Almanac Poetry: Great Literary Fistfights of the Twentieth Century

 

 

 

Poet Wallace Stevens, 1948. (Source: Wikimedia Commons.)

 

 

Great Literary Fistfights of the Twentieth Century: Wallace Stevens vs. Ernest Hemingway, Key West, Florida, 1936

 

Hemingway’s sister came back from a party,
told Ernest that Wallace Stevens
had called him something bad.
He-man Ernie bristled, declared
he’d find that Stevens and sort him out.
He got to the party. A scuffle ensued
between Ern and tipsy Wally.
Big Ernie knocked even bigger Wal
a couple of times to the ground.
With the only punch he landed, Wal
broke his hand on Hemmy’s jaw.
Now in spite of his reputation, Ern
wasn’t much of a fighter.
He liked the low blow, the sneak punch,
picked on those ( like Wal )
unschooled in the fistic arts.
Anytime he encountered
a man who could really box,
Ernie dropped like a sack of coal.
In his bout with Wallace Stevens, it’s clear
the poet, ethically, won on points.

 

 

 

Ernest Hemingway, 1939. (Wikimedia Commons.)

 

 

(Acknowledgements: first appeared in Quadrant magazine, 2004; then in my first poetry collection, Vigorous Vernacular, Picaro Press, 2008 – reprinted Ginninderra Press, 2018.)

 

 

Read more from Kevin Densley HERE

 

Kevin Densley’s latest poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, is available HERE

 

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.

Comments

  1. Kevin Densley says

    It’s pleasing for me to look back on poems such as this one, originally selected for publication by the late, great poet Les Murray when he was Literary Editor of Quadrant – it was always a fine thing to get a nod of approval from the big man in Oz poetry.

  2. DBalassone says

    Interesting topic Kevin. I wasn’t aware of this clash. I think there’s a full length study waiting to be written about literary feuds. It’s a tough gig, the writing game – pride and insecurity loom large. Thomas Moore once challenged Lord Byron to a duel (they later became friends). And what about John Tranter’s relentless attacks on Les Murray over the years?

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Yes, DB, the literary feud is certainly an interesting phenomenon. Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer is another one that immediately springs to mind.

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