulitzer Prize winning poets Natasha Trethewey, Yusef Komunyakaa, and James Tate. Some of these names aren’t known to me, but sometimes it’s good to be challenged with the unfamiliar.
Registration for 2010 is still open. If you could use a spur to your own writing or just a respite from daily life where you hear brilliant words washing over you, it’s not too late to sign up. And it is, of course, Key West in January; what’s not to like.
No, I’m not being paid to give this glowing endorsement. I’m just wildly enthusiastic.