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  • Fred Smith (photo by Jeff Fay)

Cigar City Poet: James Tokley Remembers an Urban Kaleidoscope

The corner at 22nd Street and Lake Avenue in Tampa's Belmont Heights neighborhood isn't what it used to be. Gone is the Red Top Bar and its cabaret of regulars who put on nightly shows of love and life on an urban stage more than forty years ago. James Tokley was there. Long before he would become Tampa's Poet Laureate, Mr. Tokley drank in the sights and sounds of Belmont Heights and immortalized their memory with in a poem aptly titled "A Scenario at 22nd and Lake."

I spoke with the Cigar City's most beloved storyteller about the backdrop for his poem about a corner in Tampa history. The Great Poet was his usual self: jovial, genial, and lyrical.

What to read next:

If you enjoyed this story, here are two more about great Tampa artists whose music has helped define the Cigar City.​


Fred Smith is an author and filmmaker who's set many of his stories against the backdrop of his hometown of Tampa, Florida. His book of short stories How Long Can a White Girl Last on Nebraska Avenue? and other stories of wayward youth was inspired by the art of Maggie Council, Ray Villadonga, and James Tokley.

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