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Ernest Hemingway: 88 poems, First Edition (1979) 


This First Edition of Ernest Hemingway: 88 poems is one of my favorites, and it has a small anecdote.  I bought it years ago from Imprint Bookshop in Silvermine Bay, Mui Wo, Lantau Island, Hong Kong, when Terry Boyce was the owner.  For those who do not know Imprint Bookshop, it was a non-presumptuous antiquarian vintage English bookstore that highlighted quite a chapter in Hong Kong’s indie bookstore history.  It was also known as the “nameless” bookstore, because its signboard became muted due to color fading.  I had purchased the book shortly before Boyce closed it in 2016. 


I remember I had an unexpected, lengthy conversation with Boyce about the British governor, Murray MacLehose, setting Hong Kong into motion a range of social initiatives from 1971 to 1982.  MacLehose, a humble and pragmatic man with a vision for Hong Kong and a commitment to make it a reality, significantly improved access to housing, education, and medical care, and he really made a lasting, positive legacy for Hong Kong.  But I was too young to understand his significance when MacLehose was here.  Boyce is an old Hong Konger, and he was here when MacLehose was the governor, so he fueled me with some history of MacLehose on that day, besides some discussion about Shakespeare folios.  I am grateful for his generous sharing; nowadays, it is hard to run into an old British Hong Konger who can talk about MacLehose, and how I miss that washed-off signboard!  


So, I have kept the Post-it with Boyce’s writing, “1st Edition 1979”, and the Imprint price tag, and now it is being sold as the same price I purchased it from Imprint Bookshop.  You can remove it without damaging the book, of course. 


Let me get back to the book.  It is in excellent condition—no damage, nor foxing.  My favorite poem from this collection is Hemingway’s experimental “[Blank Verse]”, composed in 1916.  


“             ”  

    !     :       ,        .  

    ,    ,    ,    .

    ,        ;                 !



I even tried to analyze it!  On my poetry notebook entry, dated 12 January 2017, I jotted down my thoughts on this “wordless” poem I came upon in a “nameless” bookshop:      


Hemingway’s fragmented poem “[Blank Verse]” was composed during WWI, and the opening quotation suggests a dialogue or, at least, an attempt to communicate, to bring a message across, but the disappearance of words, perhaps, suggests the talking among the dead, a ghostly utterance, traumatized or made impossible by the war.  Ghostly as the utterance may be, it is forceful, full of strong feelings, as evidenced by the exclamation marks.  With a colon, the speaker appears to make an effort to explain—he may be searching for reason in an age marked by a senseless war and countless meaningless sacrifice.  The poem frustrates its readers in searching for meanings and contents.  The poem is non-conclusive, as it ends with a comma, as if hanging on a thought unfinished.  By placing the title “Blank Verse” in a square bracket, the speaker suggests these absences and ghost words should not have existed at all.  So sad.  


Reading it again, I feel that this poem is so applicable to the ludicrousness of our times.  

Hemingway 88 Poems

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