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I broke my fist on your jaw, or Stevens vs Hemingway

By Harriet Staff

Gosh, writers and their silly little feuds. They can get so worked up! Michelle Dean gives us the scoop on “That Time Wallace Stevens Punched Hemingway” over at The Rumpus. Thankfully, this isn’t a celebration of machismo-fueled literary feuds. She starts by telling us:

Truth be told I don’t like macho posturing in literary feuds — or rather, the only thing I like about it is the opportunity it provides me to practice the fine art of eye-rolling. Oh, and the particular thrill to the female camaraderie that can arise in the audience of these things when and where they amount to two guys having a pissing contest over effectively nothing. (Which is, er, often.)

She goes on to recount said story of “That Time Wallace Stevens Punched Hemingway” in Key West in 1936. We’ll let you make the jump and read it in Dean’s own words. Let’s just say, it didn’t turn out too well for either writer.

Dean leaves us with this nugget of wisdom:

We are always saying, behind closed doors, that women are so terrible to each other. We tear each other down, we say. We fail to build each other up in the press, we commit the verboten “girl-on-girl crime.” The implicit assumption is that men don’t do this. That they don’t talk out of school or gossip or backbite, which virtually all of my reading in biographies of literary and cultural figures has taught me is absolutely one hundred percent not true. The truth is, the woman meeting my eyes across the crowd watching these fights, we’re smiling because we see the insecurity in this, the grasping, the vicious high-schoolity of it all. Because we recognize it, and it’s good to know that even the highest-on-high aren’t immune to it.

Now boys, please play nice.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, March 26th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.