Idiosyncrasies of an Author
Poem by William Ogden Haynes

March 29, 2013

The bedroom where Hemmingway wrote
many of his greatest works was on the first floor
of his house in the Havana suburb
of San Francisco de Paula.
The large windows faced eastward
to catch the Cuban sunrise which shone
on the white walls and ochre tiles.
It illuminated a large desk, armoire
and bookcases filled with volumes
both old and new, letters bound
by rubber bands, and stacks of newspapers.
The room was crowded with animal hides,
carvings of jungle creatures, models of airplanes
and trains and artifacts from around the world.
There were tusks, antlers, ceremonial necklaces
and the mounted head of a gazelle.
Slabs of copper ore were used as paperweights
to anchor stacks of manuscript against the
east wind drifting in from the window.
He kept a chart of words written per day
on the side of a cardboard packing carton,
“so as not to kid myself” he said.
His typewriter, a Royal Quiet Deluxe,
nestled on a tall bookcase chest high
and he always stood in front of it to type,
never sitting as most people do.
The daily word count would swell
on days before he fished the gulf stream,
to stem the guilt for not writing.
A rapid clack clack of keys
and slamming of the carriage return
reached a crescendo on those days
when the creative juices were flowing.
And when a story was done,
his editor, Max Perkins, went to work,
but made few changes except to remove profanity.
Hemmingway once said of Max that he “. . .was a wise friend
and wonderful companion. I liked the way he wore his hat. . .“


Based on an interview by George Plimpton in the Paris Review, Spring 1958.


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