Tuesday, December 30, 2008

spit out the truth

The photo at left shows Hemingway with Fidel Castro in 1960. But for now let's talk about Hem's poems. Yes, poems.

Over the years there have been nine unauthorized editions of the poems. All or most of these editions contain 18 poems, which are most of the poems Hem wrote and published while he was living in Paris in the 1920s. The critical response to his verse is mostly based on the pirated editions, which are filled with errors.

One of these unauthorized editions was published by City Lights in San Francisco in 1960. It sold for 50 cents. We have not been able to find any reviews of this edition at all. (The edition of Hem's poems to consult is Nicholas Gerogiannis's Nebraska edition of 1992, 171 pages in length.) The City Lights book is 28 pages.

The bio note in Poetry for January 1923 calls Hem "a young Chicago poet now abroad, who will soon issue his first book of poems." Edmund Wilson quipped that these "are not particularly important" but they do show the writer moving in the main poetic current of the time, at least very generally: what might be called precise yet poignant discernment.

He tried to spit out the truth;
Dry-mouthed at first,
He drooled and slobbred in the end;
Truth dribbling his chin.

Seems like a bad page in a Nick Adams story, lineated.