Hemingway stories

Ernest Hemingway’s (1899-1961) The First Forty-Nine Stories were originally anthologized in 1938 with his critically declaimed play, The Fifth Column. The First Forty-Nine surpass, in my opinion, any of his longer fiction, with the possible exception of The Sun Also Rises (1926), his second novel. Hemingway’s memoiresque A Moveable Feast (1964) as something not quite fictional if perhaps not quite a memoir either [and, furthermore, MF is composed of vignettes]). The First Forty-Nine consists of the shorter collections In Our Time (1925), Men Without Women (1927), and Winner Take Nothing (1933), plus four additional stories.

An ambulance driver in World War I, the Chicago-born Hemingway returned to Europe as an expatriot journalist in Paris during the 1920s. There he frequented the salons of his friends Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. MF details much of his biography while he was still writing stories and recalls his friendship and interactions with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Maddox Ford, Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, and other modernist scenesters. Sylvia Beach of the bookstore/publisher Shakespeare and Company often lent Hemingway books; he was a great fan of Constance Garnett’s Russian translations. Other influences include Paul Cezanne, whose Impressionist brushstrokes Hemingway tried to emulate in words, and John Donne, from whose poetry Hemingway often borrowed lines as titles.

For our purposes in comps studying, I’m choosing a story for each of The First Forty-Nine‘s component volumes: “Indian Camp” (first published in 1924 in Ford’s transatlantic review) from In Our Time, “Che Ti Dice La Patria?” from Men Without Women, and “Fathers and Sons” from Winner Take Nothing. Many of Hemingway’s stories refer to a somewhat autobiographical protagonist, Nick Adams; these three stories can all be considered among the Nick Adams stories. Though only the first and third designate their protagonist as Nick, the second does not outrule this possibility (unlike the others, “Che Ti” is written in the first-person, so there is less opportunity for the writer to refer to his protagonist by name).

Levertov and Cummings

For our practice analyses of open verse on Tuesday, I’d like for us to look at E. E. Cummings‘s “since feeling is first” (1926) and Denise Levertov‘s “The Third Dimension” (1957).

Since Feeling Is First

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

The Harvard-educated Cummings (American, 1894–1962), considered a modernist, included this poem in E. E. Cummings IS 5 (1926). He was influenced by Gertrude Stein and enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps with friend John dos Posos in 1917 (wikipedia). Though he was quite experimental with syntax and diction and pushed traditional poetic tropes, Cummings’s popularity was near that of Robert Frost’s at his death.

The Third Dimension

Who’d believe me if
I said, ‘They took and

split me open from
scalp to crotch, and

still I’m alive, and
walk around pleased with

the sun and all
the world’s bounty.’ Honesty

isn’t so simple:
a simple honesty is

nothing but a lie.
Don’t the trees

hide the wind between
their leaves and

speak in whispers?
The third dimension

hides itself.
If the roadmen

crack stones, the
stones are stones:

but love
cracked me open

and I’m
alive to

tell the tale — but not
honestly:

the words
change it. Let it be —

here in the sweet sun
— a fiction, while I

breathe and
change pace.

Levertov (born in Britain but spent most of her adult life in the U.S., 1923-1997), considered a postmodernist, was grouped with the Black Mountain Poets, “a group of progressive poets who, in the 1940s and 1950s, [who] were associated with the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. These poets, including Charles OlsonRobert Creeley, and Robert Duncan, promoted a nontraditional poetics described by Olson in 1950 as ‘projective verse.’ Olson advocated an improvisational, open-form approach to poetic composition, driven by the natural patterns of breath and utterance” (poetryfoundation.org). Many of these poets’ works, including Levertov’s “The Third Dimension,” were compiled in editor Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry 1945-1960.

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