He had lived alone for years in one of the dune shacks on Provincetown’s back shore, but poet Harry Kemp spent his last days in a cottage on Howland Street built by his friend Sunny Tasha especially for him. He died on August 8, 1960, of a cerebral hemorrhage. The irony of his death is that Kemp would have been very much at home in the decade that was just beginning. Called by William Brevda, his biographer, “the last bohemian,” Kemp epitomized and delighted in bohemian values like youth, anarchy, self-expression, exuberance, enthusiasm.
He’d first visited Provincetown during the magical iconic summer of 1916; he wrote about it in Love Among the Cape Enders, a novel that was mostly memoir. By 1927 he had started spending summers in his 10-by-10-foot Peaked Hill dune shack—and continued to do so for the next 30 years. He called himself the “dune poet” and became a larger-than-life figures, dressing in a swirling black cape and wandering the dunes for hours. A sign on his shack warned would-be thieves that “there is nothing of value except solitude.”