by Steve Bogdaniec

I don’t know, Gustavo
I start with blank paper
I’ve tried
to fit a thesis or a plan

why in hell do you want to know
what should be true
they say that when you’re in your forties
you ought to know enough and have enough

do you suppose
what knowledge you have
to have or have not
whether you get it or I get it
is a hell of a lot of difference

Sorry, Gustavo
has to ask these questions
it’s his job
and I’m supposed to answer them

start work
break the back of the job
put the words in
like laying bricks
at it solid
if you speed too much you don’t know
some days a lot, some days a little
getting it all down and then going over it
to straighten things out, to get information

the fight
will have to be fought again
don’t worry
we’ll still have a wonderful time tomorrow

SOURCE: “Ernest Hemingway Talks of Word and War” by Robert Van Gelder, New York Times (August 11, 1940).

NOTE FROM INTERVIEWER: The talk was a mixture of Spanish, French, and English. Each comment that Hemingway made on his writing he prefaced with an explanatory speech to Gustavo Duran, the former pianist and composer, who had developed as one of the most brilliant of the army corps commanders on the Loyalist side of the civil war in Spain.

IMAGE: Ernest Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Lloyd Arnold for the first edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sun Valley Lodge, Idaho, late 1939.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Bogdaniec is a Chicago-based writer and teacher, currently teaching at Wright College in Chicago. Steve will write just about anything: he has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous journals, and recently wrote a monthly movie feature covering movie sequels. Follow him on Twitter! Just kidding—he never posts anything there anyway.