Friday, November 1, 2013

Stepping on Tender Buttons: “A Box.” [subpoem 11]


THE BOOK ............       ......-           TENDER BUTTONS
THE SUBBOOK ..................-           OBJECTS
THE SUBPOEM ..................-           A BOX: NUMBER 11
STANZAS.............           .....-           7
WORD COUNT.............   .....-           302
THE CO-LEADER........... .....-           THE STEINY ROAD POET
THE CO-LEADER.................-           ELEANOR SMAGARINSKY
GENRE.............                ....-           VIRTUAL OPERA
LOCATION............           .....-           USA, ENGLAND, AUSTRALIA, PHILLIPINES..
TIME...............                    ...-           ALL HOURS OF EARTH’S CLOCK
TONE..............                   ....-           RAUCOUS


The Chicago Tribune reviewer did not know whether 'Tender' of the title means a row boat, a fuel car attached to a locomotive or is an expression of human emotion. Another critic described it as a sort of Wonderland or Luna Park for anyone who is not too busy. Max Eastman, less respectfully, said it was like the ravings of a lunatic. The Detroit News said that after reading excerpts from it, a person feels like going out and pulling the Dime Bank building over onto himselfAnd the best from The Commercial Advertiser: "The new Stein manner is founded on what the Germans call 'Wort Salad,' a style particularly cultivated by crazy people . . ." from Diana Souhami's Gertrude and Alice

"In other words, it wasn't very well received."
-----Claudia Schumann, ModPony

“In the office I have patients whose families tell them (demeaningly) 'you're crazy.'  I think of ModPo and tell them, 'All the best people are!'"
-----Mark Snyder, ModPony

“And I actually like this: The Chicago Tribune reviewer did not know whether ‘Tender’ of the title means a row boat, a fuel car attached to a locomotive, or is an expression of human emotion. (I think all of those possibilities are worth exploring.)"
-----Tracy Sonafelt, ModPony

From chaos to order, and back again.

The journey is long and arduous, but the ModPonies are a strong, lean, interpreting machine.

There is an intriguing thing happening here.
The nouns are             

........                     .......... VOICE & COFFIN & WOMB & ...
..............                      ....come irresistibly pouring out of that PANDORA'S BOX.

Such a waterfall of roll calls in a single noun.

-----Allan Keeton, ModPony

BOX OF POSSIBILITIES (aka Pandora’s Box):

Cigarette box—Voice box—Coffin Box
Box as womb—Box as Vagina (slang)--Box as Gift—Shell Game
Box as Cloister
Body as a box
Pelvis, a box with wings in which the womb is cradled 
Box as Hope Chest
Box as enclosed sedan chair, especially ones used to carry brides


Here is “A Box.” stanza by stanza with selected commentary from The Buttons:

A large box is handily made of what is necessary to replace any substance. Suppose an example is necessary, the plainer it is made the more reason there is for some outward recognition that there is a result.

Dave Green offered: “Large boxes tend to be generic in design. They are designed to carry any object that will fit within the box. The plainer the box, the more you realize there is a need for a label or marking of some kind on the outside to indicate what's specific and special about the content.” Immediately Steiny thought coffin, particularly the plain boxes used in orthodox Jewish burial, which Dave clarified, are made of pine to allow box and body to return to the earth as dust more quickly.

Most recently Steiny had a conversation with her husband’s aunt while viewing the body of her son at his wake. It seems the box he was in was not the box she chose. Because he was so tall, he wouldn’t fit in the standard box. So here was a gruesome real life example of the necessity for a large box handily made to replace the too small box and to replace the formerly living cousin Bob, a substantial human being certainly in size but also in life experience, back to the earth. And indeed Aunt Kay insisted that her viewing include fully opening the coffin to see that the entire substance of her son was fitting into this box so she could satisfy her need to label this coffin Bob’s final cradle.

General speculation among the Buttons was that the specter of death against the joy of Gertrude’s union with Alice comes up because they cannot bear each other’s child.

A box is made sometimes and them to see to see to it neatly and to have the holes stopped up makes it necessary to use paper.

Spoiler alert verging on TMI (too much information). Dear Reader, you might want to read discussion associated with Stanzas 3 and 4 and then return here.

Allan Keeton took up the lead on this stanza as the discussion opened. He “noticed” cigarettes lying in the Box. He nixed possible association of cigarette and penis. He also eliminated vagina and mouth, leaving that kind of association to the American pop culture TV show Saturday Night Live that might refer us to Dick in a Box or Box in Box. More soberly he saw cigarettes as nails for the coffin or the destroyer of the voicebox where a surgeon might make a hole and the nicotine addictedpatient might continue to smoke through the new hole in his neck.

Then, uh oh, Ellen Dillon entered the MOOSG (massive open online study group) and gingerly suggested ciggies might be a stand-in for products of ladies inconveniences putting vagina back on the table. While she grabbed her coat to run, Eleanor detained her but that’s another discussion for stanza 6.

Lest anyone worries, Steiny assures all who enter this Collective that going down any path is supported without prejudice. And yes, we know Gertrude Stein was not especially metaphoric and not feminist, but she was creating coded language where words were events as Ron Silliman suggested in the October 2, 2013, ModPo live webcast

A custom which is necessary when a box is used and taken is that a large part of the time there are three which have different connections. The one is on the table. The two are on the table. The three are on the table. The one, one is the same length as is shown by the cover being longer. The other is different there is more cover that shows it. The other is different and that makes the corners have the same shade the eight are in singular arrangement to make four necessary.

Weighing in with 94 words, stanza 3 is rich in details and reach, which Tracy Sonafelt notes in her discussion. Here are highlights from her analysis.

Connections to other Buttons [subpoems]. “A Carafe,That Is a Blind Glass.the difference is spreading / “Dirt and NotCopper.It makes mercy and relaxation and even a strength to spread a table fuller. Prevalence of containers throughout TB.
Box as Womb. When I look at Tender Buttons (“Objects”), I see much that calls to mind female sexuality and anatomy: “button” as clitoris, “buttons” as nipples; vessels/containers (carafe, bottle, spoon, cup, tumbler, box, purse, etc.); liquids (water raining, careless water, seltzer, etc.); references to red rose pink: “Red Roses.” A cool red rose and a pink cut pink, a collapse and a sold hole, a little less hot. In contemporary slang: “box” for vagina.
Shell Game. The one is on the table. The two are on the table. The three are on the table. Which one has a pea underneath?
How-To Guide. Opening a box from IKEA and assembling a table from the pieces and instructions inside. The other is different and that makes the corners have the same shade the eight are in singular arrangement to make four necessary: It sounds like something straight out of an instruction manual.
Dinner Party/Steinian Salon. Places/tables for one, two, three, four, eight.
Syntax. Fairly regular sentence structure this time. Repetition (one, table, different, cover). Theme and variation. Triads.

Numerology. Relative to one, two, three on the table, a strong connection with numerological explanation where one is a masculine self, two is a couple with feminine qualities, and three is a couple with child. 

Exponential Extension of the 1, 2, 3 Triad. 2 (2¹) , 4 (2²), 8 (2³) as an exponential extension of the 1, 2, 3 triad. What’s more, there is no hierarchy. All the numbers treated equally. Everything is on the table. Everything is valued. Since table has both domestic and professional connotations, both private and social connotations, the box encompasses all these different connections.

To the numbers discussion, Steiny added dimensionality and probability theory. The dimensions of a cube, which Allan immediately responded to: BOX = CUBE (2^3 = 8) = CUBISM. Stein subtly built in reference to her writing style that looks at all dimensions as influenced by the art of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Steiny pointed out that probability theory has its roots in efforts to analyze games of chance, which encompass the problem of points and continuous variables. When applied to Gertrude and Alice, what were the chances of them getting together and staying together, given all the variables? T. De Los Reyes chimed in reminding The Buttons about ModPo prof Al Filreis asking about the difference between possibility and probability. T. added, “Perhaps Stein concentrates on probability because during that time [sexual repression], the possibility was still an impossibility.”

Lax, to have corners, to be lighter than some weight, to indicate a wedding journey, to last brown and not curious, to be wealthy, cigarettes are established by length and by doubling.

Stanza 4 discussion was led by Ellen Dillon, who began by talking about a girl’s “glory box” or “hope chest,” the box that girls traditionally filled with their trousseau in preparation for their future married life, but talk quickly moved to those products of ladies inconveniences mentioned briefly in the discussion of stanza 2 but now backed up by references.

Here Steiny will not hold back. Saying that cigs established by length and doubling are stand-ins for early homemade tampons, Ellen provided a link to a website tracking the history of such feminine implements. She also hauled out from her arsenal of scholarly books, Lisa Ruddick's book Reading Gertrude Stein: Body, Text, Gnosis citing on page 149 that Gertrude “compared her writing process to her feminine spots and secretions.” Eleanor who had attempted to bring this conversation about in “ARed Stamp.” matched the feminine flow to the creative flow. Steiny injected a what-about-the-enclosed-sedan-chair-used-to-carry-brides-to-the-husband’s-home interruption.

The sedan chair only upped the ante for Eleanor who remembered and then recounted details of Niddah, a Jewish custom for handling the uncleanness of a woman during her menstrual cycle. The coup de grace was Eleanor mapping Niddah to the structure of “A Box.” subpoem 11:

So a woman checks her discharge for 7 days.
God created the world in 7 days.
"A Box." has 7 stanzas.
Jewish marriage ceremony includes "7 blessings."
Jewish marriage ceremony includes custom of the bride circling her groom 7 times.

Left open, to be left pounded, to be left closed, to be circulating in summer and winter, and sick color that is grey that is not dusty and red shows, to be sure cigarettes do measure an empty length sooner than a choice in color.

Mark Snyder initiated early discussion on stanza 5 and went down a rabbit hole looking for left-handedness in either Gertrude or Alice, which didn’t pan out. Needless to say the phrase “red shows” clicked right into the conversation that came up later about menstruation and cigs as stand-ins for tampons. We Buttons sorely needed a Subject Matter Expert (SME) on those products of ladies inconveniences but until Ellen showed up in the MOOSG, we fumbled.

Winged, to be winged means that white is yellow and pieces pieces that are brown are dust color if dust is washed off, then it is choice that is to say it is fitting cigarettes sooner than paper.

Stanza 6 is where Eleanor enlisted a surprising SME to associate wings with the bone structure of pelvis. Her daughter Yana is working on a double major of biology and archeology. Together they provided a word-by-word argument mapping the colors and dust to bone. Additional information about Jewish burial inform “dust is washed off.” Not so easy to condense was the discussion about fitting cigarettes sooner than paper. Here’s what Eleanor wrote:

"Cigarettes symbolise the male gender, paper symbolises the female.
There's the obvious metaphor of cigarette as penis, but it's more than that.
Paper looks flat and "plain," but it is still a box (i.e. 3-D), and it has an additional property which makes it superlative—you can write words on it, it is a canvas for poetry. All you can do with a cigarette, a paper rolled and filled, is smoke it.
Papier is French for paper. Papillon is French for butterfly. We think the beauty of the pelvis is not coincidental, it is a magnificent butterfly.

"Why is it fitting cigarettes sooner than paper?

The Pelvis is a major bone used in sex determination. The subpubic angle is much wider in females than in males, typically more that 90 degrees and less than 90 degrees, respectively. The greater sciatic notch is also wider in females, usually more than 68 degrees for females and less for males. The acetabulum, where the head of the femur meets the pubic bone, is typically larger and deeper in males than females. The sacrum is straighter in females and more curved in males. The space in the middle of the pelvic bone (the pelvic inlet) is larger in women to facilitate birthing."

"Men are more highly prized in society, so in those months before you are born (a sudden turn away here, at the end of the poem, from death and towards the birth which started it all) the organs which are fitted into your pelvis will determine much about your life.

"But notice the word fitting -- this is vital. Gay people have sexual organs, which don't 'fit' with each other. A penis fits into a vagina. But fitting also means 'a suitable quality,' e.g. 'it's a fitting way to end the poem.' We have to look beyond the physical and find the spiritual truth of G&A's relationship."

An increase why is an increase idle, why is silver cloister, why is the spark brighter, if it is brighter is there any result, hardly more than ever.

T. De Los Reyes led the discussion for this stanza. Of particular note is the phrase silver cloister. As established in “A Method of a Cloak.” silver on the periodic table is represented as Ag, which The Buttons believe stands for Alice-Gertrude. The silver cloister is the couple seeking their privacy. Increase is idle might refer to reproduction which will not produce a child despite the love/spark/light relationship but it might produce this work of art—Tender Buttons.

FINAL WORDS – Tracy Sonafelt
What best sums up the total discussion of this subpoem “A Box.” Is Tracy’s epiphany: Tender Buttons is a box, A large box is handily made of what is necessary to replace any substance. The one is on the table: Objects. The two are on the table: Objects and Food. The three are on the table: Objects, Food, Rooms.
Because this MOOSG learning experience is a bone fide operatic scene, the Steiny Road Poet now invites you, Dear Reader, to hear “Tracy’sTender Story (authored by Tracy Sonafelt and as read by Eleanor Smagarinsky), Nicola Quinn’s piano suite “For Tender Buttons and Mark Snyder’s Experimental Composition Inspired by Gertrude Stein and dedicated to The Button Collective. 

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