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Tennessee Williams recording now available online

Posted Jun 14, 2013 Posted by 2 Comments
Tennessee Williams speaks in 1975 at the library, at the dedication of the auditorium in his honor. From the Monroe County Public Library's Ida Barron Woodward collection.

Tennessee Williams speaks in 1975 at the library, at the dedication of the auditorium in his honor. From the Monroe County Public Library’s Ida Barron Woodward collection.

In 1971, Tennessee Williams — a playwright famous for works such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie” — went to the studios of the local radio station WKWF and made a recording of his poetry. Williams considered himself a poet first. He was a longtime supporter and patron of the Monroe County Public Library in Key West. The recording he made that day was expressly for the use and benefit of the Library. It was transferred onto a reel-to-reel tape and for decades has been stored in the Library’s vault in the Florida History Department as a treasured holding.

Recently, a generous donor provided the funds to transfer the recording from reel-to-reel to digital format, allowing us to give the recording the wider audience it deserves. Our neighbors and partners at the Key West Literary Seminar — an organization that got its start in the Key West Library — have a valuable and growing online audio archive of readings and panel discussions from the Seminar’s 30-plus-year history. With our common goal of preserving and disseminating the island’s rich literary heritage, the Seminar was a natural as a partner to provide the Williams recording to the public.

You can download the podcast here, and also read an introduction by Seminar Associate Director Arlo Haskell, who also serves on the board of the Friends of the Key West Library. Haskell’s research revealed that the recording includes a variant version of one poem, “The Harp of Wales,” as well as the recording of a poem that has never been published and exists only in manuscript form.



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  • Mark Shedfan said:

    Hi folks. I have a historical question for you all. Did Tennessee Williams ever give public readings at the Key West library? Did he ever read to local elementary age children? Thanks in advance. Best, Mark

  • Anne said:

    Hi Mark, thank you for your question and interest in library history. Tom Hambright, the Florida Historian responds that he has never seen any documentation suggesting that Tennessee read from his works at the Library or at local schools. On March 29, 1975, he was in attendance for the dedication of the library auditorium in his honor but was not a speaker. Tennessee did work with some of the local theater groups and may have given a private reading. Another resource to contact is the Tennessee Williams Key West curator at http://twkw.org/.
    Thanks again,