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Monday, April 14, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “In Between.”

SPYING FROM THE BUTTONS BOX

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          IN BETWEEN: NUMBER 42
WORD COUNT......................-           70
STANZA(S)............................-           1
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET
CO-LLABORATORS..............-           MODPO STUDENTS/THE BUTTONS
GENRE..................................-           VIRTUAL OPERA
LOCATION............................-USA, UK, Australia, Philippines, S. Africa, Canada.
TIME......................................-           ALL HOURS OF EARTH’S CLOCK
TONE.....................................-           THEATRICAL

“Gertrude is transgressive and  determined to get away with it. Touching, tasting, mounting, saying, playing.” Mary Armour

IN BETWEEN.

In between a place and candy is a narrow foot path that shows more mounting than anything, so much really that a calling meaning a bolster measured a whole thing with that. A virgin a whole virgin is judged made and so between curves and outlines and real seasons and more out glasses and a perfectly unprecedented arrangement between old ladies and mild colds there is no satin wood shining.


Jumping ahead of the obvious sexual pointing, Mary Armour asserted, “what I detect here is the  subtle play on fetish: the narrow foot, licking or sucking candy, the fantasy of  pretending to be a virgin in bed, the narrow path to be explored, the space between pillowy breasts, between fleshy curves, a finger outlining the nipple, skin  soft as satin, silky as polished wood, erectile tissue of the nipple or button.”

Mary suggests reading “In Between.” in this excerpted way to fully appreciate the sexual innuendo:

IN BETWEEN. 
In between a place and candy
a narrow foot 
path that shows more mounting than anything
so much really
calling
a whole thing
A virgin
a whole virgin
so between curves
and outlines and
real seasons and more
a perfectly unprecedented arrangement
satin
wood shining.

Less obvious than the sexual content, the Buttons also discovered associations with the Leo-Gertrude-Alice situation, quilting, the Jewish wedding tradition of Aufruf, and the 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring and that theater experience as well as some grammatical issues. Here are highlights from the study session:


THREADING THE NEEDLE CALLED BETWEEN

Peter Treanor:
“The first thing I noticed though was the title "In Between.",  [Stein] seems to have broken with the use of concrete nouns.”

Tamboura Gaskins:
Has she done away with concrete nouns?  I don't know...perhaps just on the surface of it all--

between ==> a short needle with a rounded eye and a sharp point, used for fine hand stitchery in heavy fabric.

Btw, Peter, in between is an idiom utilizing two juxtaposed prepositions.

“I spy a quilt...”


In Between ==> threading the needle

Definitions:

1) Technical definition: to put a piece of thread through a needle

2) Definition as an expression: to skillfully navigate a difficult problem (like putting a piece of thread through a needle, it has to be done very carefully and precisely)

3) Billiards definition: is to precisely shoot the object ball or the cue ball through a very tight or narrow pathway to it's intended destination. (Note this is an application of definition #2, using it for billiards)


“Some people believe 'thread the needle' is similar to the expression ‘walk a fine line’ which means to maintain a fragile balance between one extreme and another (e.g.: needing to be very careful not to annoy or anger two or more people or groups who have differing opinions).”

From quilting imagery, Tamboura moved to the situation between sister and brother Gertrude and Leo Stein once Alice moved into their apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus.

“Leo - Gertrude - Alice ==> the three layers of a quilt: backing, batting and decorative quilt top.

“And let's not forget the idiomatic phrase—“

in between
     a. situated in an intermediary area or on a line or imaginary line connecting two points, things, etc.
     b. in the way: I reached for the ball, but the dog got in between.


“Again, an allusion to Gertrude feeling caught in between Leo and Alice.

“This brings me to believe that underneath it all GS has written a subpoem with layers describing her precarious position caught between Leo and Alice as well as the qualities of a quilt and quilt construction.” 

GERTRUDE STEIN’S TIMELINE SHIFT

Because Judy Meibach asked why Stein was in Paris before World War I and there was some additional confusion among some of the Buttons about whether Tender Buttons was published before or after WWI began, the Steiny Road Poet offers this timeline taken for the most part from the catalog Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories by Wanda Corn & Tirza True Latimer. What the timeline shows is Stein between her medical career and writing career and how the writing career took shape.

1901  Spring: Stein leaves Johns Hopkins University
without completing her medical degree.
           Summer: with Leo Stein in Morocco & Spain.
1902   Spring: with Leo Stein in Italy and in fall in London
1903   Winter: GS in NY
            Summer: in Italy
            Fall: moves into Leo's apartment 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris
1904    Spring: GS visits friends in NY & Boston
            Summer: in Florence with Leo
            Fall: Leo & Gertrude buy first modern painting
1905    First purchases of paintings by Matisse & Picasso;
  Saturday night salons begin
            Summer: with Leo in Italy
1906    Picasso portrait completed (begun in 1905)
1907    Alice B. Toklas arrives in Paris with Harriet Levy
1908    Summer: in Italy when GS courts to ABT
1909     Three Lives self published 
1910     Summer: GS, LS, ABT in Italy: GS & ABT celebrate
   their "marriage" in Venice
             Winter: Toklas moves into 27 rue de Fleurus
1911     Summer: GS & ABT in Italy, they visit Mabel Dodge
             in her Villa outside Florence
1912    Summer: GS & ABT in Spain & Morocco
            Word portraits of Matisse & Picasso published in
  Camera Work (a journal published by Alfred Stieglitz)
1913    January: GS & ABT in England looking for publishers
             Summer: GS & ABT in Spain
             Fall: GS & LS split up, LS moves to Italy
1914     April: LS completely moves out
             27 rue de Fleurus apartment undergoes renovations
             May: Tender Buttons published
             July: GS & ABT in England when WWI begins
             Fall: GS & ABT return to Paris after a prolonged stay
   in England due to WWI



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Fire.", “A Handkerchief.", “Red Roses."

LOOKING FOR MATCHES IN THE BUTTONS BOX

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A FIRE: NUMBER 39
WORD COUNT......................-           32
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A HANDKERCHIEF: NUMBER 40
WORD COUNT......................-           16
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          RED ROSES: NUMBER 41
WORD COUNT......................-           19
STANZA(S)............................-           1 each
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET
CO-LLABORATORS..............-           MODPO STUDENTS/THE BUTTONS
GENRE..................................-           VIRTUAL OPERA
LOCATION............................-USA, UK, Australia, Philippines, S. Africa, Canada.
TIME......................................-           ALL HOURS OF EARTH’S CLOCK
TONE.....................................-           READY TO PARRY

“Why are there three in this set?” Judy Meibach

A FIRE.

What was the use of a whole time to send and not send if there was to be the kind of thing that made that come in. A letter was nicely sent.

A HANDKERCHIEF.

A winning of all the blessings, a sample not a sample because there is no worry.

RED ROSES.

A cool red rose and a pink cut pink, a collapse and a sold hole, a little less hot.


Dave Green wondered:

“Could these poems represent the stages of a relationship?
“A FIRE. - This is the early uncertain phase of the relationship. GS is not sure whether to send a letter or not. She is sitting before a fire trying to decide, or perhaps the "fire" is the psychic discomfort she is feeling about the situation. But then that becomes moot because she receives a letter from the person she was thinking about, and the letter pleases her. She realizes her worry was unnecessary. 
“A HANDKERCHIEF. - The positive letter she has received means that she has won "all the blessings". The relationship she was hoping for has been confirmed. She can wave a handkerchief in celebration, or perhaps dab her eyes with it.
“RED ROSES. - Roses are a symbol of love. GS is the rose and her significant other is the pink. "A sold hole" - the relationship has allowed her to get rid of the hole of depression she was in.”

As leader of the Tender Buttons Massive Open Online Study Group within the Coursera Modern Poetry MOOC the Steiny Road Poet looks for ways to keep the discussion lively. While each subpoem of Tender Buttons seems to have its own strategy for its existence, consecutive clusters with related characteristics appear. In introducing this trio of subpoems, Steiny suggested, “In this run of poetic parts, Gertrude Stein is signaling to us.” Steiny thought of building a fire as a way to convey a message (e.g. as American Indians did), the waving of a handkerchief to signal a need for help or for truce from battle, and the sending of red roses as sign of passionate love.

Steiny finds the presentation of sets of subpoems appealing, particularly when subpoems are short. Because Steiny has no agenda for completing the discussion of Tender Buttons by a certain deadline and has no higher authority to please except the overall pleasure of working through this provocative poem with a congenial group of intelligent and witty people, she hopes never to run into the problem of “just going through the motions” and producing an assembly line of comments. And she loves that a member of the MOOSG has asked why study the poem with these three parts together.

In the end, whether the MOOSG accepts the choices for study that Steiny makes comes down to trust and faith. And same for herself, about the investment being made in a poem that continues to stump and excite the academic community. Here, there is no competition for tenure or leg-ups. Here is the joy of discovery and comradery.

Thinking outside the box as is her usual tack, Eleanor Smagarinsky said she had been thinking for four days about Judy’s question, particularly since the prevailing line of discussion had focused on the associations between “A Fire.” and “Red Roses.” Looking back in Tender Buttons, she saw “A Little Bit of a Tumbler.” leading “with all of that shining colour and necessary spreading, which sounds exactly like a fire to me” as a “rush straight into the first line of "A Fire." Eleanor questioned, “What was the use....’If something spreads into nothing, then what's the use? It's as if the fire from the little tumble Stein took has spread into her next poem.” However, what Dave saw set things into perspective, which Eleanor characterized as “the stages of a relationship.”

What did the Buttons see in reading these subpoems either separately or together in addition to the stages of relationship—pinking sheers (a pink cut pink),
four-letter words (fire-what-time-send-send-kind-that-made-that-come-sent), the Gertrude Stein-May Bookstaver affair, lies and letters, envelopes and boundaries, tracking the path of an oscillation function, the nature of how things exist, painting the town red in the early 20th century, the rose garden of the Queen of Hearts into which Lewis Carroll sent his character Alice, the emotional highs and lows of weddings, the dance of courtship, hankies and courtship, tuberculosis and the handkerchief, masturbation. Here are some of the highlights:



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Little Bit of a Tumbler.”

A TUMBLE IN THE BUTTONS BOX

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-          A LITTLE BIT OF A TUMBLER: NUMBER 38
WORD COUNT......................-           51
STANZA(S)............................-           1
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET
CO-LLABORATORS..............-           MODPO STUDENTS/THE BUTTONS
GENRE..................................-           VIRTUAL OPERA
LOCATION............................-USA, UK, Australia, Philippines, S. Africa, Canada.
TIME......................................-           ALL HOURS OF EARTH’S CLOCK
TONE.....................................-           PREPPED


A LITTLE BIT OF A TUMBLER.

A shining indication of yellow consists in there having been more of the same color than could have been expected when all four were bought. This was the hope which made the six and seven have no use for any more places and this necessarily spread into nothing. Spread into nothing.

While this subpoem seems to indicate the confusion of 6’s & 7’s, it also seems well anchored to the root subpoem that begins Tender Buttons (i.e. “The difference is spreading.”) So the Steiny Road Poet optimistically believes the "shining indication of yellow" will yield light.




Topics associated with “A Little Bit of a Tumbler.” were flat-bottomed drinking glasses,
the Stein family relationships (Tamboura Gaskins pointed out there were seven births to Daniel and Amelia Stein but two died in infancy), gymnasts, intoxication, lock mechanisms, an off-balance person falling, a machine for smoothing and polishing semi-precious stones, and a quick sexual encounter.

Most of the study focused on possible grammatical strategies that Stein might have been toying with.


THE TENDER-BARTER-CURRENCY TERRITORY

Using the word “four” as a methodological pointer, Sarah Maitland Parks came up empty on interesting four-letter words. The words been, more, same, than, have, when, four, were, hope, made, this, into “seem oddly bland when set one after another.” However, Eleanor Smagarinsky saw Sarah’s observation married with Tamboura Gaskin’s definition of “tumbler”—tumbler ==> def. (n), a part that moves a gear in a train of gears into and out of engagement as another way—as another possible way into Stein’s language play. Here is Eleanor working out the permutations of Steinian possibilities:




This "tumbler"— is it a part of language that moves a gear of meaning in and out of engagement? Is "a little bit of a tumbler" perhaps "a little bit of a word"?

"all four were bought"
OK
So what if these four are the first four words of the poem?

"A shining indication of"

I see IN, IN, IN, ON OF.

Continue to read the poem:

"....yellow consISts IN there havINg been mORe OF the same colOR than could have been expected when all four were bought."

Stein's defining the phrase "A shining indication of" as meaning "having more of the same color than could have been expected." It makes sense.....a shining color seems to have more color than a non-shiny color!

The 6th and 7th words of the poem are cONsISts IN -- 
ON IS IN— are these little bits of tumblers which engage language?

The phrase "consists in" is "the hope which made...no use for any more places." Again, Stein is defining "consists in" - when we say that something exists in a specific space, we are really tricking ourselves, hoping that the thing (word) has only one place (meaning)....but Stein won't allow us to trick ourselves. She shows us that language is never that simple - 

"this necessarily spread into nothing. Spread into nothing."

READ
IN
TO
NO
THING

READ
IN
TO
NO
THING

Eleanor also said:

“We've moved away from time now, and we seem to be in space. 
Something was bought—so we're in tender=barter=currency territory. 

“Like the game show, “Wheel of Fortune,” Eleanor asks:
Are we buying letters? words? their meanings? Does the sense of space here refer to the space between words or in words? in language? Do the letters have a numerical value?”

Steiny wanted to know if Eleanor was expecting to calculate a gematria value. She said,


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Celebrating Poetry Month with Birmingham Poetry Review

This is National Poetry Month, a very intense and busy period for poets. More on that and how it plays with the Steiny Road Poet but first this—









Adam Vines has produced another lush issue of the Birmingham Poetry Review which I urge you, Dear Reader, to check out.  If you look at the list of contributors, you will see poems by such poets as: Andrew Hudgins (featured poet with an essay on Hudgins by Ned Balbo, Sheila Black (just hung out with her at Split This Rock Poetry Festival), Eamon Grennan, Stephen Priest translating Gergen Manstoff, Rachel Richardson, R. T. Smith, Joshua Weiner, Mike White (winner of The Word Works 2011 Washington Prize).

As you may recall, Steiny blogged a poem review from BPR 2013 for every day of April and then gave it prominence in a Scene4 article celebrating Gertrude Stein's poem "America."



So what I'm going to do here is just give you a few lines from the poets mentioned above to whet your appetite:



from "Mr. and Miss Bryce Hospital" by Andrew Hudgins

Batman hugged her tall guant Robin to her hip,
but their torsos twisted away into a gnarled
asymmetic Y against a backdrop
of black capes. They held, held, held


from "Paicambu Cemetery" by Sheila Black

So many of us: blind girl with tin
can, man with elephantiasis,
his leg a familiar monster.


from "Things in the Vicinity" by Eamon Grennan

White football of the moon going gradually transparent


"Studies in Postmodernism" Stephen Priest translating Gergen Manstoff

Clonazepam Sunday,
cigarette,
Internet-dawdle.

The squirrels
place their shells
on my stoop
for safekeeping.


from "A Change of Heart" by R. T. Smith

Sunday night a widow in Winslow, Arkansas
came home to find an owl's fully detailed
profile printed on her patio door as clear
as a photographic plate


from "The Firm" by Joshua Weiner

Among the firm, a questioning believer.


from "Snow Globe" by Mike White

Nothing that rough god
could do about the snow

but move it from place
to place.


Now I must go back to the slide showing I'm developing for my ephrastic-cliophrastic reading April 6 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts that includes B. K. Fischer (winner of The Word Works 2012 Washington Prize) and Jo Ann Clark (leader of the Hudson Valley Writers' Center).


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Time to Eat.”

EATING FROM THE BUTTONS BOX

THE BOOK ..........................-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ...................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ...................-           A TIME TO EAT: NUMBER 37
WORD COUNT......................-           19
STANZA(S)............................-           1
THE LEADER........................-           THE STEINY ROAD POET
CO-LLABORATORS..............-           MODPO STUDENTS/THE BUTTONS
GENRE..................................-           VIRTUAL OPERA
LOCATION............................-USA, UK, Australia, Philippines, S. Africa, Canada.
TIME......................................-           ALL HOURS OF EARTH’S CLOCK
TONE.....................................-           POLITELY RAVENOUS BUT FINICKY

My initial take on this is a cross between Fiddler on the Roof traditionalism and an episode of Downton Abbey.” Judy Meibach

“Each OBJECT has instructions,
is the instruction, the education, of how to read it.
If so this OBJECT should eaten rather than read.” Allan Keeton


A TIME TO EAT.

A pleasant simple habitual and tyrannical and authorised and educated and resumed and articulate separation. This is not tardy.

In presenting “A Time to Eat.” to the Buttons Collective, the Steiny Road Poet suggested that despite the opening words pleasant and simple, a patriarchal tyranny seems to rule. Among the topics discussed were eating, rules for eating, grammar rules, and details of Gertrude Stein’s family living, especially around food. This poem also takes on a certain reflection from Ecclesiastes 3:2—To Everything there is season, a time for every event under heaven…

EATING AND SEPARATION

While Dave Green walked the Buttons through the subpoem pointing out how each word applied to the act of eating, Karren Alenier [a.k.a. Steiny] read through the poem on the theme of separation.

Dave Green:

A TIME TO EAT. 
pleasant ==> eating is pleasant
simple ==> eating is a simple affair most of the time
habitual ==> we eat meals every day, they are daily habits
tyrannical ==> eating is tyrannical in the sense that we are driven to do it by hunger, we have no choice if we want to live
authorized ==> society sets aside times for meals, recognizes that people need to eat
educated ==> educated people know it is important to eat regular meals and to eat well
resumed ==> a meal is a resumption of eating since the previous meal
articulate ==> meals are occasions for conversation
separation ==> eating is a separation from hunger
This is not tardy. ==> We are eating at the right time. This is a time to eat. 

Karren Alenier:
Stein is describing separation in six ways.

A pleasant simple habitual separation ===> like people who live together but one goes on a trip at regular intervals. I think Leo occasionally traveled without Gertrude when they lived together before Alice enter the picture.

tyrannical separation ===> one person of a couple is put in jail, like Apollinaire when he was accused of stealing the Mona Lisa.

authorised separation ===> one person of a couple must report for military duty, like Apollinaire who was not a French citizen signed up for the French military during WWI and after his Mona Lisa incident.

educated separation ===> one person of twosome is sent off to college, like when Michael sent Gertrude, Bertha, & Leo east to Baltimore after their father died and then Leo went north to Harvard.

resumed separation ===> one person of a couple where they were not getting along leaves the relationship yet again, something like the stormy relationship Marie Laurencin had with Apollinaire.

articulate separation ===> perhaps one can think of Gertrude's departure from Johns Hopkins as one she thought through at length and over a period of time. It wasn't one thing that helped her make up her mind. It was true that she was suffering from the bad love affair with May Bookstaver where Gertrude felt not only spurned by made a fool. May said she was experimenting with love and moved from a woman to a man whom she married. Gertrude was also unhappy at Johns Hopkins where women were treated patronizingly or disdainfully. 

In this context, This is not tardy might mean these kinds of separations were not slow and they were some how expected. In the wake of these separations, one could only eat to mark time.


THE LINK BETWEEN SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION

Peter Treanor remarked that Steiny’s separation read-through made him think of six degrees of separation, with full awareness that though separate, people are all increasingly interconnected. Steiny responded that six degrees of separation is so contrarian in that Steinian way of measuring the world.

Perhaps the impetus for this subpoem was Gertrude’s father Daniel who force fed his children castor oil. Perhaps the castor oil regimen is what gave Gertrude’s close-in-age brother Leo a bad stomach, if not psychological problems.


THE AND-NESS OF THIS EATING

However, the meat of the discussion centered on grammar—grammar rules and the way this subpoem is structured. Here are some highlights.