Words to Walk on in Key West

By: Jodi Mailander Farrell


On an island historically awash with famous writer-residents, from Ernest Hemingway to Shel Silverstein, words now cover even the sidewalks.

The first two of 17 concrete-etched “sidewalk poems” by Key West writers were unveiled in April by the city's Art in Public Places Board. They were inscribed into laser-cut forms and stamped into wet cement by city workers.

More than a year in development, the Key West Sidewalk Poetry Project attracted submissions from more than 200 Florida Keys writers, who 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.  

An “ongoing public expression of Key West's literary tapestry,” the first sidewalk poem unveiled is by Kirby Congdon and is in front of Captain Tony’s Saloon, former site of Sloppy Joe’s Bar — a frequent Hemingway hangout during the 1930s.

The second verse, written by Sullins Stuart, can be found in front of a historic church on Duval Street. It pays tribute to 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.

More info: www.artinpublicplaceskw.com

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