I had a conversation yesterday afternoon about how deeply Richmond, VA honors the memory of Larry Levis.
levis_str_crp.jpg


The talk of Levis in Richmond got me thinking about the place of poets in various cities’ lore. Amherst, MA has Emily Dickinson, and several cities--including Charlottesville, Richmond, and Baltimore--claim Edgar Allen Poe. Carl Sandburg is to Chicago as Robinson Jeffers is to Carmel. Anne Spencer has become a figure of pride for Lynchburg, VA, and I once visited a plaque at Vachel Lindsay’s home in Springfield, IL.
What other American cities display considerable pride in their poets?

Originally Published: March 16th, 2009

Poet and editor Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver but moved often as her father, an academic physician, taught at many different medical schools across the country. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.   Dungy’s full-length poetry publications include Trophic...

  1. March 16, 2009
     Oscar Bermeo

    Two cities within cities that honor their poetas: The Loisaida's Reverend Pedro Pietri Way and North Beach's Jack Kerouac Alley.
    Berkeley is so prolific, they need a whole
    Poetry Walk to honor their writers.
    And the Bronx also claims a piece of Edgar Allan Poe, as well.

  2. March 16, 2009
     Mairead

    My hometown (Lawrence, MA) has claim to Robert Frost. Oh yeah.

  3. March 16, 2009
     Don Share

    Let's see: Whitman/Brooklyn and M. Moore, too... Roethke/Saganaw... Niedecker/Ft. Atkinson... Olson/Glouster... WCW/Paterson... Longfellow/Cambridge... Blake/London... Hugo/Seattle... Wright/Martin's Ferry... Gwendolyn Brooks/Chicago... I'll stop now!

  4. March 16, 2009
     Aaron Fagan

    A section of Cass Street in Chicago was given an Honorary designation to Harriet Monroe where the original Poetry offices were.

  5. March 16, 2009
     Aaron Fagan
  6. March 16, 2009
     Winnie

    E. E. Cummings and Anne Sexton are buried in Jamaica Plain (a Boston neighborhood) and each year on April 7 we disinter their bodies and let them drift across the swan pond. Please, join us!

  7. March 16, 2009
     Rich Villar

    Two from Jersey and Florida...where I live/lived....
    William Carlos Williams has an arts center named for him in his hometown of Rutherford, NJ. The library has a red wheelbarrow out front. www.williamscenter.org
    Jack Kerouac's home in Orlando, FL, has been preserved and turned into a writer's retreat. www.kerouacproject.org

  8. March 16, 2009
     Annie Finch

    One little known poetry site is the Cary Cottage in Cincinnati, Ohio where two nineteenth-century poets who were sisters, Alice and Phoebe Cary, lived. It's the same little country cottage they describe in their poems, but now it is among strip malls. It's good to know that Anne Spencer is properly honored in Lynchburg.

  9. March 17, 2009
     David Krump

    Perhaps, only slightly, off topic.
    Last Thursday I went to Pine Island, Minnesota, in search of William Duffy's farm. Call it existential insanity, but, well, I felt I had to visit.
    The BP is closed down, but the Cenex is open.
    The library, stout, stands, with the looks of one of the small and brilliant Carnegie libraries so common in this part of the country (elsewhere too, I suppose), The library holdings contain 14 books in any way marginally related to poetry. I'm not exaggerating. The poetry section? The wonderful librarian had to look it up. It equals one quarter of one four foot shelf, the bottom shelf, on the west wall of the small building. Yes, dust. Yes, they did have Wright's collected poems. Maybe it shouldn't have been a shock, but it was. There it was, at far left of the books with odd titles and perfunctory texts of little interest.
    The librarians name is Marjorie. She appeared to be in her early seventies, and perhaps a volunteer. When I told her my day's task, she said, "You mean Bill Duffy, the English Teacher. He was my and my sisters teacher, which probably shows my age." Without prompting, she asked if she could read the poem. I watched the last line enter her.
    I'll not reveal more of what I found on my journey. Maybe Duffy's old farm was laid down in the land grab circa 1990's and parceled out. Maybe it became a new development where no droppings from last year's horses will ever again blaze up like golden stones. Maybe a horse could never live there, unless it be a house horse. Or, maybe, the hammock is still there, torn and full of sway, unable to support a body, but waiting for you nonetheless.
    In short, the residences where poets once hung a coat, I'd say, are less significant than places they wrote about. Who wows at "And here he sh*tted"? The distinction between wrote in/near and wrote about is a large one. Which is why any anywhere in Ronda or Segovia is immediately more interesting than Hemingway's old residency in Key West. Though Hemingway's Key West is worth a visit, it's, perhaps, not worth a novel
    I would argue, half-convincingly, that subjects are more interesting than bedrooms or workplaces, except in the event that they coincide, which happens often. I have no argument. I'm just saying for the sake of saying... read the work, visit the place, and if you must, break halfways at the knees when you see it (or can't see it). Dun, Dun, Dun, Daah.

  10. March 17, 2009
     Jason Mitchell

    The Walt Whitman Arts Center, Walt Whitman's house on Mickle Street, the Walt Whitman Bridge (are there any other bridges in this country named after a poet besides?), and Walt Whitman's grave and adjoining monument all reside in Camden, New Jersey, along with a rest stop (exit 3 off the turnpike) and a sprinkling of roads throughout the county.

  11. March 17, 2009
     Jason Guriel

    Toronto has a statue for poet Al Purdy. There's also a parkette named in honour of the Hungarian poet George Faludy, who lived in Toronto for awhile.

  12. March 17, 2009
     Daisy Fried

    We have a Walt Whitman strip-shopping plaza in Philly.

  13. March 17, 2009
     Cathy Halley

    St. Louis likes to claim T.S. Eliot, well my high school does. Oh, and they love Eugene Field!

  14. March 17, 2009
     Don Share

    Cathy, I know you just got here, but... Chicago claims Eugene Field, too! He lived here and wrote for the Chicago Daily News! He died and was buried here. Chicago is a welcoming place, eh?

  15. March 17, 2009
     Jason Mitchell

    Philly also lays claim to The Walt Whitman deck on the Spirit of Philadelphia cruiseline.
    ...Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman, Walt Whitman.
    Ok, I'm finished.

  16. March 17, 2009
     edbob

    Hugo/Seattle, Don?! Ha! Hugo/Missoula is more like it.

  17. March 18, 2009
     Penelope Pelizzon

    Poetry Place Day-trippers:
    Willimantic, Connecticut (“Romantic Willimantic” to locals) is home to Julia De Burgos Park, honoring the Puerto Rican poet who lived in the US in the 1940s and 50s. An article, “A Park Just Made for A Poet” appeared in the NYTimes on September 16, 2001.
    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9800E2D81338F935A2575AC0A9679C8B63
    The street corner near the park has also been designated by the town and is signed as “Poets Corner.” (If you make it to Willimantic for the park, try breakfast at Nita’s--the potato pancakes get five stars.)
    Also, Hartford has just finished installing plaques to mark a “Wallace Stevens Walk” from WS’s home to office. Here’s a link to a Boston Globe article on the walk, from December 2008:
    http://www.wesleyan.edu/wstevens/images/WalkGlobe.pdf
    At an event a couple of years ago to unveil one of the walk’s marker stones, The University of Connecticut, the Hartford Friends and Enemies of WS, and the Hartford Classical High School hosted a reading by Adam Zagajewski, at which Zagajewski read a WS poem, preceded by high school students reading “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” translated into Latin.
    You can also, I believe, visit James Merrill’s house in Stonington, CT:
    http://www.jamesmerrillhouse.org/index.html
    There are a couple of good places to eat on Water Street near the house, but maybe more fun to get picnic food and walk down to the little park at the end of the street...there's a picnic table and rocks overlooking the water, and at least a couple summers ago it was vaguely seedy and abandoned in a pleasant way.

  18. March 18, 2009
     Don Share

    EdBob: Shows you what I know! (Poems, mostly.) I guess I took "Richard Hugo House" too literally!

  19. March 18, 2009
     Travis Nichols

    Seattle claims Roethke more than Hugo. Two years ago there was a big ol' fest in his honor, and, incidentally, an article about the pool that claimed him: http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=166026.

  20. March 18, 2009
     thomas brady

    Poe has an NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens.
    Also, West 84th St in Manhattan is Edgar Allan Poe St.
    Poe has a cottage in the Bronx, as someone already mentioned, plus houses in Baltimore, Richmond, and Philly.
    There's also a cafe and a library named after Poe in Charleston, SC, and a Poe Ave. on Sullivan's island.
    Poe has a number of Boston connections; most are marked by controversy. Some claim this is due chiefly to Poe's Southern background; the issues are far more complex, however; Poe lived and worked successfully in the North for many years.

  21. April 6, 2009
     Sarah Browning

    Washington DC: Walt Whitman Way! Lines by Whitman on the Dupont Circle Metro! (And by E. Ethelbert Miller at Dupont and Petworth!) Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School! Sterling Brown house placque! Langston Hughes room at the 12th Street Y where he lived! (OK, I'm done with those...) A whole photo essay of poets' DC houses here: http://www.kimroberts.org/writerhouse/house.html. In fact, the marvelous Beltway Poetry Quarterly, edited by Kim Roberts, has done several special issues on DC's literary history - the photo essay is featured in the Spring 2008 "Forebears" issue. Scroll through the Archives for the three: "Forebears," "Profiles," and Memory and Influence": http://washingtonart.com/beltway/archives.html