Saturday, July 7, 2007

Literary Landmarks of New York: The White Horse Tavern

In New York, it is incredibly easy to locate literary landmarks because of the sheer number of poets, playwrights and novelists who have called the city home. A writer's life can be a very solitary one, so many men and women wrote or relaxed with friends in caf├ęs and bars -- to draw inspiration from the everyday people and goings-on, perhaps, or maybe just to keep from feeling too lonely.

One such little place, located on the corner of Hudson Street and 11th Street in Greenwich Village, is the White Horse Tavern. It was built in 1880 and was initially frequented by longshoremen--the men who worked loading and unloading ships at the seaports a little further downtown.

Despite its old-fashioned, traditional decor, the White Horse became the hotspot for the progressive, experimental minds of the Beat era and members of the folk/hippy movement: Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, and Bob Dylan (not necessarily literary, but a poet in his own right) were all regulars. In fact, legend has it that Kerouac visited so often that a fellow drinker once scrawled "KEROUAC GO HOME!" on the bathroom mirror. Hunter S. Thompson, James Baldwin, Anais Nin and Allen Ginsberg were among the many who would gather there, sometimes in groups or pairs and sometimes alone. The New York School poets, including Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery, also dropped by the White Horse on occasion. Sadly, the most lasting legacy of the White Horse Tavern is the fact that it is the bar in which Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet, overdosed on alcohol and died. However, the White Horse Tavern remains open, and many tourists visit it every year--some on the New Ensemble Theatre Company's tour of literary bars in Greenwhich Village, and others alone--to catch perhaps a little bit of the magic that surely remains within its walls, the remnants of a once-thriving, explosive and creative place.

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Rodrigo said...
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