Posts Tagged ‘Postcards’

 

Of the Days and “Days” of Hemingway

07/16/2012  by Arlo Haskell  3 Comments
 

We’d like to welcome the stocky white-bearded men resembling Ernest Hemingway who are beginning to pour into town for the annual celebration that is Hemingway Days. May your drinking be done not only in emulation of the great writer’s worst habit, but in empathy with his suffering spirit. Surely his fears of fame never looked like this.

We kid. Enjoy yourselves. And enjoy these pics, all courtesy of the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Quotes are from the Selected Letters, 1917-1961 edited by Carlos Baker.

Hemingway laughing with Pauline in Key West

Hemingway and his wife Pauline laughing at home in Key West, ca. 1928-32.

“This is really going to be the hell of a fine house; the lawn is coming well, figs on the fig tree, coconuts on the trees and plenty of limes. Will plant more limes and coconuts. Wish you could plant a gin tree.” (to Maxwell Perkins, December 1931)

“Am working hard. Cut a ton of crap a day out of the proofs and spread it around the alligator pear trees which are growing to be enormous. Second crop of limes. 3rd crop of Gilbeys.” (to John Dos Passos, April 1932)

Hemingway, Capt. Bra Saunders, Waldo Peirce with tarpon and kingfish

With Capt. Bra Saunders and Waldo Peirce with a catch of tarpon and kingfish, 1928

“Caught the biggest tarpon they’ve had down here so far this season. Sixty three pounds. The really big ones are just starting to come in… We sell the fish we get in the market and get enough to buy gas and bait. Have been living on fish too.” (to Perkins, April 1928)

“Tarpon are in and have caught two – lost a big one last night at the boat – we’re here until the middle of March – absolutely broke may not be able to ever leave, but lots of liquor off a wrecked booze boat. Waldo comes down next week. Come on down. Saw at least 100 tarpon last night out by the jack channel.” (to Dos Passos, February 1929)

With friends at La Floridita, Havana, ca. 1955. From left to right: Roberto Herrera, Byra "Puck" Whittlesey, Jack "Bumby" Hemingway, Spencer Tracy, Ernest and Mary Hemingway, and unidentified bartender.

“Dear Max: Well here is your regular Sunday hangover letter. We won again at the pelota last night and stayed up til three a.m. So today will have to take Marty to the movies as a present for being drunk Saturday night I guess. Started out on absinthe, drank a bottle of good red wine with dinner, shifted to vodka in town before the pelota game and then battened it down with whiskys and sodas until 3 a.m. Feel good today. But not like working.” (to Perkins, February 1940)

—More from LITTORAL & the Key West Literary Seminar:
Hemingway Knocked Wallace Stevens into a Puddle and Bragged About It
Hemingway’s House Before the Wall
Hemingway’s Menu for the Muse

Sea Surface Full of Clouds

06/19/2012  by Arlo Haskell  2 Comments
 

That’s the radar image from Key West, shortly before 11:00 this morning. With possible rainfall amounts of 3-5 inches over the next 36 hours, strong easterly winds, and astronomically high new-moon tides, these are particularly good days for reading indoors.

From Wallace Stevens, “The Sea Surface Full of Clouds”:

“Good clown. . . . One thought of Chinese chocolate
And large umbrellas. And a motley green
Followed the drift of the obese machine

Of ocean, perfected in indolence.
What pistache one, ingenious and droll,
Beheld the sovereign clouds as jugglery

And the sea as turquoise-turbaned Sambo, neat
At tossing saucers—cloudy-conjuring sea?
C’était mon esprit bâtard, l’ignominie.

The sovereign clouds came clustering. The conch
Of loyal conjuration trumped. The wind
Of green blooms turning crisped the motley hue

To clearing opalescence. Then the sea
And heaven rolled as one and from the two
Came fresh transfigurings of freshest blue.”

Happy Birthday, Tennessee Williams

03/24/2011  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

The Australian Pines at Ft. Zachary Taylor, Key West. Photo by onwatersedge.

Tennessee Williams would turn 100 this weekend, were he still with us. A happy birthday to his memory, with thanks to the good people at saveourpines.com for passing along the following from a 1953 letter to Maria St. Just née Britneva:

“A few last golden days in the Key West studio! It is so lovely! A sky-light with delicate bamboo curtain, palms, banana trees and fern-like Australian pines through the windows in all four walls, a Japanese lantern over my head with glass-pendants that tinkle in the constant trade-winds, a silver ice-bucket, gin, and oranges for pauses in occupation. Wonderful sounds, the palms and banana trees make, like ladies running barefooted in silk skirts downstairs, a constant flickering of light and shadow, a table that’s five feet long, theatrical posters stuck all over the lemon yellow walls, my own bathroom, a comfortable little bed, driftwood, a fan that belonged to Hart Crane, shells, solitude, peace!”

More Postcards from Curt Richter

01/13/2011  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

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Breakfast on the Road

01/07/2011  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

Life on the go can throw one’s regular practice awry. As we get ready to head out for a proper sit-down at 915, we take a look back at what sufficed for breakfast.

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Postcard by the one and only Curt Richter.

There Are More Days Than Sausages

01/05/2011  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

Our old friend Curt Richter‘s just in from Helsinki. He’ll be continuing his series of portraits of writers during the Seminar these next two weeks; and in the meantime handed in these postcards: cogent reminders for the final behind-the-scenes push, and a little fuel for the fire. More to come from Curt and all soon; until then—

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Quite Delightful Rather than Frightening

07/22/2010  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

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The 5 pm update on Tropical Depression Three shows the forecast models in agreement.

Among the little joys of life in the subtropics are the less-than-serious storm events the hurricane season can bring. Above, you see Tropical Depression Three, which may mature into Tropical Storm Bonnie as it enters the Florida Straits tomorrow. This means wind– maybe as much as 50 knots, but likely closer to 30– and at least a couple of inches of rain as the storm approaches, passes over, and leaves the Florida Keys tomorrow afternoon and night.

Here on the vulnerable and enduring Littoral, we keep Elizabeth Bishop’s early Key West poems with our survival gear. She knew how to ride out a storm:

It is marvellous to wake up together
At the same minute; marvellous to hear
The rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
To feel the air suddenly clear
As if electricity had passed through it
From a black mesh of wires in the sky.
All over the roof the rain hisses,
And below, the light falling of kisses.

An electrical storm is coming or moving away;
It is the prickling air that wakes us up.
If lightning struck the house now, it would run
From the four blue china balls on top
Down the roof and down the rods all around us,
And we imagine dreamily
How the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
Would be quite delightful rather than frightening;

And from the same simplified point of view
Of night and lying flat on one’s back
All things might change equally easily,
Since always to warn us there must be these black
Electrical wires dangling. Without surprise
The world might change to something quite different,
As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
Change as our kisses are changing without our thinking.

Untitled Elizabeth Bishop poem from Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box, edited by Alice Quinn, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2006.

UPDATE: 7/23/2010 4:00 p.m.: What did become Tropical Storm Bonnie turned out to be even less than less-than-serious. As the poorly-organized and fast-moving system scurried across the Florida mainland, Key West saw an ordinary summer day: 80-something, breezy, sun, and clouds.

Royal Poinciana, part two

05/28/2010  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

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As promised, and right on schedule: the Royal Poincianas all over the island are now in full bloom.

Dear Miss Moore / Royal Poinciana

05/10/2010  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

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The Royal Poinciana trees have just begun to set out their flowers. By the end of the month, the entire canopies will be full of the bright red or orange blossoms.

Elizabeth Bishop was 26 years old when she first visited Key West in 1938. Her letters from that year, especially those to her friend and mentor Marianne Moore, are filled with descriptions of the subtropical island’s flora and fauna.

Here’s an excerpt from one of them:

May 5, 1938

It is spring here now and the Royal Poinciana trees are in bloom all along the streets– brilliant flame color or dark red. Also a large tree– Spanish lime?– that sheds in some places fine green powder all over the streets, very pretty. Jasmine makes the whole town smell sweet at night– and all the cats have kittens. There has been the ugliest mother cat I have ever seen, and two kittens, in the yard of the little house we’re buying, for five days. I don’t want them– they are crosseyed, mangy, and mixtures of white, black, orange, gray, and tiger– but they are growing so thin I couldn’t stand it, so I took over a bottle of milk, and now they obviously consider themselves mine. The mother looks just like Picasso’s Absinthe Drinker.

Though 72 years have altered Bishop’s Key West immeasurably, she’d still recognize the house she bought that year at 624 White Street, which remains miraculously untouched. And she’d know the fine green Spanish lime pollen dusting the cars and sidewalks outside our office, the red Poinciana blossoms which have just begun to open, and the jasmine and jasmine-like perfume of the 21st-century night.

Hurricane Ike, part two: parl-parling Wallace Stevens

09/09/2008  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

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That’s Ike at 4:15 local time, with the eye just north of Pinar del Rio in western Cuba. Wind speeds increased here in Key West throughout the morning and early afternoon, with sustained winds of around 40 mph and a gust of 60 mph being recorded at Key West airport between one and two o’clock. Most of the island lost power during this apparent peak of intensity, but it has returned to old town by now. There is evidence of minor flooding along the south side of the island, from the southernmost point to Louie’s Backyard to the Casa Marina, but it doesn’t appear that significant damage will result. We watched a few surfers near the pier at the western end of the Casa Marina, and got to thinking about Wallace Stevens, who used to stay at the grand hotel during his many visits to Key West in the 1920s and 1930s. Stevens had a fetish for things tropical; his relish for this sort of event could move him to delightful gibberish:


     THE SEARCH FOR SOUND FREE FROM MOTION

     All afternoon the gramaphone
     Parl-parled the West-Indian weather.
     The zebra leaves, the sea
     And it all spoke together.

     The many-stanzaed sea, the leaves
     And it all spoke together.
     But you, you used the word,
     Your self its honor.

     All afternoon the gramaphoon,
     All afternoon the gramaphoon,
     The world as word,
     Parl-parled the West-Indian hurricane.

     The world lives as you live,
     Speaks as you speak, a creature that
     Repeats its vital words, yet balances
     The syllable of a syllable.


From Parts of a World, as printed in The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens, a Borzoi Book by Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

Hurricane Ike; What would Elizabeth Bishop do?

09/09/2008  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

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That’s Hurricane Ike about an hour ago, hopefully as close as he’ll come to Key West. Gusts woke us twice or three times in the night, but a look at the weather observations from Key West airport this morning reveals we’ve so far been spared even tropical-storm-force winds. All together, then, a preliminary sigh of relief. A cursory walk around old town this morning (it is a little windy for bicycle riding)– from the library to the waterfront– found little damage but leaves, flowers, and a few key limes littering the streets. Harpoon Harry’s is closed, but Pepe’s, dependable since the days of Hemingway, is open; we had breakfast at the open-air bar. The boats in the harbor are rocking, and the wind is humming-howling through their rigging. The gulf remains beneath the boardwalk where it belongs, although the rumor by radio and bar patrons is that the surf is up and in the streets on the ocean side of the island. Would that our friends and neighbors in Cuba, the Turks and Caicos, and Haiti had it so good.

Elizabeth Bishop knew how to react to storm-events such as this. In her letters from Key West, she writes of “fringes of hurricanes,” and “a small tornado … nothing of any consequence.” She knew to play it safe– as we should until Ike has certainly passed. In the untitled poem which follows, a twenty-something Elizabeth adumbrates the significant pleasures to be found indoors in such a storm:


     It is marvellous to wake up together
     At the same minute; marvellous to hear
     The rain begin suddenly all over the roof,
     To feel the air suddenly clear
     As if electricity had passed through it
     From a black mesh of wires in the sky.
     All over the roof the rain hisses,
     And below, the light falling of kisses.

     An electrical storm is coming or moving away;
     It is the prickling air that wakes us up.
     If lightning struck the house now, it would run
     From the four blue china balls on top
     Down the roof and down the rods all around us,
     And we imagine dreamily
     How the whole house caught in a bird-cage of lightning
     Would be quite delightful rather than frightening;

     And from the same simplified point of view
     Of night and lying flat on one’s back
     All things might change equally easily,
     Since always to warn us there must be these black
     Electrical wires dangling. Without surprise
     The world might change to something quite different,
     As the air changes or the lightning comes without our blinking,
     Change as our kisses are changing without our thinking.


Untitled Elizabeth Bishop poem from Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box, edited by Alice Quinn, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2006.

Transport to Summer

06/19/2008  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post
 

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So you’re home again, Redwood Roamer, and ready
To feast . . . Slice the mango, Naaman, and dress it

With white wine, sugar and lime juice. Then bring it,
After we’ve drunk the Moselle, to the thickest shade

Of the garden. We must prepare to hear the Roamer’s
Story . . . The sound of that slick sonata,

Finding its way from the house, makes music seem
To be a nature, a place in which itself

Is that which produces everything else, in which
The Roamer is a voice taller than the redwoods,

Engaged in the most prolific narrative,
A sound producing the things that are spoken.


From Wallace Stevens’s poem “Certain Phenomena of Sound,” from Transport to Summer. The mangos are from Margaret Street.

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