Admit it. Go ahead. Ernest’s brevity is likable. His ‘iceberg’ style (we only see the tip, the rest omitted). His blunt staccato plainness. Clarity. Boldness. Beginning, middle, end.
We’re also fascinated by his life – his glorious, extravagant, tragic life.
Ernest Hemingway gave us the stuff writers write about. Great stories, great quips, great insults and brevity. There’s even an app that will transform writing into bold, clear (short) sentences in the style of the man (http://www.hemingwayapp.com/).
What we can know about him is easy enough to digest (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americannovel/timeline/hemingway.html), even as we’re forced to reckon with his larger than life personal story. But there’s just so much that’s fun and sad and odd and tragic about Ernest – it’s hard to ignore.
With that in mind, here are several prompts I blame on Hemingway (I have another, but it’s too long – Ernest wouldn’t like that).
The first is the legend of the six word story (telling a complete story is just six words). In true Hemingway fashion, the prompt is a test, which I fail every day but wrote a poem about anyway.
Six Word Story
The legend is about Hemingway
and therefore it takes place in a bar
over drinks (always plural) and a bet
whether he could write a story in six
words: six words, no more, no less.
This is Hemingway, for god sake
of narrow minds, narrower streets!
Mr. write drunk, edit sober himself;
making economy an understatement.
Six words might be two too many,
as in “To hell with luck.”
Or just the one if he goes with
“Courage is grace under pressure.”
But ‘You’re beautiful, like a may fly’
meets the expectation, just barely,
and I can imagine its usefulness.
No one knows how many drinks
it took to come up with the winner:
‘For sale, baby shoes, never used’
and damn if it doesn’t make me cry.
How many of us have wished we could have known Hemingway personally, at least for a part of his life? I have.
Every writer wishes,
wishes he would have
known Hemingway, at
least for a day, sometime
after Old Man and the
Sea and before the Clinic,
between young, pure
desire and the paranoid
cynic; but not in Africa
for when that story’s
told the pain of failed
flights get’s old and
undoes the personality
of liquor, staccato and
brevity; oh Ernest what
had become that was
undone in Ketchum.
When Hemingway was asked about writing he said it was quite easy really: “Just sit at a typewriter and bleed.” And another kindred spirit named Nietzsche offered “Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood. Write with blood, and thou wilt find that blood is spirit.” So, for Ernest and Friedrich…
Bleed Boss, Bleed
Sit at a typewriter and bleed
seems overly dramatic advice
to an aspiring author, wouldn’t
you agree; hardly earnest enough
but perfectly understandable in
the intentional fallacy of readers
who have written little beyond
school papers forced upon them;
maybe he thought an echo of
Friedrich’s love for blood sport
and spirit would exorcise the
critic possessed which mutes
all hope of truth, for blood alone
does not lie but readers do;
maybe the dissatisfaction with
bloodless words since his first
farewell haunted every safari
and salon conversation, maybe
another wound would draw
blood – magnificently silencing
the stupefying demons of timidity;
all doubt such romance because
papa’s own daddy cared less
himself, but why would he load
his favorite Boss with two when
he knew perfectly well that
one would be sufficient?