July 21, 2008

Hemingway's Birthday

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899.

Working in a newspaper office in Kansas City at the age of seventeen, Hemingway started his career as a writer. Before the United States had entered the World War I, he joined a volunteer ambulance unit in the Italian army.

During the 1920's, Hemingway became a member of the group of expatriate Americans in Paris, which he described in his first important work, The Sun Also Rises (1926). A Farewell to Arms (1929), the study of an American ambulance officer's disillusionment in the war and his role as a deserter, was equally successful. Hemingway used his experiences as a reporter during the civil war in Spain as the background for his most ambitious novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).

I have been a big fan of Hemingway's writing since I started reading "serious" books in sixth grade. I liked his straightforward prose and vocabulary. I liked the dialogue, but came to believe that it was pretty unrealistic (and easy to parody). But I was a bigger fan of the short stories (like those in Men Without Women, In Our Time, The Fifth Column, and The Collected Stories) than the novels. (Oh yeah, throw in A Moveable Feast for memoir.)

Most readers aren't aware that Hemingway wrote any poetry. He didn't write a lot of it, and it's not the best of his writing, but it is interesting to look at some on this anniversary of his birth.

Here are 2 short ones that I like:

Neo-Thomist Poem

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not
want him for long.

Chapter Heading

For we have thought the longer thoughts
And gone the shorter way.
And we have danced to devils' tunes,
Shivering home to pray;
To serve one master in the night,
Another in the day.

A copy of his poems is hard to find (only some used copies on Amazon.com) but you can turn up some with a Google search.

Happy Birthday, Papa.


  1. A much misunderstood writer. Hemingway had trouble with his own true self and so created a personae and became a master of self-promotion in a time when that was not a job assigned to an agent or agency.

  2. Today, being your 111th birthday, is a day that is celebrated by all less courageous men in their battle to survive life. Papa, I look forward to drinking a toast to you. It shall be whiskey at sundown. I shall drink it in a single swallow. It will be the first of many. Perhaps on a sandy shore in heaven we"ll share a toast someday.


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