Summer and Hemingway

August 3, 2017


This weekend I dove back into my opera Two Oars, with Robert Wilson and some of my favorite collaborators all around: Helga Davis, Jeffrey Zeigler, and Royce Vavrek. The work is a meditation on Old Man and the Sea but as I discovered more about Hemingway, his soul seems to be infusing the work with something deeper and darker.

Here are some of my findings:

Some fascinating love letter tidbits from Hemingway…

The love story between him and Marlene Dietrich:

“What do you really want to do for a life work? Break everybody’s heart for a dime? You could always break mine for a nickel and I’d bring the nickel.”

“I can’t say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home.”

In 1951 he wrote to her from the tropical heat of Cuba where he was trying to write The Old Man and the Sea… “It was too hot to make love, if you can imagine that, except under water and I was never very good at that.”

On dignity in writing:
“If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.” Love. Him.
—Ernest Hemingway in Death in the AfternoonScreen Shot 2017-07-22 at 4.08.04 PM

This still above reminds me of the wife the fisherman might have left at home, the one that died, waiting for him to return on one of the many countless trips….

Another rabbit hole took me down to this Canto by Ezra Pound:

I have tried to write Paradise

Do not move

Let the wind speak

that is paradise.

Let the Gods forgive what I

have made

Let those I love try to forgive

what I have made.

and another hole yet, to him actually READING his first canto which is beautiful and terrifying and what you imagine Hemingway might actually sound like:

As I dove into CUBA, I discovered the brilliant poet, 

Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989)

The Black Sea

The purple night dreams

over the sea;

voices of fishermen,

wet with the sea;

the moon makes its exit,

dripping all over the sea.


The black sea.

Throughout the night, a sound,

flows into the bay;

throughout the night, a sound.


The boats see it happen,

throughout the night, this sound,

igniting the chilly water.

Throughout the night, a sound,

Inside the night, this sound,

Across the night – a sound.


The black sea.

Ohhh, my mulatto woman of fine, fine gold,

I sigh, oh my mixed woman who is like gold and silver together,

with her red poppy and her orange blossom.

At the foot of the sea.

At the foot of the sea, the hungry, masculine sea.

And before I set off to write, enjoy some delicious sounds by these Cuban musicians:

Wichy de Vedado, a killer musician and DJ, and the opening of this Eddie Palmieri song, Lucumi.

You can hear them here:


Off to write. Here’s my last image for this dive into Hemingway and Cuba. Hope you enjoyed!



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