Peeking into Poets’ Bedrooms

bedroom head

I’ve only visited three famous writers’ domiciles  –  Yeats’ Tower, Thor Ballylee, in County Galway (1979); Shakespeare’s birth house in Warwickshire (1995);  and a home Frost lived in on a side of a road somewhere in New Hampshire (2007).

It felt like calling on the dead – the houses restored, sort of Disneyesque, way too un-lived in.

A while back, a friend posted on her FaceBook page a photograph of Walt Whitman’s bedroom back in the day. Alas, the image somehow conjured the Muse of PhotoShopping, Plagiaria.  Alas, I say, because no way I have the artistic talent to pull off the idea Plagiaria whispered in my ear.

Anyway, let’s take a peek into the Barbaric Yapper’s bedroom.

whitman's br

My idea, which I am bestowing to any 3-D artist out there, is to use the concept of a bedroom as a representation of an author’s interior life, his or her unconscious as it were, each installation with a window looking out (hence not an attic) onto the world the artist perceived – dingy Dublin brownstones for Mr. James Joyce/Lucy-in-the-Sky butterflies flitting just outside the window of Miss Emily Dickinson.


Take Ernesto Hemingway, par example.

ernest-hemingway boxing

His mother called him Ernestine and dressed him like a girl.


the unhairy one ~ 2 yrs

Here’s a crude approximation of Hemingway’s unconscious installed in EA Poe’s dorm room at UVA:

hemingway collage

Obviously, an actual artist could do better, perhaps creating a doll-house, each room devoted to a different writer from a different era, vestiges of influence sprinkled about, La Commedia on Eliot’s bedside table next to an overloaded ashtray of unfiltered Pall Malls.

Art On Pall Mall

At any rate, what strikes me about the actual bedrooms of these writers, except for Whitman’s, is how spartan they are.  For example, here’s where Yeats slept at Thor Ballylee:


Barely a step up from Thoreau’s:


Of course, there are exceptions. Truman Capote lay him down to sleep here:


And Virginia Woolf in this swanky boudoir:

The interior of Virginia Woolf's bedroom at Monks House, East Sussex

And, finally, the bedroom where this barely published poet tosses and turns:

bedroom 3

At any rate, we all can be thankful that we’re not the inhabitant of this bedroom:


And sleep tight, Marcel!

Note:  This post originally appeared in Late Empire Ruminations 20 November 2012

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